Channel 4 boss in discussion with Government after doubt cast over privatisation

Chief executive Alex Mahon spoke at the RTS London Convention.

Royal Television Society London Convention 2022
Royal Television Society London Convention 2022

The chief executive of Channel 4 has said she is in contact with the Government over “where they want to end up” after the new Culture Secretary cast doubt on plans to privatise the broadcaster.

Michelle Donelan, who was appointed by Liz Truss, said recently that she is re-examining the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

The move to sell off Channel 4 was spearheaded by her predecessor Nadine Dorries during her time under Boris Johnson’s leadership.

Cabinet meeting
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan (Victoria Jones/PA)

Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon told the RTS London Convention 2022 that she is in dialogue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

She said: “Where we are now is they are obviously re-examining the business case. That means for us we are in discussion with the DCMS about where they want to end up and what the options are.”

Responding to host Amol Rajan, Ms Mahon added: “This is a Government decision and it is Government policy so you are absolutely right to flag that people in the Government have changed and it’s a new Secretary of State.

“She’s got every right to do that. I imagine they will look at the things that I like – facts, data and evidence, which you have heard me bang on about before.

“I’ve made my position and point of view on that clear, and then we’ll see what the coming weeks and months hold as they think about that.

“Lots of things in the legislative agenda are kind of up in the air compared to where we were in July, partly because the country is now having some more problems. So lots of things will change in terms of the legislative agenda.”

Ms Mahon has seen a high turnover of culture secretaries during her five years as Channel 4 boss and joked: “I have stopped counting.”

Royal Television Society London Convention 2022
Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4 (Richard Kendal/RTS/PA)

Addressing the impact of the turnover on the media sector, she added: “The truth is we have really good civil servants and they tend to be in their jobs for longer and they do know the sector in detail – that does make a difference.

“And we have Ofcom and we have other stakeholders.

“I don’t think it is perfect that we have such rotation in that department because it is hard for people to get to know all of the broadcasters and all the other players in the industry when they come in.

“But that said, they tend to do a really focused job.”

Ms Mahon also stressed the “complex choices” that were made by Channel 4 in the wake of the Queen’s death, which included airing Gogglebox on the Friday night, a day after the announcement.

“We did all the right things, announced it correctly and made complex choices like Gogglebox,” she said.

Other speakers at the conference include BBC director-general Tim Davie and ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall.

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