Celebrities and Yorkshire production companies back campaign to prevent privatisation of Channel 4

A campaign call has been launched to prevent the privatisation of Channel 4 as a coalition of church leaders and public figures warn over the impact on creative opportunity and levelling up investment for the North.

The drive, supported by 27 production companies from Leeds-based independents True North to Duck Soup Films amid mounting opposition, is supported by the Archbishop of York.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s privatisation plans have long come under fire, including from inside his own party with former Minister Jesse Norman referencing the move as “unnecessary and provocative”.

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But the Government insists it has already decided to sell the broadcaster and has been “crystal clear” that privatisation is necessary to give Channel 4 the best tools to innovate and grow.

The home of Channel 4 in Leeds. The Majestic, City Square. Image: Simon HulmeThe home of Channel 4 in Leeds. The Majestic, City Square. Image: Simon Hulme
The home of Channel 4 in Leeds. The Majestic, City Square. Image: Simon Hulme

Now the campaign, dubbed ‘Channel 4 Ain’t Broke’, brings together voices from the Derry Girls’ star Siobhán McSweeney to television writers and the Bishops of Ripon and Leeds.

The broadcaster, with a headquarters in Leeds, feeds major investment into northern talent through independent production companies, representing northern voices.

Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, today warns: “The plan to sell off Channel 4 is ideologically driven and therefore short-sighted and wrong.

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“Channel 4 is the levelling up broadcaster, it’s good for our region. It ain’t broke - so the government shouldn’t be trying to fix it.”

Channel 4's London headquarters on Horseferry RoadChannel 4's London headquarters on Horseferry Road
Channel 4's London headquarters on Horseferry Road
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And Andrew Sheldon, founder and creative director of Leeds-based True North, stressed the broadcaster’s role in levelling up business, job and training opportunities.

“It’s opening the door to more working class and northern voices telling our stories on national television,” he said.

“It’s given a generation of talent a door to knock on without having to travel to London.”

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The campaign is coordinated by We Own It, which argues Channel 4 delivers £1bn to the nation’s economy, returning profits of £74m and supporting more than 10,000 jobs.

It highlights concerns that privatisation could hit the Government’s levelling up agenda, with a 35 per cent drop in regional jobs and putting dozens of businesses at risk.

The Archbishop of York is among those giving his support, having long urged for the broadcaster’s work within the independent sector to be recognised as part of the process. The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell also previously served on a House of Lords Select Committee which warned the risks of such a move would “outweigh any potential benefits”.


Derry Girls star Siobhán McSweeney said: “Channel 4 is a huge success story and Derry Girls wouldn’t have happened without it - it’s something to be proud of, not something to destroy.”

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The Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, speaking as chair of the Sandford St Martin Trust, said: "It is our belief that one of the many risks associated with privatisation would be the demise of religious and ethical content provision on the channel.

"Channel 4, with its current public service remit, is on the frontline of promoting tolerance and understanding across a range of social differences. We want to keep it there."

A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government, as the ultimate owner of Channel 4, has made the decision to sell.

“It is our job to take a long term view on how to best secure the most successful future for the broadcaster and we are clear that a change of ownership is necessary to give Channel 4 the tools to innovate and grow at pace in a rapidly changing media landscape, without the constraints of public ownership.”

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Independent production in the UK is booming, the department argues, with revenues growing to £3bn in 2019, and with companies increasingly less reliant on Channel 4 for commissions.


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