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Channel Four Television: Privatisation

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 41834, tabled on 3 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions (a) he and (b) officials in his Department have had with UK production companies on the potential impact that privatising Channel 4 may have on the future of the production sector.

Answered on

13 September 2021

The government recognises that Channel 4 has consistently delivered on its remit in the decades since being established, including supporting the UK’s independent production sector.

Forty years on, this sector is now flourishing. Independent production is increasingly less reliant on income from UK public service broadcasters, and will continue to be in demand for the high-quality, differentiated, distinctively British content it produces. In the 10 years between 2008 and 2018, the contribution of PSB commissions to sector revenue fell from 64% to 42%, due in large part to the growth of international revenue.

Potential reform of the publisher broadcaster restriction could enable Channel 4 to achieve greater financial diversification that will support its growth and long term sustainability, therefore increasing its ability to invest in UK content and the creative industries.

We are consulting on this so the government may take into account a broad range of evidence and views to shape its policy-making. Both officials and Ministers have also met regularly with key stakeholders from within the production sector, including PACT.

Whatever decision we make, it will not compromise this Government’s commitment to the independent production sector and wider creative economy. Our support for the UK film and TV industry has helped it bounce back from the impact of the pandemic when it had to shut-down in March 2020. For Q4 2020 the UK film and TV industry had the second highest production spend for any quarter on record - at £1.19 billion.

Last year, the government invested over £1 billion through the creative sector tax reliefs which support the UK screen sectors. In High-End TV, the UK has seen a production boom worth over £4 billion since a dedicated tax relief was introduced in 2013.

More than 600 productions have been supported by the government’s UK Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, protecting over 55,000 jobs and securing £1.9 billion of production spend.