Jon Snow warned on Wednesday that Channel 4 News would be cut should Downing Street pursue its reported desire to privatise Channel 4. Responding to David Cameron’s admission that he was “looking at all options” for the future of the broadcaster, Snow said that privatisation would remove £150 million from programming, with the flagship news show likely first to be axed.
During Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron said privatisation was being considered, telling MPs: "I want to make sure that Channel 4 has a strong and secure future and I think it's right to look at all of the options, including to see whether private investment into Channel 4 could help safeguard it for the future.”
“Let's not close our minds like some on the Opposition front bench who think that private is bad and public is good," he added. "Let's have a proper look at how we can make sure this great channel goes on being great for many years to come."
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Snow said the broadcaster doesn't need private investment. “We have here a channel that is generating £900 million-plus every year in profit, all of which goes back into programming,” he said. "It costs the taxpayer not one penny and we in turn pay taxes into the Treasury. Privatisation would require the owners to take a profit and that would mean £100-150 million of that £900 million would have to be taken in order to satisfy their needs."
Speaking about his own nightly, hour-long show, Snow said: "Channel 4 News is a very expensive entity and we might well be one of the first casualties. As it stands, [Channel 4] is a profitable and successful entity. Why tinker with it?"
The issue of a possible sell-off was revealed in September when an official from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was photographed entering No. 10 with a document detailing privatisation as a future option for the broadcaster.
At PMQs, SNP MP John Nicolson demanded Cameron confirm that "no discussions are under way to privatise and thus imperil this much-loved and important public institution." Cameron said he was "a huge fan" of the channel but refused to rule out private investment.
In response, Labour said a Channel 4 sell-off was "clearly not in the public interest," with Shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher accusing the Government of “misleading the public on their plans to privatise Channel 4 for months.” He added: "Labour will continue to stand up for Channel 4 and oppose any reckless attempts to privatise it."