U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to set out the financial benefits that privatization could bring to British public service broadcaster Channel 4.
On Tuesday, in response to a U.K. government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) consultation on the proposed privatization, Channel 4 had warned that its public service remit would be compromised in favor of profits if privatized.
In his speech to the Royal Television Society (RTS) convention at Cambridge on Wednesday, Dowden will argue that new private investment could usher in a new era for Channel 4 as a leading public service broadcaster creating a unique, risk-taking content which reflects modern Britain.
In the speech, in which he is also expected to announce new measures to protect the success of British broadcasting, Dowden will reiterate that Channel 4’s status as a PSB will continue in the event of a sale, with the obligations and requirements that come with it.
Dowden will say that private investment could give Channel 4 more opportunities, like the deal with Amazon Prime Video for the rights to air Emma Raducanu’s victory in the U.S. Open, and the recent Paralympics coverage. He will make the case that this is the best chance of securing a successful and sustainable future for Channel 4 in the face of intense competition from the continued rise of on demand rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.
“Channel 4 is one of this country’s greatest assets… One clear way of making sure our British broadcasters thrive is putting them in the right financial position to compete and succeed for decades to come – no matter what the future of broadcasting holds,” Dowden is expected to tell the convention. “I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. Without it, Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants.”
“The next obvious question: Where does that cash come from? It can either come on the back of the taxpayer, or it can come from private investment. And it’s my strong position — as a point of principle — that I do not believe the borrowing of a commercial TV channel should be underwritten by a granny in Stockport or Southend,” Dowden is expected to say.
Dowden will also challenge people to put suggest better ways to protect Channel 4’s future and its public service remit than private investment, saying that “standing still” would be an “act of self-harm.”