Channel 4 boss questions ministers' 'logic' in privatising broadcaster

Channel 4 boss questions ministers’ ‘logic’ in privatising public broadcaster under ‘levelling up’ plan to stimulate growth outside when it already spends 50% of its funding outside the capital

  • Government is to launch a consultation into the privatisation of the channel 
  • Chief executive said assessing merits of privatisation is ‘perfectly reasonable’
  • The Government has committed itself to a ‘levelling up’ agenda 

The boss of Channel 4 has questioned ministers’ logic in privatising the public broadcaster under a ‘levelling up’ plan to stimulate growth outside when it already spends 50 per cent of its funding outside of the capital.   

The Government is to launch a consultation into the privatisation of the channel, which was founded in 1982 to deliver to under-served audiences.

It is currently owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising but could be sold off to a private buyer.

Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon questioned the ‘logic’ behind such a move during an interview with Times Radio.

She said assessing the merits of privatisation is a ‘perfectly reasonable thing to do’.

Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon (pictured) questioned the ‘logic’ behind such a move during an interview with Times Radio

However she added: ‘What’s the logic? What if we did sell the channel? Would it deliver this public remit in the same way?

‘And particularly, would it be focused on how you level up outside of London, you know, now we’re spending 50% of our money outside of London, big offices in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol.

‘That’s a very, very different thing, perhaps to the motivation of a profit-based US streamer.’

The Government has committed itself to a ‘levelling up’ agenda in a bid to stimulate growth outside London and the south-east of England.

In 2019 Channel 4 announced it was moving its headquarters to Leeds.

Ms Mahon said she is ‘really proud of running a British institution’.

She added: ‘And I’m really proud of that being across the entire union. You know, I think that’s a good thing that we do.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) has previously said the consultation into privatising Channel 4 is aimed at ensuring the broadcaster ‘keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting’

‘Part of the reason that we’ve moved so many roles outside of London was because actually when I came in, I thought we’re not representing the UK properly.

‘We don’t have opinions of people across the UK. And that’s a problem, right?

‘You can’t be there as a public organisation to represent all over the UK and not be doing that.

‘You make editorial choices differently if your staff is people from a range of places.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has previously said the consultation into privatising Channel 4 is aimed at ensuring the broadcaster ‘keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting’.

Ms Mahon also revealed the programme she would most like to take from another broadcaster is The Masked Singer, which she described as ‘so fresh and zany’.

‘You know, I love what that’s done, I love how quirky it is. I love how weird it is,’ she said.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have been contacted for comment.

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