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House of Commons Hansard
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15 December 2016
Volume 618
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5. When she plans to make an announcement on the future status of Channel 4. [907917]

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We will make an announcement on the future status of Channel 4 in due course.

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The Minister knows that Channel 4 not only supports a thriving independent production sector through commissioning, but has proven time and again to be a sustainable and successful business model. We know that the Government like to create uncertainty, but will the Minister take it away from Channel 4, its advertisers and the independent production companies that it supports, and make a decision which has been delayed for far too long?

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As the hon. Gentleman well knows, we are looking at all the options to ensure that we have a strong and sustainable future for Channel 4. I am a great supporter of Channel 4. A Conservative Government in the 1980s put it in place, and we will do what is necessary to sustain its future.

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I am completely open-minded about the ownership of Channel 4 as long as we ensure that the programming standards are maintained, but may I remind my right hon. Friend that ITV, Sky and many others produce great documentaries and wonderful dramas, and they are privately owned?

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Of course that is an important thing to remember. We are looking at how we can have the most sustainable, vibrant future for our brilliant Channel 4.

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Is the Minister comfortable with the fact that currently Channel 4 has no one from a diverse background on its board, and will he explain the process by which he or the Secretary of State made a decision that excluded the deputy chief executive of the Arts Council from that board?

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We have recently made some appointments to the Channel 4 board. Those appointments were all made on merit. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that public appointments must be made on merit, and give him this statistic: since this team has been in place in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 24% of all public appointments have gone to people from minority ethnic backgrounds—which is far higher than the proportion in the economy. We are passionately devoted to making sure that our great institutions are represented by people from all backgrounds, and will continue to do that, based on merit.

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The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) is absolutely right that Channel 4 is not diverse, so will the Minister make sure that there are not as many politically correct left wingers at Channel 4 in the interests of diversity? As he does so, will he set out why it is in the taxpayers’ interest for the Government to own a left-wing broadcaster?

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Of course, Channel 4 pays its way and pays for itself—it is not subsidised; it is just owned by the taxpayer. I am sure, with contributions such as that, my hon. Friend will bring great insight and entertainment to the Women and Equalities Committee.

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The Minister talks of merit. Channel 4 has 13 board members. Ten of them are men. All of them are white. Will he explain to the House why he and the Secretary of State blocked the sole black candidate, who was described as outstanding by Ofcom?

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In this case, there were four vacancies and we chose the four best candidates. I will have no truck with the argument that we should have tokenism. I support appointment on merit. I also support making sure that we reach into all communities. The fact that this ministerial team has appointed 24% of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds demonstrates how much we care about—

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Order. We are not as slow as all that. The right hon. Gentleman has made that point with force and eloquence, but it does not improve by being repeated.

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I am afraid that the Minister’s laconic attitude towards this is not helpful at all. He has just said that the appointments were made on merit and that had he gone through with the recommended appointment it would have been an example of tokenism. That is an absolute insult to the candidate, who, as he well knows, was perfectly well qualified and was recommended for appointment on merit.

When are we going to get an end to the uncertainty about Channel 4? The Secretary of State has been in place for 150 days. The sector is in absolute despair about the lack of a decision from the Government. When will we get an answer?

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The sector is going from strength to strength. I strongly support it in doing so. We will continue our support for Channel 4, for appointments based on merit and for the great British TV sector.