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Channel 4

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

In a fast-changing and challenging broadcasting environment, the Government want to ensure that Channel 4 has a strong and secure future, and that it can continue to provide for audiences and support the creative industries across the UK. The Government are looking at a broad range of options, and we will set out our plans in that area in due course.

It is a shame that the review is not as fast-changing and fast-moving as the broadcasting environment. At the end of this month, the review will have taken longer than the BBC charter review, so can we now put the review out of its misery, and declare that Channel 4 works well and will not be privatised?

Unlike the BBC charter review, this is not a formal process and there is no end date at which the charter expires, as there is with the BBC, but we do need to make sure that we get this right. I want to see Channel 4 survive, flourish and prosper in what is an ever-changing broadcasting world, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, and that means that we are working with Channel 4 to get the right deal for viewers and the whole country.

What does my right hon. Friend think the view of the Competition and Markets Authority would be if a company that already owned one broadcaster the size of the BBC wanted to own another the size of Channel 4? If she agrees that that simply would not be allowed, will she please immediately begin the process to sell off Channel 4?

I know that my hon. Friend has strong views on this subject. I assure him that we are looking at all options, and we will report to the House in due course.

As my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) said, the question of whether Channel 4 will or will not be privatised is one of the longest running soaps in this House. Can the Secretary of State confirm that there will not be a shareholder solution, that it will not be privatised and that it will not be for profit—that it will be not for profit? I expect that she is coming under pressure from Government Back Benchers to privatise Channel 4.

I know that the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) is particularly interested in long-running soaps on Channel 4, given that “Hollyoaks” is set in his constituency. I want to make sure that “Hollyoaks” and other programmes set across the UK are able to prosper so that we have a plurality of broadcasting that works for everyone.

The Secretary of State will be aware that Channel 4 recently won broadcaster of the year at the Broadcast Awards. Does she therefore agree that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

The important point is that we make sure that Channel 4 has a long-term, sustainable future. That is why we are looking at all options so that we can ensure that a station that relies very predominantly on advertising revenue is able to continue, and to provide the excellent broadcasting for which Channel 4 is renowned.

When the Secretary of State spoke to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year, she said that she would come to a decision in the “nearish future.” Now she says that she will come to a decision “in due course.” I do not know whether the nearish future is sooner than in due course, but this faffing around on Channel 4 has to stop. She has to show some leadership because the uncertainty is damaging its business and our broadcasting industry. Rather than taking a decision in the nearish future, will she now commit to doing so immediately?

I do not agree that this is affecting the quality of broadcasting that Channel 4 is able to produce. The fact that Channel 4 has committed, for example, to broadcasting the para-athletics, which is being held in London next summer, is a very positive move that we all welcome. I want to get this right, and I am working with Channel 4 and all stakeholders. I want to make sure that Channel 4 has a long-term, sustainable future, and I will report back to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.