Channel 4 Chairman to Exit as Sale Plan Gathers Steam

The broadcaster is an avid buyer of Hollywood shows, such as 'Scream Queens'

LONDON — Terence Burns, the chairman of U.K. state-owned broadcaster Channel 4, is to step down in January. His departure may clear the way for the sale of the network to a Hollywood major or another global media conglom.

Burns’ second term as chairman is due to end on Jan. 27, but media regulator Ofcom, which appoints the role, had requested a year’s extension to his contract. It emerged late Monday that the government has rejected that request.

The government is considering three options for the future ownership status of Channel 4: the first is to keep the present structure in place – the broadcaster is government owned but funded by advertising; the second is to sell the network to the highest bidder, which would probably be a Hollywood major or another global media conglom; and the third is to make Channel 4 a not-for-profit mutually-owned trust, which would guarantee its editorial independence.

Burns has backed the third option and his departure could herald the death of this mutualization plan. Privatization is the most likely outcome for two reasons: first, it chimes with the free-market ideology of the ruling right-wing Conservative Party, and, second, it would contribute around £1 billion ($1.52 billion) to the national coffers at a time when the government is trying to cut the U.K. debt.

At present, the broadcaster has a remit to be “innovative, experimental and distinctive.” Whether that would survive privatization is in doubt, although the government has suggested it could remain.

Channel 4 does not produce its own programs — all of its output is either acquired from the international market or commissioned from U.K. independent production companies. Channel 4 is an avid buyer of Hollywood shows, such as “Scream Queens,” “Homeland,” “Nashville,” “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project” and “Fargo.”

More TV

  • George Clooney’s ‘Catch-22’ Sells to Asia

    George Clooney’s ‘Catch-22’ Sells to Asia and Australia (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Catch-22” has caught the interest of several big-name global buyers. Chinese streaming platform iQiyi, Australian SVOD service Stan, and HBO Asia are among the latest to acquire the Hulu adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel, which is produced by and stars George Clooney. Paramount’s TV distribution unit struck the new deals for the series, which will [...]

  • Billy McFarland of the Fyre Festival

    Entertainment One Takes International Rights to Hulu's 'Fyre Fraud'

    Entertainment One has picked up international rights to Hulu’s documentary on the disastrous Fyre Festival. “Fyre Fraud” looks at the unscrupulous dealings of Billy McFarland, the self-aggrandizing huckster who sold thousands of tickets to a music festival in the Bahamas that turned out to be a sham. Duped by a promotional campaign on social media [...]

  • ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer Making Joan

    ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer to Make TV Series About Joan and Jackie Collins

    The colorful lives of movie star Joan Collins and her bestselling novelist sister, Jackie, will be dramatized in a TV series. Sony-backed Fable Pictures, the British film and TV producer behind “Stan & Ollie,” will make the series, having secured the TV rights to the Collinses’ story. The series, which has the working title “Joan [...]

  • Friends From College

    'Friends From College' Canceled by Netflix

    Netflix has canceled comedy series “Friends From College” after two seasons. “Friends from College will not return for a third season,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We’re grateful to creators Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco for creating a wise, funny and supremely relatable show. We also want to thank the hard-working crew, [...]

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content