Sale of Huge Broadcast Network Officially Off

U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 will not be privatized. Following an initial planned $1.2 billion sale of the broadcaster, which was rubberstamped by former U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries last year, the U.K. government confirmed that the sale is officially off and Channel 4 will remain publicly owned. The news comes just after a letter leaked from Dorries' successor Michelle Donelan to U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggesting that the privatization process would not go ahead. It also comes after 768 independent television and film producers signed an open letter urging the government to abandon the planned sale and also after 96% of respondents to a government consultation said they didn't wish to see the broadcaster privatized.

In a statement, per Deadline, Donelan noted that "Channel 4 is a British success story and a linchpin of our booming creative industries. After reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors I have decided that Channel 4 should not be sold." While Channel 4 will remain publicly owned, there will be a few changes. Donelan has issued a "sustainability package," which calls for an "ambitious package of measures" that includes allowing Channel 4 to produce shows in-house for the first time, an increased investment in skills and jobs across the U.K., and an upped borrowing limit. The package was first detailed by The News Agents journalist Lewis Goodall. Donelan explained that legislation will need to be introduced for some of these measures and will be done via an upcoming Media Bill.

"This announcement will bring huge opportunities across the UK with Channel 4's commitment to double skills investment to £10M and double the number of jobs outside of London to 600," Donelan continued. "The package will also safeguard the future of our world leading independent production sector. We will work closely with them to add new protections such as increasing the amount of content Channel 4 must commission from independent producers."

The news was celebrated by Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon, who said the "principle of public ownership is now set for the foreseeable future and will allow us to be even more of a power in the digital world." Mahon continued, "Channel 4 is innovative, editorially brilliant and loved by audiences that others don't reach, most of all the young and underrepresented. In the analogue world, we did this spectacularly. Now, in the digital era, we are doing it again. Working with the world-leading TV and film producers of the UK, we continue to give birth to ideas that thrill audiences and change perspectives globally." Mahon vowed that the broadcaster will "move faster, invest more, take more risks, break down barriers and push boundaries."