Channel 4 in the UK is to be privatized by the UK government, despite strong industry opposition to the move.
C4 CEO Alex Mahon revealed the news in a memo to staff on Monday evening, confirming that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries would now lead the way to end the organization’s 40-year private ownership.
“We have been advised within the last hour that the government will shortly announce that the Secretary of State has decided to proceed with the proposal to privatize Channel 4,” Mahon told staff.
She added that the broadcaster had “proposed a vision for the next 40 years” which she said would “allow us to build on the successes of the first 40”.
“That vision was rooted in continued public ownership and built on the tremendous public value this model has delivered to date and the potential to deliver so much more in the future.”
Mahon added that “Channel 4’s ownership is with the government to propose and parliament to decide”, suggesting the broadcaster could yet avoid privatization.
History and context
The decision came as a bit of a shock to British industry, after the UK government delayed any decision on privatizing the pubcaster last summer.
In July 2021, the government launched a formal consultation on the privatization of C4, arguing that “the changing media landscape poses significant challenges to the future success and sustainability of Channel 4 under its ownership model and of his current duties”.
A decision was expected soon, but Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries delayed her response after an outpouring of public support for the broadcaster.
More than 60,000 Britons have reportedly submitted their views to the government in favor of its state-owned status, while trade bodies including Pact have warned that production companies will close if privatization continues.
Bankers have estimated the value of C4 at around £650m, with Discovery and ITV among those reportedly interested in an acquisition.
For the broadcaster’s part, Mahon vocally voiced his opposition to a sale. Speaking at RTS Cambridge in September, she said there was “no data or evidence” that taking the UK broadcaster private would create a more diverse ecosystem.