After a lengthy public consultation, Channel 4 is due to be privatised.


The public service broadcaster, which was founded by the UK government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1982, is due to be sold.

The decision was announced by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries on Monday 4th April 2022.

However, how is Channel 4 currently funded, who owns it and when can we expect the channel to be sold?

Here is everything you need to know on the news and the reaction.

Who owns Channel 4?

Channel 4 is a public broadcaster that is owned by the UK government.

Created in 1982 by the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher, the network was set up to help serve and represent under-represented audiences.

Unlike the BBC, Channel 4 is funded by advertising but has remained publicly owned.

However, on Monday 4th April 2022, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed that Channel 4 would be privatised as the UK government under Boris Johnson looks to sell the network.

Why is Channel 4 being sold?

Nadine Dorries
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced the decision to privatise Channel 4 Leon Neal/Getty Images

After a public consultation on the future of Channel 4, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries released a statement on the decision to sell the public broadcaster.

Dorries commented: "Channel 4 rightly holds a cherished place in British life and I want that to remain the case.

"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."

She went on to add: "I will set out the future plan for Channel 4 in a White Paper in due course.

"I will seek to reinvest the proceeds of the sale into levelling up the creative sector, putting money into independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country - delivering a creative dividend for all."

Finally, the Culture Secretary noted: "Proceeds from C4 sale will be invested in left behind areas investing in indies and creative skills desperately needed in our rapidly growing creative industries. We made more films here in last Q 2021 than Hollywood, many more studios opening. Funding creative skills is key."

How has Channel 4 reacted to the privatisation news?

Channel 4 logos
Channel 4

The response from Channel 4 itself, however, has been critical of the UK government's decision.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "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.

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"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 proposal to privatise Channel 4 will require a lengthy legislative process and political debate. We will of course continue to engage with DCMS, government and Parliament, and do everything we can to ensure that Channel 4 continues to play its unique part in Britain’s creative ecology and national life."

When is Channel 4 being sold?

It is expected that it could take up to 18 months for the process of Channel 4's sale to go through the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Then the network would be up for sale.

Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4, commented in an email to staff: "My priority now, along with the rest of the Exec team, is to look after all of you and the wonderful Channel 4 spirit, and make sure we all carry on doing what we do best – making incredible shows for our audiences, creating opportunities for young people and supporting the creative industry across the UK.

"There will now be a long process ahead – it could take 18 months or more for the required legislation to go through the House of Commons and then Lords.

"During that time, we’ll continue to work with DCMS and government, and with our supporters across the industry to make the arguments to ensure that Channel 4 can continue to deliver its remit."

There will no doubt be much political debate before the sale goes through.

How has the TV industry reacted?

The majority of reactions from leading television industry figures have been highly critical of the decision to privatise Channel 4.

Filmmaker Kate Arnold tweeted: "Channel 4 does not cost the public any money. It’s profitable. It supports an independent TV production industry across the UK. It nurtures new talent. It invests in investigative & foreign journalism like no other. C4 is an asset to the UK. There is no good reason to privatise."

Acclaimed writer and director Armando Iannucci was also critical of the decision, tweeting: "They asked for ‘a debate’; 90% of submissions in that debate said it was a bad idea. But still they go ahead. Why do they want to make the UK’s great TV industry worse? Why? It makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense."

Meanwhile, long-standing Channel 4 star Kirstie Allsopp also hit out at the Culture Secretary's decision.

Allsopp tweeted: "This is a load of utter twaddle! No true Conservative would sell Channel 4, Lady T will be spinning in her grave. C4 was set up to foster the British film & TV industry and it has done that job admirably. Any Tory MP who votes for this is a traitor to their party & country."

Finally, presenter, Invictus Games medalist and former Strictly Come Dancing star JJ Chalmers also shared his dismay at the decision.

He tweeted: "Genuinely, a piece of my heart just broke. @Channel4 is remarkable… and important… and… the list is [too] long.

"The fact that those who hold [its] fate in their hands don’t see [its] true value… is the saddest part."

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