The proposed sale of Channel 4 has met delays after the new culture secretary Nadine Dorries was inundated by a spate of opposition against the move, according to reports.
Around 60,000 submissions related to the sale of Channel 4, which is state-owned but independently funded through advertising revenue, were sent to the government, according to The Sunday Times, which first reported the news.
Dorries was due to respond to the submissions this month but the unexpected volume overwhelmed the culture secretary.
Her response will now be delayed until next month or even early next year, pushing any potential sale back too.
The news comes just weeks after reports that the former chief executive of Channel 4, Lord Grade, and ITV have been eyeing the broadcaster.
Lord Grade, who is on a panel advising ministers on the future of public service broadcasting, last month urged a House of Lords committee to shake up the channel’s ownership.
“The time to change the nature of Channel 4 is now, before it falls over, before it succumbs to the inevitable decline,” he said, warning that the network behind The Great British Bake Off is “in a straitjacket of regulation and statutes that completely prevent it from taking advantage of what it has achieved so far.”
Sky, now owned by US media giant Comcast, and at least one US private equity firm were also tipped as potential bidders for the takeover deal.
A consultation on the ownership of the broadcaster was launched earlier this summer by Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon, who has previously warned that selling off the business could irreversibly damage the British broadcasting sector.
Alex Mahon has also warned that shifting to a for-profit model would harm Channel 4’s ability to support independent producers, its spending outside London, and its reach among younger audiences.
The backlash against the sale of Channel 4 has been brewing from among TV professionals including the creator of comedy series The Thick of It Armando Iannucci.
But in September the former culture secretary Oliver Dowden restated his view that changing Channel 4’s ownership was the best path for the channel, signalling the government’s intention to push forward with plans to privatise the state-owned broadcaster.
The former chief executive of Channel 4 Lord Grade and ITV are reportedly mulling takeover bids amid government plans to privatise the network.