United Kingdom

Loss-making Channel 4 could be lined up for privatisation as Netflix era transforms the TV market

Channel 4 could be lined up for privatisation as early as next year, it emerged last night.

A sell-off of the public broadcaster has been mooted in the past but plans are being sped up as the Netflix era transforms the TV market.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to launch a formal consultation within weeks.

Channel 4 could be lined up for privatisation as early as next year, it emerged last night

Options would include an outright sale, a partial offloading of the Government's stake or a mutual ownership model, according to the Financial Times. Ministers reportedly want a decision on the best model for the channel to be decided upon by the end of the year.

An abandoned sell-off in 2016 was predicted to raise as much as £1billion for the Government, but the advent of streaming has hit the profitability of many traditional TV stations.

Although publicly-owned since its creation in 1982, Channel 4 is commercially funded. It raised revenues of £985million in 2019, but a pre-tax loss of £26million.

The process will be overseen by Media Minister John Whittingdale, who advocated privatisation of Channel 4 as long ago as 1996.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to launch a formal consultation within weeks

The Culture Secretary told MPs last month that the privatisation of Channel 4 before the next election had not been ruled out.

'It is right that we consider how we build on the huge contribution that something like Channel 4 has made, for example, to the creative industries and what is the appropriate model for it going forward,' Mr Dowden told the culture select committee.

He cited the 'rapidly changing broadcasting landscape', comparing the situation when as a child 'you would go home and look at whatever was on the box' with the current choice of 'increasingly user-generated' services on demand.   

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