The U.K. government’s decision on Tuesday to go ahead with the privatization of broadcaster Channel 4 has unleashed a storm of protest from media unions and filmmakers.

“This is nothing short of cultural vandalism. Channel 4 supports 1000s of jobs & a thriving independent production sector, all at no cost to the taxpayer. This short sighted, destructive move deals a major blow to the UK’s creative sector,” tweeted Bectu, a union that represents over 40,000 staff, contract and freelance workers in the media and entertainment industries.

“This short sighted and destructive move deals a major blow to the U.K.’s creative sector, the creative economy and jobs of UK freelancers. We will not let it pass unchallenged,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs. “Make no mistake – selling off such a profitable network that gives so much to the U.K.’s broadcasting and independent production sector will have major consequences for the U.K. broadcasting landscape. Channel 4 costs the U.K. tax payer precisely nothing, yet gives us a thriving independent production sector, thousands of jobs and world-renowned, innovative content. Why is the government attacking it?

While Channel 4 is publicly owned, it is not publicly funded like the BBC. It is funded from advertising revenues. Channel 4 commissions U.K. content from some 300 companies in the country’s independent production sector.

Equity, a union of more than 47,000 performers and creative practitioners, is backing a campaign against the privatization. “How can selling our industries’ infrastructure possibly be a priority for the government in the middle of the cost of living crisis?,” tweeted Equity general secretary Paul W. Fleming. “We’ll fight this every step of the way.”

While announcing the decision to privatize Channel 4, U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries had said that she would seek to reinvest the proceeds of the sale into “levelling up the creative sector, putting money into independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country – delivering a creative dividend for all.”

The U.K.’s National Union of Journalists, which has more than 38,000 members, did not mince its words in reaction, with Séamus Dooley, the organization’s assistant general secretary, describing Dorries’ proposal as “a wanton assault on a valued British institution disguised as a gift to the creative industry in the U.K.”

Dorries had also said that government ownership was holding Channel 4 back from “competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.” Channel 4 is free-to-air, while Amazon and Netflix operate on a subscription model.

Dooley said: “Broadcasting policy should not be determined by an apparent obsession with competing with subscription models such as Netflix and Amazon on the part of the Culture Secretary.”

“Does she really want to hand control of Channel 4 to foreign investors or some shady oligarchy with no commitment to the ethos which has been the cornerstone of public service broadcasting in the U.K.,” Dooley added. “There is no evidence to support her contention that the sale of Channel 4 would ‘give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future.'”

Eminent filmmakers have also weighed in on the issue. “Nadine Dorries’ plan to sell @Channel4 shows she doesn’t know or care What it is What Netflix is How UK TV culture works Such ignorance in charge. Such an instinct to wreck,” tweeted Cannes and Berlin-winning filmmaker Mark Cousins (“The Eyes of Orson Welles”).

Oscar and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia (“Amy”) tweeted: “Boris Johnson & his Tory government are selling off C4 because they hate what C4 do. Tories are attacking democracy, culture, art & anyone who dares hold them to account like @Channel4News. They are out to destroy this country. We have to stand up & fight back.”

“Line of Duty” creator Jed Mercurio tweeted: “The sale of C4 will inflict huge damage on homegrown creative companies, all to silence a critical news outlet, and, as if it even needs mentioning, make a few quid for their mates while they’re about it.”

“The Death of Stalin” filmmaker Armando Iannucci referred to the lengthy industry consultation process the U.K. government undertook in late 2021 around the privatization. “They asked for ‘a debate’; 90% of submissions in that debate said it was a bad idea. But still they go ahead. Why do they want to make the UK’s great TV industry worse? Why? It makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense,” Iannucci tweeted.