Equity has signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, to urge her to reconsider the Government’s plans to privatise Channel 4. The government recently confirmed this decision in their recently published White Paper alongside other policies impacting the broadcasting sector.
Written by the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU), the letter is signed by Equity, Bectu, the National Union of Journalists, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
The FEU, who together represent over 120,000 UK creative workers, expressed dismay in the letter at the Government’s plans to sell the publicly owned broadcaster to a private company. The letter also urges the Secretary of State to reconsider the sale of this much-loved, highly successful cultural asset.
Independent analysis by Ernst and Young LPP indicates that the creative industries could be £2 billion worse off under privatisation, as well as 2,400 jobs in the creative industries being at risk and at least 60 production companies at risk of closure.
Privatisation would also jeopardise the significant contribution the broadcaster makes to the Government’s levelling up agenda via its investment that is spread across the nations and regions, including opening regional headquarters, job creation and new opportunities for film and TV workers across the country.
More information about the White Paper
The government outlined in the White Paper that Channel 4 will remain a public service broadcaster, just like other public service broadcasters like ITV, STV, Channel 5 — that are already privately owned. However, the government will remove the publisher broadcaster model and instead introduce a new quota to commission only 25% of its programming from independent producers. This could mean a 75% reduction in Channel 4’s spend with independent production companies.
The government will maintain Channel 4’s current formal Ofcom quotas for Nations and Regions which are 35% of production out of London and 9% of production outside of England. However, under the current model Channel 4 voluntarily spends 50% of its commissioning budget outside of London. This rose to 55% in 2021.
Crucial information is missing from the white paper. For example, there are no formal obligations in relation to training and skills. At present Channel 4 invests significantly in training and skills, creating opportunities right across the UK. Crucially, there are no formal obligations in relation to Film. Channel 4 currently spends more on British film than any other UK broadcaster — and distributes those films on its dedicated free-to-air channel Film4. Film4 is one of the biggest investors in UK independent Film.