Channel 4 must maintain British content when sold, says MP

A revamped Channel 4 must be subject to a "minimum British content" of programming, an MP has said.

Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road, London
Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road, London

Michael Fabricant has backed plans to privatise the broadcaster, which the Government wants to sell ahead of the next general election for a reported figure of around £1 billion.

He said the sale was key to "ensure its survival" in the face of falling advertising revenue, but insisted the channel's new owners must agree to meet a certain level of British programming.

The Conservative MP for Lichfield, who has appeared on the Channel 4 show First Dates, said: "I don’t believe Channel 4 should be sold off because of an obsession with privatisation, I believe it has to be sold off to ensure its survival.

"With Netflix, Prime, Sky, Disney, Now, and other subscription services, advertising revenue is falling.

"Channel 4 has to be given the freedom to innovate – which it will have if out of the Treasury’s hands.

"With safeguards in place independent British production companies will still be commissioned for their work – and I might still be able to appear on programmes like First Dates!"

Speaking in the Commons last week, Mr Fabricant asked ministers to confirm that any sell-off would be "subject to a minimum British content and news content".

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: "Channel 4 is being sold, and it is being sold as a public service broadcaster, and those criteria which he has outlined himself will absolutely be in there.

"If anybody cares to read the Broadcasting White Paper, they will see we have put a number of things into the Media Bill, which will help Channel 4, including prominence, including introducing a code which will put all public service broadcasters and streamers on a level playing field in terms of what they can and can't broadcast in the UK.

“But it is going to be sold as a public service broadcaster, and there will also be a requirement to continue to make distinctive British content; the Derry Girls, Gogglebox, all those programmes that we know are distinctly British."

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