Tories question plans to privatise Channel 4 as 'revenge' for coverage

Both the former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and the SNP's culture secretary oppose the move.

Tories question plans to privatise Channel 4 as ‘revenge’ for biased coverage iStock

The Government has announced it will push forward with plans to sell off Channel 4 in a move opposed by prominent Conservatives and members of the creative industries.

Tory MP Julian Knight questioned if the privatisation plans were “revenge” for “biased coverage” over Brexit and “personal attacks on the PM”.

“The timing of the announcement 7pm, coinciding with Channel 4 news, was very telling…” he wrote in a series of tweets.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the announcement marked the “opposite of levelling up”.

In a tweet, Baroness Davidson said: “Channel 4 is publicly-owned, not publicly-funded. It doesn’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

“It also, by charter, commissions content but doesn’t make/own its own. It’s one of the reasons we have such a thriving indy sector in places like Glasgow.”

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said she felt government ownership was “holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.

During a select committee hearing in November last year, Dorries claimed the broadcaster was in “receipt of public money” when discussing the future of the channel.

Her colleague Damian Green had to correct her, explaining Channel 4 was not like the BBC instead making its money from commercial operations.

Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio replied to a tweet from Dorries in which he cautioned that the sale of Channel 4 would “inflict huge damage on homegrown creative companies, all to silence a critical news outlet, and, as if it even needs mentioning, make a few quid for their mates while they’re about it.”

The Scottish Government’s culture secretary Angus Robertson said the privatisation of Channel 4 is “unnecessary and ill-conceived”.

He said the independent production sector had flourished with Channel 4’s help including £200m for Scottish-based productions and support for 400 jobs since 2007.

“In Scotland, this decision comes at the very time that the channel has strengthened its content spend, investment and links to Scottish creative businesses through its creative hub in Glasgow with high-value drama series, such as Screw, filmed at Kelvin Hall,” Robertson said.

Channel 4 said it is “disappointed” at the Government’s decision to proceed with privatisation plans without “formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.”

On Monday, Dorries said she wanted the broadcaster to remain a “cherished place in British life”, but felt that government ownership was “holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.

“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,” she said in a tweet.