LONDON (Brand Republic) - UK public service broadcaster Channel 4 could face privatisation if the Conservative Party is elected in the upcoming general election.
Channel 4 was created in 1982, under the then Conservative government, to cater for minority interests. In recent years, it has come under fire from rivals for its reliance on expensive US programming such as Friends and Ally McBeal.
Rival broadcasters are said to be showing increasing hostility toward the channel because of its so-called privileged status, not least because Channel 4 is exempt from paying for analogue spectrum -- ITV pays £350m annually.
Chris Smith, secretary for culture, media and sport, attacked the Conservative’s plans, calling the proposals “a disaster for British culture”. He said, “Ending Channel 4’s status as a non-profit-making public service broadcaster would starve the station of investment.”
The Conservative Party believes it could raise around £2bn from its sale, which would contribute towards an £8bn deficit it would have to make up in order to implement a range of tax cuts.
Peter Ainsworth, shadow secretary for culture, media and sport, said, “Under our proposals, Channel 4 would continue to operate as a regulated public service broadcaster in the private sector, with an enhanced remit to deliver high-quality drama, current affairs, news and minority programming on its core free-to-air channel.”
Over the years, Channel 4 has become increasingly independent. Having started life as a subsidiary of the now defunct Independent Broadcasting Authority and the ITC, it was established as a non-profit-making organisation in 1990 as part of the Broadcasting Act. Last year, Labour abolished the controversial funding policy that obliged Channel 4 to make large annual payments to the ITV companies.