This government is committed to the continued success of the UK’s mixed broadcasting ecology. As it seeks to ensure that success continues against the backdrop of technological change and rapid market developments, including the rate of consolidation in the sector, it needs to ensure that the UK’s broadcasting system is fit for the future.
Channel 4 has successfully delivered on its remit, aims and objectives since it began broadcasting almost 40 years ago. It has also effectively managed the uncertainty in the market over the last few years as it has advanced its digital strategy. However, the evolving media landscape poses material challenges to Channel 4’s future success and sustainability under its current ownership model and remit.
In that context, the government is now considering changes to the operating model of Channel 4, including its ownership and its remit and obligations, to ensure it has the best chance of future success. This takes into account the challenges to the future of linear TV broadcasting, ensuring Channel 4’s future sustainability as a public service broadcaster (PSB) and putting it in the best position to innovate and grow. The government believes that this will allow it to continue to contribute economically, socially and culturally by taking advantage of the opportunities available outside of public ownership.
The government’s preferred option is to facilitate a change of ownership of Channel 4, which it believes will give it greater access to new strategic and investment opportunities, allowing it to compete effectively in a more agile fashion and ensuring it has the best chance of a successful and sustainable future. The government believes this will help achieve its aims for the broader creative industries as set out in its Plan for Growth – to supercharge the sector by driving economic growth, unleashing investment, creating jobs and building on our international competitiveness.
Against this background, the aims of this consultation are therefore to seek views and collect information to help inform the government’s decision-making process on both the objectives the government might want to pursue in a change of ownership of Channel 4, and on the modernisation of Channel 4’s remit and obligations – with specific reference to its social public service value and creative economy impact.
The government is looking for respondents’ views and supporting evidence on whether they agree that there are challenges in the current TV broadcasting market that present barriers to a sustainable Channel 4 in public ownership; and whether a continued Channel 4, with a continued public service broadcasting licence and remit, would be better placed to deliver sustainably against the government’s aims for public service broadcasting if it was outside public ownership. The government also wants to hear from respondents more broadly on what the economic, social and cultural costs and benefits might be to moving Channel 4 out of public ownership.
The scope of this consultation does not cover anything relating to the mechanics and execution of a potential change in Channel 4’s operating model. For clarity, Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C) is a distinct broadcaster and is therefore not in scope of this consultation, which concerns the future of the Channel 4 Television Corporation only.