New documents have revealed that Channel 4 attempted to fend off the government’s privatisation push with an alternative hybrid model earlier this year.
According to reports from the FT, the broadcaster proposed a partnership with private investors to spend £200m a year on British films and shows as part of an alternative plan to block its sale.
This was presented as a confidential blueprint shared with culture secretary Nadine Dorries in February.
Based on documents seen by the FT, the plan would have allowed Channel 4 to benefit from the secondary sale of rights to projects commissioned, adding to its “publisher-broadcaster” model.
As it stands, the It’s A Sin creator is publicly owned and, though it does not receive public funds, restrictions that come with that status mean it has limited ability to borrow money or raise private capital, nor can it own or sell its own content.
The rational behind the move from the government’s perspective is that a private Channel 4 will allow the broadcaster to compete with streaming giants.
Nonetheless, the decision to privatise the broadcaster has proven controversial, with Channel 4 stars, politicians and members of the public airing their concerns.
Last year, Channel 4 bosses warned that privatisation would not “be in the interest of either British audiences or the UK economy”.
Government sources have been keen to emphasise that Channel 4 would be sold as a privately-owned public sector broadcaster, in a similar vein to ITV, which would include ongoing evening news programming.
The takeover battle is expected to attract attention from both sides of the Atlantic, with speculation that Sky, Discovery and Channel 5 owner Paramount would be taking a shot at the takeover.