Yorkshire TV production companies urge Government to scrap Channel 4 privatisation plans

Twelve TV production companies in Yorkshire claim the Government’s proposed privatisation of Channel 4 flies in the face of the levelling up agenda and it could put jobs at risk and some firms out of business.

The Government has just finished a consultation on the proposed privatisation,
The Government has just finished a consultation on the proposed privatisation,

They are calling on the Government to scrap its plans to sell off the broadcaster, which commissions shows from more than 300 independent production companies across the UK every year and supports nearly 3,000 jobs outside London.

There are fears Channel 4 could be bought by a firm that has little interest in working with these companies or adhering to the broadcaster’s remit to deliver “innovative, alternative content that challenges the status quo”.

There are also growing concerns about the future of the broadcaster’s national headquarters in Leeds, which were officially opened this year after the Government ordered it to relocate outside London.

In total, 44 TV production companies have spoken out against the move. There are 12 from Yorkshire, including True North, Air TV, Can Can Productions, Button Down, Factual Fiction, Warp Films and Screenhouse Productions.

It comes after Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive, said the broadcaster spends up to £700m a year on commissioning programmes and it is on track to spend 50 per cent of its budget outside of London this year.

Andrew Sheldon, founder of True North, said: “Channel 4 is critically important to the well being of the independent sector. We've got more than 300 companies in all parts of the UK that work regularly with Channel 4 and those companies are the bedrock of our world class television industry.

"Channel 4 is critical to the development of those companies and the people who work in them. Their move out of London was a clear example of the Government’s levelling up policy in practice. It shouldn’t now be reversed."

Ian Cundall, director of Air TV, said: “The industry has been far too weighted towards the capital for far too long and Channel 4 is at last starting to redress that.

“Our fear is that if Channel 4 is sold off, that regional presence is probably not something that will be financially sustainable for companies seeking a profit.”

Rebecca Papworth, founder of Can Can Productions, which employs more than 60 people in Leeds to co-produce Steph’s Packed Lunch, said: “We simply can’t imagine that a privately owned Channel 4 would have taken this risk on a new format in Leeds.

“The current Channel 4 setup is tangibly creating jobs and opportunities in our region - this is something to build on and celebrate. Privatisation puts investment in the regions at risk and we need to resist it.”

Louis Bamber, managing director of Button Down, said: "The programmes we make aim to be representative of the regional voices at the heart of our company and of the contributors with whom we film.

"We do not believe that the commitment to funding programme-making in the regions, or the editorial commitment to providing a platform for such a diverse range of voices, would remain should Channel 4's not-for-profit publisher-broadcaster model be replaced by a commercially driven buyer.

"This is a growing industry which can benefit our region in many ways, and is beginning to flourish in Yorkshire. Privatising Channel 4 threatens to derail this progress."

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has been approached for a comment.

The Government, which has just finished a consultation on the proposed privatisation, states it wants to make sure Channel 4 “has the best chance of a successful and sustainable future” but there are ongoing concerns about a decline in TV advertising and the broadcaster’s ability to compete with streaming giants.