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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Channel 4 sale: Senior Tory Julian Knight asks if move to sell channel is 'revenge' for 'biased coverage' of Brexit

Channel 4 sale: Senior Tory Julian Knight asks if move to sell channel is 'revenge' for 'biased coverage' of Brexit

Mr Knight, chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the government's decision represents "a big risk".

A senior Tory has questioned whether the government's proposed sale of Channel 4 is being done in an act of "revenge" for "biased coverage" of Brexit.

Julian Knight, the chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the government's decision to push ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4 represents "a big risk".

Mr Knight said Channel 4 will have "greater freedom to compete once privatised", but added it is "crucial the government protects the prominence of all public service broadcasting".

Tory committee chairman questions 'revenge' motive

"Now, elephant in the room time - is this being done for revenge for Channel 4's biased coverage of the likes of Brexit and personal attacks on the PM? The timing of the announcement 7pm, coinciding with Channel 4 news, was very telling," Mr Knight tweeted.

"Undoubtedly, across much of the party - there is a feeling of payback time and the word privatisation tickles the ivories of many. The money is irrelevant - equivalent to four days national debt interest - so it must be used to support skills in creative sectors.

"So to sum up. Privatisation - even for some wrong reasons - can work for C4 but must be part of a thorough overhaul of all public service broadcasting. If this is in the media bill I will support the government. Finally, these are my views not those of the Committee more generally."

Dorries: Channel 4 will 'flourish' under change of ownership

On Monday night, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she had concluded "government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon".

She said plans for the broadcaster's future would be set out in a white paper and proceeds of the sale would be reinvested into the creative sector.

Nadine Dorries said new ownership will allow Channel 4 to 'flourish'

Channel 4 sale 'the opposite of levelling up'

Other senior Conservative MPs have also criticised the proposed move.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Tuesday he was against the move because "Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC".

Former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson also tweeted to say the move is "the opposite of levelling up".

The broadcaster is state-owned but receives no public funding, with more than 90% of its revenue coming from adverts.

Channel 4 'disappointed'

The government had been pushing the idea of privatising Channel 4 in recent months.

Speaking to broadcasters on Tuesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of focusing on the wrong issue.

"The government's approach on Channel 4 is ideology, it is obsessive, it has got almost no support," he said.

"And I think millions of people who are struggling to pay their bills with the biggest cost of living crisis in a decade are going to wonder just what an earth the government is doing."

Channel 4 said it was "disappointed" with the decision but would "continue to engage" with the government on the process.

A government source said: "C4 is a great business with a strong brand built around it being creative, innovative and distinctive but a change of ownership will remove its straitjacket, giving C4 the freedom to innovate and grow so it can flourish and thrive long into the future and support the whole of the UK creative industries."


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