Channel 4 is to be sold by the government ahead of the next general election after ministers decided that privatisation was the best way to “sustain” the UK’s public service broadcasting sector.
Government officials said the commercially funded but state-owned broadcaster was expected to be put up for bids by the end of 2023, in a move that could raise more than £1bn.
Following a consultation on privatising Channel 4, ministers have decided that government ownership is “holding it back in the face of a rapidly-changing and competitive media landscape”, officials said.
In a statement, Channel 4 said it was “disappointed” with the decision, adding that privatisation “will require a lengthy legislative process”.
“Channel 4 has engaged in good faith with the government throughout the consultation process, demonstrating how it can continue to commission much-loved programmes from the independent sector across the UK that represent and celebrate every aspect of British life as well as increase its contribution to society, while maintaining ownership by the public,” the broadcaster said.
Its executives have previously warned against harming the network’s public mission with an “irreversible” privatisation.
Ministers will seek to reinvest the proceeds of the sale in a “creative dividend” — putting money into independent production and levelling up wider creative skills in priority parts of the country.
The broadcaster will remain a “public service broadcaster”, which will mean it will be required to commit to primetime news.
A white paper policy document is expected before the end of the month and proposals for the sale are expected to be included in a new media bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech. Ministers hope for a sale before the 2024 general election.
The broadcaster generates more than 90 per cent of its revenue from advertising, which supports spending on its remit to commission shows that appeal to younger,…
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