Channel 4 is a publicly owned, non-profit organisation that invests its income back into commissioning content. It receives no public money and is funded entirely through its commercial activity.
A consultation on the future ownership model for Channel 4 ran from 6 July 2021 to 14 September 2021. Oliver Dowden, then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the consultation was needed because the broadcasting landscape had “changed beyond recognition” since Channel 4 launched in 1982. For example, there was increased global competition, changing audience habits, and a decline in linear advertising revenue.
The Government’s view, to be tested through the consultation, was for a change to private ownership. According to the Government, this would give Channel 4 “greater access to new strategic and investment opportunities”.
On 4 April 2022, Nadine Dorries, then Secretary of State, tweeted that Channel 4’s current ownership model was holding it back from competing against companies such as Netflix and Amazon.
The Government’s Broadcasting White Paper (PDF), published on 28 April 2022, confirmed plans to pursue a change of ownership of Channel 4. The Government’s response to the consultation (PDF) and a decision rationale and sale impact analysis were published on the same date.
The Background Briefing Notes to the Queen’s Speech of 10 May 2022 (PDF) referred to a Media Bill. This would, among other things, enable the sale of Channel 4. The Bill has not yet been introduced.
Channel 4 to remain publicly owned
In January 2023, Michelle Donelan, then Secretary of State, announced that Channel 4 would not be privatised after reviewing the business case for its sale.
Channel 4 welcomed the Government’s decision and said it provided “a firm basis on which to establish the sustainable direction of Channel 4.”