Dorries was reminded that only five months ago, she didn’t even know how Channel 4 was funded.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is facing a backlash from both the public as well as from sections of her own party after confirming that she would press ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4.
Dorries wrote on Twitter: “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. 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.”
Dorries was reminded that only five months ago, she didn’t even know how Channel 4 was funded. Speaking during a select committee hearing in November 2021, Dorries claimed Channel 4 is “in receipt of public money”. This is not true. Channel 4 does not receive any public funding but relies on its commercial activities, mostly its advertising revenue.
The backlash against her plans for privatisation was also notable among Tory politicians, with the likes of Jeremy Hunt, Baroness Ruth Davidson, Damien Green and Tom Tugendhat among those speaking out against the plan.
Baroness Davidson, the former Scottish Tory party leader, pointed out that Channel 4 is “publicly owned, not publicly funded” and “doesn’t cost the tax payer a penny”.
Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: “I’m not in favour of it because I think that as it stands, Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC on what’s called public service broadcasting — the kinds of programmes that are not commercially viable — and I think it’d be a shame to lose that.”
Channel 4’s former head of news and current affairs said the move was designed to “throw a bit of red meat to Tory supporters of a very right-wing nature at a time that the government is in trouble”.
Reacting to the news of Dorries’ plan to push ahead with privatisation, James Felton wrote: “It’s been five months since you first learned how the f*** it was funded live on TV”, while Emma Kennedy wrote in response to Dorries’ tweets: “What a pile of absolute horseshit. You don’t understand a single thing about broadcasting. All you’re doing is destroying UK creative industries because you don’t like awkward questions from a news outlet that holds you to account. Disgraceful.”
Mike Buckley wrote on Twitter: “Channel 4 sources 50% of its content from small independent production companies. Sector experts tell me there’s no way a private buyer will commit to the same, it wouldn’t be economic. The selloff means disaster for small firms, many based in the north.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward