The government’s plans to privatize Channel 4 are wide open to challenge in court because it would undermine Boris Johnson’s commitment to “settling” the country, the head of the Northern Energy Partnership said.
Two bills will be announced for the next session of Parliament in the Queen’s address this week – one on privatization proposals, the other requiring that all government policies contribute to “the National Progressive Party’s director Henry Morrison, chaired by former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, said on Saturday, the National Progressive Party director Henry Morrison said on Saturday. Compromise” – was completely at odds and “completely incoherent”.
Ministers are facing a mounting Tory rebellion in Parliament over the plans, which were not present in the 2019 statement, from peers and dozens of MPs who believe the government is wasting time on a policy they believe will do more harm than good.
Channel 4 was created during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister to encourage the growth of small production companies outside of London and the southeast. It is committed not to produce its own programmes, but instead commissions over 300 independent production companies across the UK, many in the north of England.
Channel 4 last year opened a new headquarters for around 200 employees in Leeds and now aims to increase its commission spending for companies in UK countries and regions to at least 50% by next year.
Morrison said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ plan would run counter to a new bill drafted by Michael Gove that would require all policies to pass a raise test to ensure they contribute positively to a level playing field across the country.
“Based on what was stated in the settlement white paper, our judgment is that the decision to privatize Channel 4 will not pass this test, and it does not reflect well on the officials in the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports who advise the Secretary of State on its policy that they did not consider verifying that it would be consistent with Other laws they plan to pass.
There is now an expectation that if ministers go ahead, companies that could lose out on the sale could take the government to judicial review to force a rethink. A consultation about the plans found that 96% of respondents disagreed.
Morrison added: “If you are designing policy to support the independent television sector in areas like northern England, if Channel 4 does not already exist, you will create it. When government ministers make decisions on bad advice, they should not be surprised when they are being challenged legally. I think It is possible that other interested parties who would be disadvantaged would have strong reason to consider taking legal action.
“In terms of tests of whether it is good or bad for closing the north-south divide, the privatization of Channel 4 would undermine the settlement. Proposing two pieces of legislation that completely contradict each other is inconsistent on the part of the government.”
Doris says Channel 4 needs to be sold if it is to survive and thrive “in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape”. She recently tweeted that she wanted the broadcaster to retain “a dear place in British life” but said she felt British government ownership “prevents Channel 4 from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.
“I will seek to reinvest the proceeds from the sale in upgrading the creative sector, investing money in independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country – to achieve a creative return for all,” she added.
Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “Channel 4 is an uplifting announcer, commissioning half of its programming from creative firms outside the capital, securing a pipeline of creative talent and jobs in regions and countries. Everyone knows that when sold, these obligations will be relaxed, and any new owner will need To meet commercial demands, thus reducing investment in British jobs and programmes.
“That’s why these plans will have a tough road ahead in Parliament and can be subject to legal barriers and competition along the way.”
Since its launch, Channel 4 has directly invested £12 billion in the independent production sector, creating nearly £1 billion in value for the British economy in 2019 and supporting more than 10,000 jobs.