Channel 4

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 21st January 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter 9:30 am, 21st January 2016

What recent discussions he has had on the future of Channel 4; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My ministerial colleagues regularly meet a range of stakeholders to discuss issues relating to the work of the Department, including the future of Channel 4. The Government are considering a number of options, including those proposed by Channel 4’s leadership, but no decisions have yet been made.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Channel 4 on achieving a record number of both Oscar and BAFTA nominations this year? Does he agree that it would not be able to deliver its unique and invaluable remit if it had to return a profit to shareholders?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As I have said, my concern is to ensure the continuing success and viability of Channel 4, which is why we are considering a number of options. I understand that the last Labour Government did so as well, and that they also considered privatisation. We have not yet reached a conclusion, but I will adopt whatever policy I believe is best designed to ensure that Channel 4 continues to enjoy the success that the right hon. Gentleman has described.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

Does the Secretary of State recognise the inherent tension in the fact that one of the purposes of privatisation would be to raise the maximum amount of money for the Treasury, and the more Channel 4 sticks to its distinctive and successful remit, the less money is likely to be raised? Can he assure the House that, when he makes his final decision, the preservation of the broadcasting and the creative success of Channel 4 will be uppermost in his mind?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am very happy to give my right hon. Friend exactly that assurance. The reason why we are looking at different options for the future of Channel 4 is to ensure that it can continue to deliver the remit in what is going to become a very fast-changing and challenging environment. However, as I have made clear before, it is the remit that matters, and I want Channel 4 to continue to deliver it into the future.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle

Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to consider the “One year on” report on Channel 4’s 360° diversity charter? Does he recognise that, while diversity is a pronounced feature in Channel 4’s particular vocation, increasing diversity is not only the job of Channel 4, and will he value diversity when he considers the BBC charter renewal?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The challenge of increasing diversity applies across all broadcasters. It is something that I know my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy has paid close attention to—and indeed he was speaking only this week with Idris Elba, who is another person who competes with him in terms of his own attraction.

Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer now believes Channel 4 privatisation will bring the Conservatives much public opprobrium for a relatively small financial return and that the Conservatives are now backing away from the idea of privatising this much loved public institution?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but, as I said earlier, no decisions have been taken. I have not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because we have not yet reached our own conclusions on it, but I look forward to doing so in due course.