Open letter to Nadine Dorries

2 February 2022

Dear Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

On the 14th of September 2021 your department closed its consultation calling for views and evidence into a potential change of ownership of the Channel 4 television corporation. News outlets reported that a substantial 60,000 responses were submitted and understandably the department for DCMS needed time to review those responses. We welcome this time for consideration and recognition of the gravity of this decision. However, workers in the industry as well as the viewing public need a clear commitment about the future of Channel 4 and an end to the uncertainty over industry jobs in our nations and regions.

We, as the signatories below, are reiterating the case for Channel 4’s unique model as a publicly owned but commercially funded broadcaster, at no cost to the taxpayer, to be retained into the future. A position supported by 82% of the viewing public in a Tapestry poll

We draw attention to evidence that Channel 4 is performing above and beyond expectations in a changing media landscape and is projected to do so into the future. 

We believe that a change in the ownership model of Channel 4 poses a significant risk to jobs and small businesses in the nations and regions outside London and as a result directly contradicts any commitment this government has made to levelling up across the UK. 

We ask that as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport you make a public commitment to retain Channel 4 in public ownership.

Channel 4 is performing above and beyond expectations

Channel 4 is a Great British success story. It produces world-famous programmes and films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Father Ted, and The Great British Bake Off. It also makes a profit, boosts jobs and nurtures talent across the UK. 

In 2021 Channel 4’s revenues hit £1 billion, a 19% growth from 2020. It reported a £74 million pre-tax surplus and net cash reserves of £201 million. A substantial portion of Channel 4’s growth has come from its digital revenues which are projected to rise by 32% each year, beyond its target to double digital viewers and make digital advertising 30% of all revenue. All this at no cost to the taxpayer and without Channel 4 requesting an increase on its borrowing limit.

Considering the above, the claim that Channel 4 privatisation will enable the broadcaster to better compete with online streaming providers does not hold weight. Channel 4 has always adopted an innovative and forward-facing approach to broadcasting. It was amongst the first broadcasters to establish an online streaming service in the UK and the significant growth of its digital revenues, above and beyond expectations, only demonstrates its ability to keep pace with a changing media landscape.

Privatisation will in fact create a financial burden for the Channel 4 Corporation as it will have to create value for shareholders rather than, as is currently the case, being free to invest its surplus revenues in innovative development strategies.  

Risks to jobs and small business in the nations and regions

Ernst and Young’s reporting projects that privatisation risks a 35% drop in regional jobs dependent on Channel 4. In 2020, Channel 4 produced 58% of its content in the nations and regions outside London and has committed to spending 50% of its budget outside of the capital by 2023. This spending includes revenue for independent production companies in the nations and regions, which in 2019 received £189 million from Channel 4. In this sense the Channel 4 model plays a unique role in the UK’s broadcasting ecosystem working with more independent producers than any other broadcaster, with around 140 small businesses reliant on Channel 4 for more than half of their production revenue. This is particularly crucial to the existence of small businesses outside London, with as many as 60 production companies projected to be put at significant risk under a private ownership model.

This level of risk to jobs and small businesses in the regions and nations runs counter to the government’s commitment to levelling up across the UK. Channel 4’s headquarters in Leeds and its creative hubs in Glasgow and Bristol make significant contributions to local economies and should be retained under public ownership as strategic assets for the levelling up agenda.

Retaining Channel 4 in public ownership

We, as the signatories below, are asking as industry professionals, political representatives and as a voice of the viewing public that the government end the uncertainty around Channel 4. We ask that in consideration of Channel 4’s excellent performance and rapid growth in digital revenues you as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport commit to safeguarding jobs and small businesses in the UK’s regions and nations and make a public commitment to retain Channel 4 under public ownership.

Signed:

Cat Hobbs (Director - We Own It)  

Dan Norris (West of England Combined Authority Mayor)

Tracy Brabin (West Yorkshire Combined Authority Mayor)

Frances O’Grady (General Secretary - Trades Union Congress)

Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary - National Union of Journalists)

Paul W. Fleming (General Secretary - Equity)  

Phillippa Childs (Head of BECTU)

Michael Rosen (Author and television presenter)

Alan Clements (Managing Director - Two Rivers Media, Glasgow)  

Iain Scollay (Creative Director - Firecrest Films, Glasgow)

Catherine Porritt (Chair - West Yorkshire Association of Trades Union Councils)

Kevin Stannard (Secretary - Calderdale Trades Council)  

Pete Keal (Secretary - Equity Leeds & Region General Branch)  

National Union of Journalists (Bristol Branch)  

John Toner (National Organiser - National Union of Journalists Scotland) 

Nigel Costley (Regional Secretary - TUC South West)

Paul Collinson (TUC Yorkshire & the Humber Creative and Leisure Industries Committee)

Simon Crew (Secretary - Bristol Trades Council)

Professor Des Freedman (Co-Head - Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Goldsmiths, University of London)

Dr. Tom Mills (Media Reform Coalition)  

Colin Browne (Chair - Voice of the Viewer and Listener)  

Carla Denyer (Co-leader - Green Party)

Richard Burgon MP (Leeds East)

Chris Stephens MP (Glasgow South West)  

Do you believe in public services for people not profit?

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Comments

Kay Murphy replied on Permalink

Channel 4 should not be sold off. Privatisation has gone far too far.

John Fray replied on Permalink

Channel 4 innovation programs and it’s news output are to valuable to risk to ideological driven meddling politicians.

Joan Fryer replied on Permalink

The question I would like to ask. What is the truth of the matter - for what reason does this Tory government want to privatise Channel 4 when privatisation of public services fail at great cost to the taxpayer? Could one of the reasons be the fact that Channel 4 does when necessary hold this government to account. Is the UK a democracy or not?

Mark Woolner replied on Permalink

Must we all worship profit ?

Michael Coleman replied on Permalink

what is it with the tories? everything is for sale, nothing has a value and everything has a price; even their own children!

Ian Skelton replied on Permalink

It seems to me a “no brainer” that the current ownership arrangements for Channel 4 need to be changed. It is a highly successful company run at no cost to the taxpayer. It seems to me that a potential change of ownership is entirely ideological and entirely to do with the fact that it is publicly owned, which Tories hate the idea of.

Andrew Adams replied on Permalink

Johnson's Tory government wants to privatise Channel 4 to give the profits to their donors and cronies ,and also to make it a right wing biased media outlet like the Tory infiltrated BBC and we cannot allow yet another Broadcasting service become a right wing Propaganda Corporation.

Bill Davies replied on Permalink

There is a pattern developing with this Govt, drawing up legislation such as the Crime and Policing Bill which attempts to limit the right of assembly and protest, on facile criteria of making too much noise. Channel 4 is an independent jewel in our media landscape and such change is purely an ideological response to their reporting, speaking truth to power, irrespective of whoever governs

Gillian McIver replied on Permalink

If this administration cares not a fig for innovation, creativity, independence of thought, instead squandering our (increasingly at risk?), world-wide reputation for artistic excellence, then they should at least care about the money Channel 4 makes, directly and through the work of independent programme creators. All without a penny in subsidy from the exchequer. They destroy the good through malice, downright ignorance and now, disgustingly, through self-preservation. Channel 4 can’t be recreated in the current climate, if ever. And it was, I understand, a brainchild of a Thatcher government. We’re losing so much, in every way, as a nation, this wild bonfire of the good must be stopped by all means available.

Adam Hiley replied on Permalink

This Government needs bringing down a peg or two, the Way it rides roughshod over the People of the UK is disgraceful Johnson must go now

Alan Hubbard replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is an important media outlet in the maintenance of a democratic society. It is vital that it retains its independence from private ownership which will undermine its integrity. Privatisation in all its guises has prooved to be disastrous, prisons, railways, energy providers, water boards, you name it and without exception, there has only been profit for shareholders, overcharging for consumers and a fall in quality of service. This government has itself in recent years nationalised several utilities that have failed under privatisation.

John Graham replied on Permalink

I ENTIRELY agree with the contents of this letter. This current government seem determined to sell it off to their rich friends. We must PLEASE make them agree to retain the status quo.

Annette Stirling replied on Permalink

"If it ain't broke don't mend it". As one of the most impressive channels in British television, Channel 4 should be allowed to evolve, develop and flourish and use its earned revenue for its continued improvement.

Vivienne LITTLE... replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is one of the best channels for quality productions providing a marvellous service and would be a great loss to the viewing public as well as those whose contributions make it worth watching and particularly those in the regions whose jobs would be seriously at risk if the organisation were to be privatised. We realise its success is why the minister might wish to sell it but this would be a very short term benefit to the government, who do not provide the funding for this channel. As someone who has chaired Arts committees within the public sector I am well aware of the need to properly support the arts as one of the largest revenue earners supporting jobs and education.

carol adams replied on Permalink

Channel Four is working on every level and does not need any goverment intervention of any sort.

carol adams replied on Permalink

Channel Four is working on every level and does not need Government intervention of any sort.

Susan Cariss replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is successful, innovative and brings creative work to the regions of our London centric country. In particular my home county of Yorkshire.

Beverley Robertson replied on Permalink

This proposal will only benefit the fat cat investors to the detriment of everyone else.

Chris Brown replied on Permalink

Agree with everything in the letter...could also mention awards won by it's programmes

Jackie Tuszynski replied on Permalink

Another company making money for them to sell off to one of their cronies.

Diane Sider replied on Permalink

C4 also contributes hugely to the training and development of people for our creative industries. C4 was set up with a remit to promote diversity with programmes featuring and made by people from BME, LGBTI and disabled sectors as well as national and regional communities. It was the first Channel to broadcast the Paralympics - something no standard commercial channel would do, and shows challenging prograames on issues such as disability and sexuality and facial disfigurement. Like the BBC it is at the heart of our hugely successful creative industries with feature films, animation and digital production. There is no logical reason why it should be privatised.

COLIN AITKEN replied on Permalink

All power to your elbow. I am assuming that my MP Wera Hobhouse MP for Bath would support the cause but I will forward your letter to her.

Roger Mears replied on Permalink

Another Great British Success and one of our 'crown jewels' that should be celebrated as it is and that the current government seems to want to destroy in the name of selling off.

Mike Payne replied on Permalink

I am amazed at the startling ignorance of the Secretary that she did not know how Channel 4 is funded. When this Government is prepared to privatise swathes of our health system such as vaccine research labs. we have to acknowledge that the Conservatives are driven by ideology and not rational behaviour. What happened to our country when we have a shower like this lot in charge?

Anonymous replied on Permalink

It is crucial we keep Channel for for its creative input, documentaries and open-minded various programming. It is not the Governments to sell and no one was consulted about it in any way shape or form. There is no case whatsoever for selling it off. It would be a massive loss to the public with the only ones to gain, those abusing elected power without care or consideration for the electorate.

Janet Lester replied on Permalink

BBC is for everyone.

Alan Smith replied on Permalink

Keep your pilfering hands off this sterling broadcaster!

david secker replied on Permalink

chanell 4 belongs to the nation. it must stay that way. it is unnique in that it is funded by advertising but is state owned.

David Calder replied on Permalink

Fully support this extremely important campaign . Is it too late to add my signature?

Alice replied on Permalink

Thank you for your support David! We would love to be in touch with you- could you send an email to info@weownit.org.uk with the best way to be in contact?

All the best,

Alice and the We Own It team

Rene Wyndham replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is high quality public service and creative broadcasting,. Privatisation is about profit, Channel 4 is about serving the public interest.

Rene wyndham replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is about creativity and serving public interest. Privatisation is just for maximising profit,

Alison Peebles replied on Permalink

Channel 4 is a flagship for broadcasting, entertainment, news, sport, drama and comedy because it is independent, this grab for privatisation is about creating profit for self-serving shareholders driven by greed and power.

Elizabeth Berrington replied on Permalink

STOP THE SMASH AND GRAB OF SUCCESSFUL INDEPENDENT NEWS & PROGRAMMING IN THE U.K.! STOP PERNICIOUS DESTRUCTION FOR ‘PROFIT’ OF PUBLICLY OWNED MEDIA! HANDS OFF CHANNEL 4!

Joan Fryer replied on Permalink

Why is it the Tory government is hell bent on attacking the BBC and Channel 4 - it is because they want control; this corrupt Tory government does not like to be held to account. Margaret Thatcher in 1982 made it clear she intended to dismantle the welfare state and the NHS hence privatisation of public services which has been a complete disaster at great expense to the taxpayers. Tory governments have nothing but contempt for ordinary people so why do they vote for them. The NHS has over the years been privatised by stealth. At the moment, the Health & Care Bill is with the House of Lords and it is hoped the House of Lords votes it down. The majority of Tory MPs have voted to have private companies sit on the NHS Board which means it will be they who made decisions on behalf of the NHS. The experts are those who work in the NHS so it should be they who know what the solutions are to any problems. Already, Centene an American Co. own 70 doctors surgeries in London in the hope it can eventually sweep the rest and this governments allows this which proves they benefit financially from any privatisation - in other words assets strippers. The reason thousands died of Covid was because Jeremy Hunt ignored the Cygnus Report warning if there was a pandemic the NHS would be ill prepared due to the lack of PPE equipment. Tories weren't concerned about that because they knew they would out-source the supply to their cronies so they in return could increase party funds. The fact that thousands died was of no concern to the Tory government.

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