Liz Truss refuses to abandon privatisation of Channel 4

Liz Truss said she has not made a final decision on the future of Channel 4 yet, but she prefers “to have companies operating in the private sector”.

Liz Truss spoke about the future of Channel 4 during a visit to Leeds today
Liz Truss spoke about the future of Channel 4 during a visit to Leeds today

The Conservative leadership candidate said she will review the Government’s controversial plan for privatisation, but if the broadcaster is sold off she will ensure the national headquarters remain in Leeds.

Her rival Rishi Sunak has already said he will proceed with the sale of Channel 4, if he becomes Prime Minister.

“I believe where possible, it’s best to have companies operating in the private sector, rather than the public sector,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

“I will look in detail at the business case on Channel 4. But one thing I’m absolutely committed to is – it’s staying in Leeds.”

She added: “My preference is to have companies operating in the private sector.”

Boris Johnson’s Government announced in April it was pressing ahead with privatisation, even though 96 per cent of the 55,737 people who took part in consultation said they did not think the move was necessary, but it would consider imposing various conditions on the sale.

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It said the broadcaster will struggle to survive in a media landscape increasingly dominated by the likes of Netflix and has been overly reliant on declining TV advertising to support its business.

But there are concerns that buyers would sell Channel 4’s new headquarters in Leeds, scrap the model which ensures the broadcaster buys all of its programming from independent production companies, and abandon its remit to deliver “innovative, alternative content that challenges the status quo”.

Channel 4, which was founded in 1982 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and is entirely funded by advertising, has resisted privatisation and published a counter-proposal that would allow it to remain under public ownership.

Under the plan, called ‘4: The Next Episode’, Channel 4 plans to bring in £1bn of investment by 2030, by setting up a joint venture that will bring in an external investor as majority shareholder and allow the broadcaster to borrow more money.

It has promised to support the Government’s levelling up agenda, by doubling the number of roles that are relocated outside London to 600 and spending 50 per cent of its commissioning budget outside the capital.

The broadcaster’s move to Leeds came after Ministers urged Channel 4 to relocate outside of the capital, fulfilling a promise outlined in the Conservatives’ 2017 General Election manifesto, and cities around the country spent millions on bids to attract the broadcaster.

Channel 4 generated record revenue of £1.2bn last year – with a £100m surplus – and saw a 21 per cent increase in viewing on its highly-profitable streaming platform, All 4.