Oct 29, 2020

Channel 4 chief downplays privatisation threat after healthy results

The chief executive of Channel 4 has downplayed the government's renewed threat to sell the UK public service broadcaster, arguing that the network's performance during the pandemic has "Clearly proved our financial sustainability". Alex Mahon's comments came after culture secretary Oliver Dowden this month said that privatisation plans for Channel 4 were back "On the table", as the Conservative government takes a combative stance against the BBC and its smaller peers. The broadcaster, which recorded a £17m adjusted operating deficit in 2019, said it expected to end 2020 with a "Significant" financial surplus and would pay back the furlough payments it had received from the government, which amounted to some £1.5m. The strong results could help ease the pressure Channel 4 has found itself under after the government adopted a more hawkish approach to the country's public service broadcasters, signalling little support as they struggle to compete with deep-pocketed streaming services. During the lockdown, views on the broadcaster's on-demand platform All 4 grew over 50 per cent, an important metric as Channel 4 and its peers increasingly compete with online-only platforms such as Netflix and YouTube. The most recent was in 2016, when the government ended up scrapping plans to sell the broadcaster but pledged to relocate its headquarters outside of London, something that Channel 4's then chief executive, David Abraham, vehemently opposed.

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