Earlier this year, the UK government made a shock announcement that it was planning to sell Channel 4 – which has been a public service broadcaster since it was set up in 1982. According to MP Nadine Dorries – who is UK secretary of state for the UK Government Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – the sale would enable C4 to ‘compete’ with streaming services, and boost the creative sector by putting money into independent production and creative skills.
The news was met with dismay by many. Why does C4 need to compete with major streaming businesses such as Netflix? Hasn’t C4 been a key supporter of the creative industry for the entire 40 years it’s been in business? And how will the agenda of a private owner affect C4’s remit? Even the DCMS’s own public consultation, which surveyed over 40,000 people, showed that only 2% supported the sale of the broadcaster.
“Channel 4’s unique ad-funded, publicly owned model has created some of the most disruptive, challenging and iconic moments in modern British culture and elevated ideas and creatives that would almost certainly have otherwise gone ignored,” says Faraz Osman, former C4 editor of education and now managing director of production company Gold Wala. “Our society is far richer for it.
It’s no surprise that when you put creativity and a progressive mindset above lining shareholders’ pockets, you attract a bunch of people who care deeply about what they are able to do
“With a strong original remit to be different, C4 created space for disruption, innovation and weirdness that typifies the UK’s collective character,” Osman continues. “As such there is an authentic, emotional attachment to its brand, especially for younger audiences and smaller, more diverse producers. That is its true value and goes far beyond any spreadsheet or business plan.”