UK government ‘re-examining’ Channel 4 privatisation & BBC licence fee overhaul

The UK government has confirmed it is “re-examining the business case” around the privatisation of Channel 4, while also exploring proposed plans to scrap the BBC’s licence fee funding model.

The reappraisal of the two key major decisions comes a month after Boris Johnson was formally replaced as prime minister by Liz Truss, who then appointed Michelle Donelan as the new culture secretary.

Donelan, who replaced Nadine Dorries last month, told the BBC earlier this morning that she was “re-examining the business case” around the commercially funded public broadcaster to ensure the new government “still agrees with that decision – and that’s what I’m doing.”

She added that she would “base decisions on evidence, on listening and that’s what I will be doing over the coming weeks.”

The privatisation of C4 had been in the works for a year after the Johnson government laid out a formal consultation into its privatisation, arguing that “the evolving media landscape poses material challenges to Channel 4’s future success and sustainability under its current ownership model and remit.”

The pubcaster’s CEO, Alex Mahon, confirmed the news in a note to staff in April, despite the broadcaster and the vast majority of the TV industry disagreeing with the plans, arguing they would hurt the domestic sector. Bankers had also started testing acquisitive interest among potential buyers, with Sky and Warner Bros. Discovery among those initially mooted.

Model funding exploration

Donelan has also prepared a draft bill that will look to modernise broadcasting reforms for the age of streaming and added that the planned changes to the BBC’s licence fee would be re-explored.

Former culture chief Dorries had said last year that the BBC’s next licence fee deal would be its last, but Donelan seemed to soften slightly on that approach.

She admitted to being “a long-term sceptic” of the licence fee model, adding that “we need to make sure that the BBC is sustainable in the long term. So I’m looking at this in the round,” the minister said.

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