Channel 4 privatisation ruled out by government

Broadcaster to stay in public ownership, but could be forced to move outside London

(Image credit: 2007 Getty Images)

Channel 4 is to remain publicly owned and no part of it will be sold to the private sector, the government will confirm today.

Following an 18-month review of the broadcaster, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will say in a speech today that the broadcaster will remain under full state ownership, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Early last year, the government mooted the idea of selling the broadcaster to raise £1bn-£2bn to pay down the national debt.

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Ministers ruled out a full sell-off when it became clear the price tag was ambitious, but a partial privatisation as part of a radical overhaul was still said to be the frame.

C4 chief executive David Abraham, deriding the idea as a "Six Years a Slave, Two Weddings and Half a Funeral" option, said part-privatisations were like "like crossing the Rubicon and realising you're on a sinking ship".

Consequently, while today's news will be a relief for bosses, the next stage of the government's review may not be.

Bradley is expected to signal that she wants Channel 4 to shift its focus away from London, which is currently home to more than 730 of its 800 staff and up to 65 per cent of its programming spend, says the BBC.

That spending could be reduced to 50 per cent and the government could force the broadcaster to move operations, or even its headquarters, out of the capital.

She will say: "I am unsympathetic towards those who recoil in horror at the very idea of media jobs being based outside the capital or for those who insist that people with ideas in the West Midlands, West Country or west Wales must travel to Westminster to get their programmes made.

"A publicly owned broadcaster should have far more than three per cent of its permanent staff outside London."

A Channel 4 spokesman indicated it is not opposed to spending more of its production budget outside of London, but that it would seek to resist relocation.

He said: "The most important factor in supporting the nations and regions is where we spend our money, rather than where Channel 4 is headquartered."

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