Politics

Nadine Dorries' dream Channel 4 privatisation plans have been shelved and no one has any sympathy

Nadine Dorries says 'edgy' Channel 4 News 'doesn't do itself any favours'
PA

Poor Nadine Dorries. After having to contend with her delayed Online Safety Bill being stripped of its “legal but harmful” clause, the former culture secretary’s passion project to privatise Channel 4 is now reportedly off the table as well.

In a leaked letter from Ms Dorries’ successor Michelle Donelan to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, obtained by Lewis Goodall of The News Agents podcast, the current minister wrote that “the view of my predecessor and the government at the time” to sell off Channel 4 is “not the right decision”.

“There are better ways to ways to secure C4C’s [Channel 4 Television Corporation] sustainability and that of the UK independent production sector.

“Indeed, C4C’s role in supporting growth in our independent production sector, a sector which is currently worth around £3 billion to our economy, would be very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities,” she said.

The news was confirmed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Thursday, with the department confirming the broadcaster will remain publicly owned but will work on an “ambitious package of measures as an alternative to a sale”.

Ms Donelan said: “This announcement will bring huge opportunities across the UK with Channel 4’s commitment to double their skills investment to £10 million and double the number of jobs outside of London.

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“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 C4C must commission from independent producers.

While plans to privatise C4 were first floated by ex-culture secretary Oliver Dowden back in 2021, it was his successor and ultra Boris Johnson supporter Ms Dorries who was particularly keen to seen it through.

And so – rather predictably – she wasn’t very happy when news broke of the proposals being dropped.

In a Twitter thread on Wednesday, the former I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! contestant claimed “three years of a progressive Tory government” were being “washed down the drain”.

She tweeted: “Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down. A bonfire of EU [legislation], not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?

“A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so. Where is the mandate – who voted for this?”

We were asking ourselves the same question when both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were elected Conservative Party leader – and thus, prime minister - without a general election, Nadine…

“[It] will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments,” she added.

Diddums.

Unfortunately for the Mid Bedfordshire MP, a lot of Twitter users were far from sympathetic in response to her comments.

Location, Location, Location co-presenter Kirstie Allsopp replied: “Nadine, why lie?! Channel 4 is not worth £2bn, or anything near it. By next year we will probably have spent more storing unused PPE than you could get for Channel 4.

“Selling it was always a destructive, pointless project that should be forgotten forever.”

“Get well soon,” joked writer and critic Caspar Salmon.

Scientists for EU founder Dr Mike Galsworthy asked: “How is privatising C4 and a rushed bonfire of consumer and worker protections in any way ‘progressive’?”

Another Twitter user commented: “Levelling up was essentially dumped through Brexit. The best levelling up ever achieved for poorer regions in the UK was via the EU Regional Fund. For example, compare what Cornwall received when we were in the EU with today.”

Meanwhile broadcaster India Willoughby responded: “‘Progressive’ is one of the last words anyone would use to describe your gang of stuffed muffins, Nadine. You’ve literally been waging a war on minorities.

“What’s progressive about that? What ‘levelling up’ did you do?”

Needless to say that the government’s decision not to privatise Channel 4 has probably prompted a few sighs of relief at the company, which in a statement said it welcomes the news that it will remain publicly owned.

C4’s chief executive Alex Mahon said: “The principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world.

“Channel 4 is innovative, editorially brilliant and loved by audiences that others don’t reach, most of all the young and underrepresented.

“I am personally delighted that we will be able to do more, making positive change for the people that others don’t fight for. We will move faster, invest more, take more risks, break down barriers and push boundaries; getting up to do that every day is an utter privilege for those of us lucky enough to work at Channel 4.”

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