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The UK government has signalled its intention to privatise Channel 4, the government-owned channel behind such shows as Gogglebox, It’s a Sin, and The Great British Bake Off.

In a hugely controversial move, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will formally trigger the process to sell off the broadcaster, with officials expecting substantial interest from buyers.

The move follows a 10-week public consultation, with ministers coming to the conclusion that public ownership is “holding it back in the face of a rapidly changing and competitive media landscape”.

A government source claimed a change of ownership “will remove its straightjacket, 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.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries later said: “I have come to the conclusion that government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.

“A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future.”

The consultation into Channel 4’s sale had led to a stream of objections from within the sector, amid warnings that Channel 4’s commitment to diverse and groundbreaking content could be watered down in private hands.

Opponents of a sale also warned that the decision is likely to impact independent production companies that have close links with the broadcaster.

The broadcaster said it was “disappointing” that the sale would go ahead “without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised”.

Channel 4 was established by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1982 to provide a culturally challenging alternative to BBC One, BBC Two and ITV. It is publicly owned but commercially funded, ultimately owned by the government, with all money going back into the broadcaster, which commissions all of its programmes from independent producers.

Channel 4 said in a statement: “With over 60,000 submissions to the Government’s public consultation, it is disappointing that today’s announcement has been made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.

“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.

“Recently, Channel 4 presented DCMS with a real alternative to privatisation that would safeguard its future financial stability, allowing it to do significantly more for the British public, the creative industries and the economy, particularly outside London. This is particularly important given that the organisation is only two years into a significant commitment to drive up its impact in the UK’s Nations and Regions.

“Channel 4 remains legally committed to its unique public-service remit. The focus for the organisation will be on how we can ensure we deliver the remit to both our viewers and the British creative economy across the whole of the UK.”

The industry player most likely to buy Channel 4, with the least regulatory hurdles, is Discovery, merging with WarnerMedia, which expressed interest the last time the broadcaster faced privatisation in 2016.

Source: Guardian inews

Source: tvtonight.com.au

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