Lords back Channel 4 to withstand Brexit volatility and warn against privatisation

William Turvill
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The House of Lords Communications Committee is concerned privatisation would put Channel 4's news, current affairs and film content at risk (Source: Getty)

Channel 4 has been backed to withstand Brexit volatility by a group of peers calling on the government not to privatise the broadcaster.

The House of Lords Communications Committee noted in a report, published today, that culture secretary John Whittingdale is concerned the future of the publicly owned, commercially funded channel is “very uncertain”. He is currently considering selling off all or part of the broadcaster.

Read more: Channel 4 exec warns privatisation move would stop new Goggleboxes emerging

But the committee said that the evidence it has been shown means that “as far as it is possible to predict the future, [Channel 4] is sustainable for at least the remaining eight years of its licence term". "We believe it is well positioned to withstand possible market volatility following the result of the EU referendum," the Lords added.

On the prospect of privatisation, the committee said Channel 4’s news, current affairs and film content “would be at risk”. The peers appeared particularly concerned about Channel 4 falling into foreign hands, meaning a loss of UK control or influence.

“We are concerned that, notwithstanding assurances given at the point of sale, a private owner may seek to dilute [Channel 4’s] public service remit in future, in order to maximise profit,” the report said.

Read more: Channel 4 condemns "prolonged uncertainty" over privatisation

“We draw attention to the risk involved in a sale: once a company has passed into private ownership – particularly, as is likely, with a [Channel 4] sale, into overseas’ ownership – there is no mechanism to control or influence its fate.

“We heard little evidence to suggest that [Channel 4] itself or the creative industries would benefit from full or part privatisation. The risks appear to outweigh any potential benefits.”

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