Channel 4 privatisation threat as ministers launch review of broadcast rules

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The future of Channel 4 could be at stake as the Government announces a consultation into British broadcasting today.

Ministers are looking at privatising the broadcaster – home of hits such as Great British Bake Off, Gogglebox and SAS: Who Dares Wins – as part of the review of public service television.

The Government will also consult on toughening the regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime so they face the same rules as the BBC and ITV.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age."

"The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system.

“So we’ll now be looking at how we can help make sure Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting and level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services.”

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But Mr Dowden was accused by Labour insiders of launching "the next instalment of his culture war playbook" against Channel 4.

They added: "Ever since the head of Channel 4 news called Boris Johnson a liar – which he is – the Tories have their sights set on revenge and that means privatisation.

"This is a Government that is prepared to sell off a great British asset owned by the public, just to avoid scrutiny.”

The Channel has been in the firing line after No 10 briefed that it was "woke and struggling" and repeatedly raised the prospect of selling it off.

Hitting back at the accusation yesterday [WEDS], chairman Charles Gurassa said: "We are there to be an independent voice, we are regulated by Ofcom, we are committed to impartiality and to ensuring all voices are heard from across the spectrum."

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP said: “Channel Four has a unique role in British broadcasting as a company owned by the British public which ploughs its profits into commissioning new programming, creating jobs and discovering new talent.

"The Government, having wasted billions on crony contracts and vanity projects, are now looking for a short term-cash boost by selling off one of our great British assets to the highest foreign bidder. They are selling Britain short.”

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