Senior Tory Suggests Channel 4 Being Privatised As 'Payback' For Brexit Coverage

Commons culture committee chair says "privatisation tickles the ivories" of many Conservative MPs.
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A senior Conservative MP has suggested the government is privatising Channel 4 as “revenge” for its coverage of Brexit.

Julian Knight, the chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport Committee, also said the move might be in response to perceived “personal attacks” on Boris Johnson by the broadcaster.

Channel 4 News famously replaced the prime minister with a melting ice sculpture during a climate change debate during the 2019 election when Johnson would not take part himself.

Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, confirmed on Monday evening that she would press ahead with privatisation plans.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, Knight said he would likely support the plan but questioned its motives.

“Elephant in the room time,” he said. “Is this being done for revenge for Channel 4’s biased coverage of the likes of Brexit and personal attacks on the PM?

“The timing of the announcement 7 pm, coinciding with Channel 4 News, was very telling.”

Knight added: “Undoubtedly, across much of the party - there is a feeling of payback time and the word privatisation tickles the ivories of many.

“The money is irrelevant - equivalent to four days national debt interest - so it must be used to support skills in creative sectors.”

He said: “Privatisation- even for some wrong reasons- can work for C4 but must be part of a thorough overhaul of all public service broadcasting. If this is in the media bill I will support the government.”

Channel 4 has said it is “disappointed” by the privatisation plans which have not taken account of “significant public interest concerns”.

The channel was founded in 1982 to deliver to under-served audiences and currently receives its funding from advertising.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell described the move as “cultural vandalism”.

“It will cost jobs and opportunities in the North and Yorkshire, and hit the wider British creative economy.”


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