UK government to sell off Channel 4

The UK government is pressing ahead with its decision to sell off tv Channel 4 before the next election in a move described as “cultural vandalism”.

The government on April 27 released a “white paper” on broadcasting that includes proposals to ensure major sports events such as the Olympic Games and football world cups continue to be free to air and introduce a new code of standards on streaming services.

A widespread public consultation on the sale commissioned by the department for digital, culture, media and sport showed just 2 per cent were in favour and the plan has faced widespread criticism from the media industry and even Tory MPs.

Channel 4 is state owned but funded entirely commercially with a long and strong reputation for independent journalism including criticism of the government since it was founded in 1982 – under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The government claims selling it is needed to “sustain” the UK’s public service broadcasting sector because government ownership was “holding it back in the face of a rapidly changing and competitive media landscape” of growing online streaming services.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said when the sale was announced on April 5: “With over 60,000 submissions to the government’s public consultation, it is disappointing that today’s announcement has been made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.”

The opposition Labour party’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell tweeted: “Nothing screams a rudderless government more than this. Selling off Channel 4, which doesn’t cost the taxpayer a penny anyway, to what is likely to be a foreign company, makes absolutely no sense. It will cost jobs & opportunities in Yorkshire and hit the wider British creative economy.”
Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party culture spokespeople echoed the concern about damage to Britain’s cultural sector.

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