Screen Yorkshire backs call for Tory contenders to stop sale of Channel 4

Screen Yorkshire and a series of independent production companies in the region are calling on the five remaining contenders to become the next Prime Minister to commit to halting the sale of Channel 4.

Caroline Cooper Charles, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, is among those to have signed an open letter calling for a u-turn on the current plan to privatise the Leeds-based broadcaster.

It states: “The current plans risks levelling down the creative industry resulting in more than 60 independent production companies going bust; one in three regional jobs being axed; cuts of up to £86 million a year on spending in the nations and regions and £320 million a year to the independent sector. Channel 4 isn’t broken, please don’t try to fix it.”

Screen Yorkshire, which was established one of nine regional screen agencies by the UK Film Council in 2002, has helped fund Channel 4 shows like Ackley Bridge and acclaimed film This is England, made by Channel 4’s feature film division Film4.

There are growing hopes the sale of Channel 4 could be stopped.

The letter, co-ordinated by anti-privatisation organisation We Own It, has also been signed by senior figures in Leeds-based companies True North and Northern Impostors, as well as Huddersfield’s Fettle Animation and Doncaster’s Wayne Sables Project.

It has been signed by representatives from a total of 16 production companies across the UK.

They believe the election of a new Prime Minister offers an opportunity to keep Channel 4 in public hands.

The open letter says that as a publicly owned broadcaster funded through advertising, Channel 4 does not cost the taxpayer a penny, instead returning a profit of £74 million last year and contributing £1 billion to the economy, supporting 10,000 jobs and 15,000 training opportunities.

Matthew Topham, We Own It lead campaigner, said: “Channel 4 is the levelling-up broadcaster. Its unique business model makes working in TV and film production a realistic dream, no matter where you live in the UK.

“Right now, Channel 4 supports 10,000 jobs, with hubs in Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol, and Cardiff, but cuts to one in three regional jobs are predicted under a private Channel 4, and 60 independent production companies are expected to go bust if the plans go ahead. If the Government is serious about levelling up, they need to protect Channel 4, not sell it off.”

Channel 4 has recently opened a headquarters in Leeds which the station’s bosses have argued would be at risk of closure should privatisation go ahead.

The letter comes just days after it was revealed the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had been putting pressure on Channel 4 to make their annual report more positive about the case for privatisation. The idea was rejected.

Earlier this year, three Tory MPs in Yorkshire - Kevin Hollinrake, Jason McCartney and Alec Shelbrooke - warned Channel 4 privatisation “could threaten jobs in our region and demote Yorkshire’s status as a cultural hub”.

Change of ownership 'is necessary'

The Government has said it still currently intends to press ahead with the privatisation of Channel 4 “in due course”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “It is the government’s job to take a long term view on how to best secure the most successful future for Channel 4.

“We have been clear that a change of ownership is necessary to give the broadcaster the tools to innovate and grow at pace in a rapidly changing media landscape, without the constraints of public ownership.

“We will introduce the media bill which will allow the change of ownership in due course.”

It has been reported a sale could raise over £1bn.

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