DCMS has launched a consultation into the ownership of Channel 4, with privatisation as the Government’s preferred option.
This is undoubtedly a big issue for our industry and for UK public service broadcasting (PSB). Directors UK has serious concerns about the possible privatisation of a key part of the PSB infrastructure and the impact this will have on the creation of distinctive programming, jobs, investment in the nations and regions, and diversity of voice, as well as on the wider independent production sector and investment in UK production. We will be objecting to the proposed privatisation.
You can help by writing to your MP sharing your personal concerns and asking them to make clear to Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for DCMS, that you object to the privatisation.
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Dear XXX XXX MP,
As a member of your constituency I am writing to you regarding the DCMS consultation on the potential privatisation of Channel 4 to ask you to oppose this proposal and protect one of our vital public service broadcasters.
The UK has a world-leading television and film sector, one that as a TV/film director I am proud to be part of. The UK’s reputation in TV production and filmmaking is respected globally, creating some of the most renowned programmes in the world, with one of the most highly skilled workforces in the industry, and contributing billions to the UK economy. Public service broadcasters are key to the success of this, with more than half of the £4.5bn invested in UK content production in 2019 coming from PSBs.
Channel 4 is a key part of this public service broadcasting framework. Its unique role as a publisher-broadcaster is critical to the success of our thriving UK independent production sector. It invests in UK talent, supports creativity and risk-taking in its commissioning and programme making, serves under-represented audiences, and supports under-represented talent and storytelling from across the UK. Being publicly-owned and entirely commercially-funded it is uniquely able to put public service before profit, at no cost to the tax-payer. Privatisation risks undermining the very successes derived from the public service nature of Channel 4.
Channel 4’s Economic, Social and Cultural Contribution
Channel 4’s recent annual report shows that it is performing well financially, despite the impact of the pandemic, with annual revenues of £934 million in 2020. Its economic contribution to the UK (Gross Value Added) was found to be £992m per year.
Most significantly, as a non-profit making organisation, its revenues go directly back into making content and delivering its public service remit. Channel 4 invests hundreds of millions of pounds into Britain’s creative industries every year and has helped to build our world-beating independent production sector. As a publisher-broadcaster it only commissions from external producers, working with over 300 independent production companies each year, many of whom are small entrepreneurial companies, many based in the nations and regions, creating over 10,000 jobs across the UK. Since it began, Channel 4 has invested £12billion in the independent production sector – at no cost to the tax-payer. I am deeply concerned that privatisation would make Channel 4 more focused on delivering a profit margin to shareholders rather than reinvesting in new content and delivering a diverse range of content for audiences.
With a remit that requires it to innovate and take bold creative risks, Channel 4 also champions new and diverse talent and ideas, investing in emerging production companies, and offering skills and apprenticeships to under-represented voices. I am concerned that privatisation will impact this push for diversity. Channel 4 is also a huge investor in British film, with Film 4 gaining international acclaim winning 37 Academy Awards and 84 Baftas. As an exporter of uniquely British content, Channel 4 showcases British talent, culture, and soft power around the world. Channel 4 has also outlined a strategy that sets it up for a stronger digital future and has grown its digital viewers and advertising revenue in the last year.
The consultation on Channel 4’s ownership coincides with a wider Government review into the future of public service broadcasting, the outcome of which will have huge consequences for the UK broadcasting landscape. It also comes at a time when the television production sector is only just recovering from the impact of the pandemic. The consultation has provided no evidence or impact assessment to show that privatising Channel 4 will make it more competitive economically or creatively, or bring greater benefit to UK audiences or the UK creative economy. I am concerned that the proposed sale would fundamentally damage the UK broadcasting sector at a time when government policy could make it even more successful.
As my MP, I am asking you to write to the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP to ask him to reconsider this policy to privatise Channel 4.
I look forward to your response.