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Channel 5

Volume 711: debated on Thursday 24 March 2022

3. What recent assessment her Department has made of the contribution of Channel 5 to public service broadcasting. (906267)

I congratulate Channel 5 on its 25th anniversary, and I was delighted to attend the parliamentary reception this week to celebrate that significant milestone. Channel 5 has played an important and award-winning role in our public service broadcasting system, through its provision of new programming, and its unique focus on children’s television. Thanks to its significant investment in the regions, it is the levelling-up broadcaster, and I look forward to another successful 25 years.

As my right hon. Friend says, Channel 5 is 25 years old this month. I was a news presenter on the channel at the beginning and for the next eight years, and our aim was to make the news more accessible to a wider audience, ensuring that everybody in the country could understand what was going on. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating Channel 5’s team who had the imagination and confidence to do that then, and the current team who continue to bring understandable, relevant, and relatable news to people in all parts of the UK today?

I will—I congratulate and applaud them. My hon. Friend was there on Channel 5’s opening night, and so were the Spice Girls. Some of us in this House are old enough to remember that evening. Channel 5 does a huge amount for independent production companies, and one fifth of all its commissioning spending goes to those smaller companies. That is a larger spend than the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. It also does a huge amount in the regions, and it far exceeds its Ofcom quota every year. As I said in my first reply, it is the levelling-up broadcaster, and I think those statistics alone bear that out. I wish it another 25 years, and I congratulate everybody working there.

I warmly congratulate Channel 5 on turning 25, along with Channel 4 on turning 40 and, of course, one of our greatest institutions, the BBC, which is celebrating its centenary in 2022. This is becoming, without doubt, a milestone year for public sector broadcasting in the United Kingdom. While the Government have been playing games with the future of the BBC and Channel 4—and we welcome the extra funding for the World Service—their journalists have risked their lives to report the facts on the front line in Ukraine. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that any future ownership decisions that she makes on Channel 4 will ensure that its in-depth, independent journalism will be protected beyond 2022?

As I have said a number of times at the Dispatch Box, a decision has not yet been reached on the future of Channel 4. This week I met its chief executive, Alex Mahon, and its chair, Dawn Airey, and discussions are still taking place. I have yet to reach a decision, but when I do, all will be considered, including news broadcasting, the future, and the public service broadcasting remit to the nation. I have not made a decision, but when I do I will be here at the Dispatch Box and the hon. Gentleman will know the details.