U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has sharply criticized detractors of her plan to sell broadcaster Channel 4. The plan was decried by several leading media industry unions and filmmakers.
In a strongly worded column in The Mail on Sunday, Dorries wrote that the reaction to her plan was “as predictable as it was inflammatory.” “Let’s dump the lazy, overwrought and ill-informed rhetoric from the Leftie luvvie lynch mob and take a cool look at the facts,” Dorries wrote.
U.K. independent companies are flourishing and only 7% of the industry’s revenue comes from Channel 4, Dorries wrote. As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 does not produce its own programs but commissions them from more than 300 independent production companies across the U.K. every year. It is publicly owned and funded by advertising.
Dorries wrote that because of the way Channel 4 is owned, it cannot build a back catalogue to export, or have an in-house studio to create and sell content, adding that advertising is increasingly migrating online.
“Broadcasting is now a totally different and digital world. Streaming giants have exploded on to the scene, with juggernauts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus upending the old order,” Dorries wrote. “Netflix spent £779 million [$1 billion] on U.K. original productions in 2020 – more than twice as much as Channel 4.”
“In fact, Channel 4 decreased the amount it spent on new content by £158 million at a time when it should be investing in new programs, technology and skills,” Dorries added.
“For the record, C4 revenue last year was its highest ever & this year it will spend more on content than ever. Some, including @NadineDorries, have cited a fall in spend in 2020, but this reflects impact of Covid which hit both production + revenue for all commercial broadcasters,” responded Channel 4 chief content officer Ian Katz.
For the record, C4 revenue last year was its highest ever & this year it will spend more on content than ever. Some, including @NadineDorries, have cited a fall in spend in 2020, but this reflects impact of Covid which hit both production + revenue for all commercial broadcasters https://t.co/znG8INnc4q
— Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) April 10, 2022
Channel 4 will be sold to “a buyer who will fund emerging talent, independent and impartial news, and invest in every corner of the U.K.,” Dorries wrote.
“The overblown reaction from the same people who snobbishly decried my appointment the moment I walked through my department’s doors won’t stop me,” Dorries added.
“Channel 4 is a distinct cultural asset which has created some of the best programs we have ever been lucky enough to watch,” Dorries wrote. “But its salad days are in the past.”
Meanwhile, in a column for The Sunday Times, Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon wrote: “We already lead U.K. television in making the transition from traditional to online advertising revenues, and we know that many British consumers want content for free and are ready for the digital future. The plan we proposed to government as an alternative to privatisation accelerates our existing digital strategy as well as multiplying the secondary benefits of public ownership, such as job creation and skills building outside London — in places where private media companies generally don’t invest.”
“Others have pointed out that we are very different to Amazon and Netflix: they are not trying to compete with the shows we make in Hull or Derry or Leeds, nor are they sending journalists out to Ukraine. In essence, we suggested we use more of our money to do more for Britain. Our plan to keep Channel 4 in public hands would deliver 100,000 training places for young people outside London who would otherwise never get the chance to taste life in the media. That would be starting immediately, continuing for the next decade and delivering £2 billion of value,” Mahon added.