THE privatisation of Channel 4 risks jeopardising Scotland’s TV industry by making the broadcaster more London-centric, a leading campaign group has said.
We Own It’s Tom Morton is staging a demonstration outside of the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport demanding that Channel 4 stay in public hands.
Morton told The National said the threat of privatisation isn’t just about “Mary Berry’s paycheck” but the up to 100,000 people who are financially connected to the broadcaster.
They include set designers, electricians, scaffolders and more – and the group says all this could be scuppered if the UK Government opts to give shareholders power over the media outlet.
“Not everyone is aware Channel 4 is publicly owned because it has adverts,” said Morton.
“It generates most of its revenue through adverts so it doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything but it makes a massive economic contribution outside of London.
“Broadcasting is really heavily focused in London and a lot of those media positions and a lot of that money is based in the capital, whereas Channel 4 is one of the few broadcasters which is really pushing its work outside London.”
Morton said workers in those industries, as well as the general public, need a “clear commitment” about the future of Channel 4 for industry jobs in places like Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Glasgow which depend on the corporation.
He continued: “There are small businesses in places like Glasgow which rely on Channel 4 and privatisation is putting them at risk.
“Putting it in private hands puts all that at risk for nations and regions and contradicts government commitments to levelling up.
“If you are an average person on the street in Glasgow privatisation risks around a 35% drop in regional jobs that are dependent on Channel 4 so even if you are not someone who works in entertainment and media it is not just those roles it is money in those regions, it’s money in people’s pockets and it contributes to the economic health of the area.
“in 2020, Channel 4 produced 58% of its content outside of London and by 2023 it is committed to spending half of its budget outside of the capital.
“And it isn’t just Mary Berry’s paycheck, it’s scaffolders, set partners, electricians, office workers, so it is a really broad range of workers in the sector – it isn’t just big media positions.
“And a lot of that spending is big revenue for independent production companies, like Two Rivers Media in Glasgow. “
In 2019, independent production companies outside London received around £180m from Channel 4.
Morton said selling off the media outlet would jeopardise this: “Privatisation would risk this because it creates a financial burden for Channel 4 because if you are a private owner you have to generate profit for shareholders.
“Channel 4 doesn’t need to do that which means all that revenue it can invest in these big innovative projects to expand outside London. Privatisation puts that at risk.
“This runs counter to the UK Government’s levelling up commitments in their manifesto.”
The UK Government has been contacted for comment.