The UK government has launched a public consultation on the future ownership of Channel 4, as part of its review of public service broadcasting. The consultation will consider both the ownership and remit of Channel 4.
The government says the current strength and variety of the UK’s TV production sector is in part thanks to the role of Channel 4, which it wants to protect. However, the fast-evolving media landscape, with increased competition and changing audience habits, is posing serious challenges to traditional ‘linear’ TV broadcasters, which means it is now time to review its ownership structure.
The government wants to preserve Channel 4’s status as a public service broadcaster producing original, distinctive content as well as high quality news and current affairs serving every corner of the country.
It believes private-sector ownership of Channel 4 and a change to its remit could enable it to thrive in the decades to come as a successful and sustainable public service broadcaster.
According to the government, private ownership could benefit Channel 4 by enabling it to access new capital and diversify its income streams to give it a greater and more resilient financial base from which to invest in new technology, content and programming. It could also help the broadcaster form new strategic partnerships and reach international markets.
The government is seeking views and supporting evidence on what the economic, social and cultural costs and benefits could be if it were to release Channel 4 from the constraints of public ownership.
“The media world has changed immeasurably since Channel 4’s creation in the early 1980s, but whilst we have more choice today, the need for a strong and successful Channel 4 continues,” stated Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden. “So in the face of rising global competition, now is the right time to strengthen UK public service broadcasters and consider releasing Channel 4 from the constraints of public ownership, enabling it to thrive for the next 40 years and beyond.”
All responses received as part of the consultation will be carefully analysed before the government publishes its response and sets out next steps.
The consultation will last for 10 weeks and closes on September 14th 2021 at 23:45.
The government will publish a broadcasting white paper in the autumn of 2021 which will consider the future of the country’s broadcasting landscape with the ultimate aim of making sure it serves listeners and viewers on all platforms and across the UK.
The White Paper will also be influenced by Ofcom’s ongoing PSB review, the government’s own strategic PSB review as well as the recommendations of the Digital Radio And Audio Review which will report this summer.