The government has threatened to privatise the broadcaster. Why is it intent on ruining our world-leading TV industry?
The news of Channel 4’s privatisation was greeted with the weird reaction that’s sadly become the UK television industry’s response to most decisions the government makes about the media – a simultaneous mix of shock and lack of surprise. Shock because (and this was the theme of the vast majority of respondents to the government’s request for submissions to the “debate” it was keen to have about the network) the channel was a financial and creative success, and still costs the taxpayer absolutely nothing. Over 40 years, it’s proven its worth, bringing exciting new and creative voices to UK television, raising our game internationally, committing itself to independent journalism, and launching the growth of independent production and employment across all the regions.
The lack of surprise was because we’ve learned that when the government says it’s keen to have a debate on public service broadcasting, we know it’s keen to have no such thing. At least with Channel 4, the government was polite enough to allow the industry to spend a year and a lot of its time and energy mounting a defence of itself before putting out its pre-decided decision yesterday. The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has been much more efficient with the BBC, getting her decision out early in a tweet announcing the licence fee will be ending but before any discussions have been led or any solutions arrived at, thus putting us all into our misery a lot sooner.
Armando Iannucci is, unless told otherwise, a vice-president of the Royal Television Society, and a film and TV writer whose credits include The Thick of It, In The Loop and Veep