Channel 4

Save Channel 4

** CAMPAIGN NEWS: Read an open letter from WGGB and other creative unions to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries on 13 June 2022, urging her to reconsider the sale of the “much-loved, highly successful cultural asset” **

The Government’s announcement on 4 April 2022 of its intention to push ahead with controversial plans to privatise Channel 4 resulted in a backlash from opposition parties, trade unions, industry professionals and even their own MPs.

When the plans were first announced in September 2021, we asked our members to write to their MPs and sign petitions to oppose the plans. We have also continued to lobby the Government, responded to a Government consultation and provided evidence to the Lords Communications and Digital Committee.

We believe that Channel 4’s unique public service broadcasting (PSB) remit has been vital to the success of the British television and film industry and privatising it would be detrimental to UK audiences, the economy, and the sector as a whole.

We will continue to campaign and oppose the sell-off of this vital national asset.

You can join in by:

  • Writing to your MP using this template letter. You can find out who your MP is and get their contact details here. To have the most impact, do personalise and adapt the letter and mention your own specific experiences if you can.
  • Sign this petition
  • Join the campaign on social media using the hashtags #SaveChannel4, #C4privatisation, #SaveC4. We have put together some handy Channel 4 MythBusters that you can use
  • Watch a video of our recent event on the future of the channel with special guests James Graham, Jack Thorne, Karissa Hamilton-Bannis and WGGB Chair Lisa Holdsworth
  • Read an open letter from the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, which WGGB has signed.
  • Read the long-awaited white paper on broadcasting in the UK 
  • Let us know how you have supported the campaign, including responses from your MPs, by email: john@writersguild.org.uk
  • We’ll be posting updates so please keep checking back

Points you can make in your communication with MPs, on social media etc

The Channel 4 model – sustainable and working

  • Channel 4 does not cost UK taxpayers a single penny, generating its income from advertising. Its digital advertising revenues have doubled since 2016 and alone make up 17% of revenues.
  • The current model ensures that all surplus revenue (recently recorded at £74 million and a projected revenue of £1 billion in 2021) is reinvested into UK television production. A change of ownership would result in money being taken out of the UK market and given to shareholders, potentially outside of the UK.
  • In 2020 it recorded 1.25 billion streams of its content and, at a time when there is increased competition for the vital youth market, 80% of UK 16 to 24-year-olds are signed up to the All 4 platform.

Channel 4 and levelling up – the value of Channel 4 to the nations and regions

  • Channel 4’s continued presence in Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow is essential as it makes a vital contribution to levelling up the regions and nations of the UK. In the past 10 years Channel 4 has invested over £1.5 billion in the industry outside of London.
  • Since 2015, Channel 4’s training, skills and outreach work has benefited over 10,000 people, including opportunities for young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Channel 4 and its value to the UK creative industry

  • Channel 4 plays a central role in the financial success of the UK television and film industries, both at home and abroad, as well as the UK’s creative industries, worth over £111 billion to the economy each year.
  • Channel 4 has directly invested £12 billion into the production sector, creating £992 million+ GVA per year, and supporting over 10,600 jobs in the media supply chain.
  • Channel 4 commissioning spend accounts for 15% of the production sectors’ revenue, but the programmes it commissions are then sold around the world, bringing further investment into the sector. The scale of this is illustrated by the fact that Channel 4 was the original commissioner of seven of the 25 best-selling UK unscripted formats around the world in 2019. Film4 films have collectively won 37 Academy Awards and 84 BAFTAs.
  • Analysis has suggested that up to 60 independent companies could go out of business if Channel 4 is privatised.

The risks of privatisation

  • Privatisation could lead to fewer programmes being made, with owners relying on more repeats and overseas imports, which are cheaper.
  • Private ownership is likely to make the channel more profit-orientated and risk adverse – focusing on stories and programmes with global appeal, rather than those tailor-made for UK audiences.
  • Research shows Channel 4 is consistently rated more highly than other PSBs for tackling issues others wouldn’t, showing different cultures and opinions, and showing the viewpoints of minority groups. This could be lost if Channel 4 is privatised
  • There are also concerns that privatisation will lead to a reduction in investment in skills and training in the creative sector – already under threat because of Government changes to higher education.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/KevinCole