The government is opened its public consultation on the future of Channel 4 - with a questionnaire that explicitly states its preference for privatisation.
Individuals and organisations have until 14 September to make their views heard on whether C4's current model of a publicly-owned commercial public service broadcaster is sustainable - just over a week after the opening of C4's new Leeds HQ.
It includes questions about the economic, cultural and social impact if C4 were to be privatised, and whether the broadcaster should, like ITV and Channel 5, be allowed to make its own programmes.
The government has periodically raised the question of privatisation during the broadcaster's 39-year existence, but the recent escalation of the issue as the preferred option has caused uproar across the industry, with the publisher-broadcaster model feared to undermine the commercial fortunes of many independent producers.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden made his position clear in the consultation document: “The government does not consider there to be merit or justification for a proportion of the corporation to be retained in public ownership."
C4 recently reported a record surplus of £74m and forecast that its revenues would surpass £1bn for the first time this year, with streaming and linear views and digital advertising revenues all on the up.
He sets out six questions for respondents to consider:
1. Do you agree that there are challenges in the current TV broadcasting market that present barriers to a sustainable C4 in public ownership?
2. Would C4, with a continued public service broadcasting licence and remit, be better placed to deliver sustainably against the government’s aims for public service broadcasting if it was outside public ownership?
3. Should C4 continue its contribution to levelling up in the regions and nations?
4. Should the government revise C4’s remit and obligations to ensure it remains relevant?
5. Should government remove the publisher-broadcaster model to allow C4 to diversify its revenues?
6. What are the economic, social and cultural costs and benefits to a privatised C4?
How to have your say on the future of Channel 4
Consultation on a potential change of ownership of Channel 4 Television Corporation
TV & Broadcasting Team
4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street