Insights House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee publishes report into The Future of Channel 4


The main finding from the Committee’s report is that ministers should have waited to consult on the future of Channel 4 (and declaring privatisation their preferred option), until after setting out a vision for public service broadcasting.

The Committee says that the debate about Channel 4’s future has been “a binary one” between privatisation or the status quo, “It should instead start by establishing our ambitions for Channel 4 before considering how best they can be realised”, the report says. Risks and opportunities of both privatisation and continued state ownership must be weighed up, the Committee says, while much will depend on how willing the Government is to protect Channel 4’s public service remit and its contribution to the creative industries as part of any potential sale.

The Committee states that it was “surprised” that, in both written and oral evidence, when asked to describe any potential benefits of privatisation alongside potential risks, Channel 4 Corporation (C4C) “described only risks”.

“When asked about the potential benefits of privatisation, C4C’s response listed only potential disadvantages. We would have been more reassured to see C4C, as a publicly owned corporation, openly demonstrate that the potential benefits of privatisation had been considered by its board”, the report reads.

The report finds that privatisation’s main benefit would be increased investment in programming, content partnerships and technology through access to capital, enabling Channel 4 to diversify its revenues, enhance its sustainability and be more ambitious internationally. However, privatisation is not the only way in which Channel 4 could access capital.

The Committee recommends that, regardless of ownership, Channel 4’s role in supporting small, medium, diverse and regional production companies should be strengthened, while ensuring that the interests of large, established production companies do not take precedence over the channel’s sustainability. To read the Committee’s summary on its website in full and for a link to the report, click here.