THE publicly-owned broadcaster Channel 4 will not be sold to private interests, the UK Government has confirmed – but there have been concerns raised about the Tories’ proposed “reforms”.

After dismissing reports of the U-turn on plans to sell Channel 4 as “speculation” on Wednesday, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan confirmed on Thursday they were in fact true.

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“After carefully reviewing the business case for selling Channel 4, and after listening to what stakeholders have had to say throughout this entire process, I have decided that we will not sell Channel 4,” she wrote on the news site Broadcast.

Donelan (below) added: “If we want to protect Channel 4 in the long-term, doing nothing is not an option. So instead of a sale, I will be pursuing an ambitious package of reforms to boost the broadcaster’s sustainability.”

The National: Michelle Donelan

The package includes reforms through the Media Bill which will allow Channel 4 the flexibility to make and own some of its content, and a new statutory duty on the board to “protect” the long-term financial sustainability of the business.

The broadcaster has also committed to increasing roles outside London and providing more opportunities for people from across the UK to gain experience in the sector as part of the package.

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon (below) welcomed the decision, saying “the principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world”.

The National: Alex Mahon, chief executive officer at Channel 4, speaking during a Communications Committee meeting

Mahon said the broadcaster would “move faster, invest more, take more risks, break down barriers and push boundaries” after the decision.

The announcement that Channel 4 will be allowed to produce its own in-house content – whereas everything the channel currently airs is commissioned from external production companies – prompted concerns from the industry.

Pact, the trade body for the independent sector, warned the move could have “the same damaging outcome” on its members as privatisation if “effective protections” are not put in place.

Chairwoman Jane Muirhead said: “Whilst it is clearly the right decision by the Government to reverse the privatisation of Channel 4, the decision to allow Channel 4 to produce its own in-house programming has the potential to achieve the same damaging outcome if there are not effective protections put in place.

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“Pact will be meeting with government and working closely with them to ensure that the right safeguards are established to protect the UK’s successful world-class indie sector.”

However, broadcasting union Bectu welcomed the move to allow Channel 4 to create content in-house.

Its head, Philippa Childs, said: “Channel 4 costs the UK taxpayer nothing, yet gives us a thriving independent production sector, thousands of jobs and world-renowned, innovative content. We wholeheartedly welcome the Government’s decision to scrap these short-sighted and damaging privatisation plans.

“We also welcome the opportunity for more commercial flexibility for the broadcaster and will be seeking to engage on how this might best be balanced with safeguarding its role in driving innovation and investment in independent production.”

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who led the move to privatise Channel 4 in Boris Johnson’s government, previously hit out at the reversal of the plan.

She tweeted: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down.

“A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2bn reversed. Replaced with what?”

It is unclear where Dorries’s £2 billion valuation came from. In 2022, marketing firm Enders Analysis said that Channel 4’s value could be anywhere between £600m and £1.5bn.

Channel 4 was created in 1982 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and is entirely funded by advertising.