UK Government document considers Channel 4 'privatisation options'

UK Government document considers Channel 4 'privatisation options'

Proposals to privatise broadcaster Channel 4 are to be considered, a sensitive Government document suggests.

A memo with the heading Assessment of Channel 4 Corporation Reform Options, said to be held by a UK official in Downing Street, was posted on Twitter by freelance photographer Steve Back (PoliticalPics).

The “official – sensitive: commercial” document is dated September 24 2015, and notes there has been a recent meeting between Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock and two unnamed secretaries of state.

The phrases “extracting greater public value” and “focusing on privatisation options in particular” are visible, with large sections of the photo on Twitter redacted.

In response to the photo, a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokeswoman said: “The Government has made no decisions regarding reform of Channel 4.

“Channel 4 has an important remit and we are looking at a range of options as to how to continue to deliver this, including options put forward by Channel 4.”

In August, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival that the sale of Channel 4 was not currently being discussed.

But the Tory frontbencher did not rule out future privatisation of the broadcaster.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey also refused to be drawn on the issue earlier this month as backbenchers from the so-called Tory “awkward squad” pressed ministers to justify the benefits of taxpayers owning a “left-wing broadcaster”.

In exchanges in the Commons, Mr Vaizey said the value of Channel 4’s public stake had not been estimated by the Government.

Tory former minister Christopher Chope (Christchurch) told the minister: “Well, in that case isn’t it about time they did?

“Channel 4 has a turnover of about £1 billion a year and assets of roughly half-a-billion, and surely the taxpayer stake in it could be sold and help the Chancellor with his agenda.”

Mr Vaizey said he had noted Mr Chope’s comments.

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