Nadine Dorries’ explanation for how Channel 4 is funded fell short on Tuesday, even though she is the UK’s culture secretary.
The cabinet minister was speaking in front of the digital, culture, media and sports select committee and faced a grilling over a range of issues, including the future of the staple left-leaning TV channel, Channel 4.
Addressing how the government is considering selling off the channel after opening a public consultation into its future, Dorries said: “I would argue that to say that, just because Channel 4′s been established as a public service broadcaster and just because it’s in receipt of public money, we should never audit the future of Channel 4 and we should never evaluate how Channel 4 looks in the future and whether or not it’s a sustainable and viable model.
“It’s quite right that the government should do that.”
Fellow Tory MP Damien Green then frowned and said: “Channel 4 is not like the BBC it’s not in receipt of license fee money.”
Channel 4 does not receive any public funding but relies on its commercial activities, mostly its advertising revenue.
She replied: “And...so... though it’s...yeah and that...”
Dorries is one of the leading figures who will decide the future of Channel 4 in the upcoming months.
The broadcaster is publicly-owned and came under review in July after the department for culture, media and sport said the changing media landscape, and the growing support for streaming platforms, means it was time to consider privatising it.
Channel 4 will still have a public service broadcasting licence and the same remit – to create “innovative, alternative content that challenges the status quo” – under any change of ownership, but this could still be a crucial change to the channel.
So, Dorries’ misunderstanding of how Channel 4 gets its money did not exactly go down well among her Twitter critics.
This was not the only surprising moment to come from Dorries’ time in front of the digital, culture, media and sports select committee this week.
Dorries found herself in hot water over her previous tweets about James O’Brien, a presenter from LBC radio station where she described him as a posh boy f*ckwit” even though he attended the same school as her daughters.
She said: ”I haven’t come here today to answer about tweets I sent years ago.”
At another point, she said, “I don’t do any news unless I am absolutely forced to,” despite her influential role in the media sector.