There have recently been two significant announcements from the Department of Media, Culture & Sport. The first, highly anticipated, was the Government’s confirmation of its preferred candidate for the role of Chair of Ofcom; Lord Grade. A pre-appointment hearing was requisite and Lord Grade attended a meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Its subsequent report stated
‘While the Committee is concerned about his lack of knowledge about social media and online safety, it recognises that it would be difficult to find a candidate with deep experience across the whole of Ofcom’s remit and hopes he will receive the necessary advice to fulfil his role.’
In its report the Committee also noted
‘ It is evident that Lord Grade would bring considerable experience in, and knowledge of, the media sector to this role. His commitment to leave his strong opinions aside and resist political pressure gives us hope that he will be able to act with the strict independence required of the role. We note his confirmation that he would play no part in public debates about the future of Channel 4 and the BBC ‘
Access the full report @ committees.parliament.uk/publications/9566/documents/162051/default/.
It might seem that this last observation was particularly prescient given that the next announcement by Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for DCMS, at the beginning of April 2022 stated that the Government intended to go ahead with the privatisation of Channel 4. Here is her announcement on Twitter.
Channel 4 rightly holds a cherished place in British life and I want that to remain the case. I have come to the conclusion that government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon. A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future. I will set out the future plan for Channel 4 in a White Paper in due course. I will seek to reinvest the proceeds of the sale into levelling up the creative sector, putting money into independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country – delivering a creative dividend for all.
There have been many comments on social media and articles about this fundamental change in Channel 4’s original remit. Here is a link to an article from the RTS Television Magazine which looks at the pros and cons of privatisation for Channel 4.