David Attenborough backs calls for ‘open and transparent debate’ on broadcasting

·2-min read

Sir David Attenborough has backed a campaign calling for “an open and transparent debate” on the future of public service broadcasting.

The naturalist and television presenter, 95, has been announced as a supporter of the British Broadcasting Challenge campaign, which last month called on the Government “to stop short-sighted political and financial attacks” on broadcasters.

The move by Sir David comes amid a debate on the potential impact of privatisation of Channel 4.

Channel 4 Privatisation
(Lewis Whyld/PA)

Alex Mahon, the chief executive of the broadcaster, said on Tuesday it would have “different priorities” if it is privatised, and cautioned against doing anything “irreversible” which could “possibly damage some of those things that we do for the sector”.

She was speaking after it was reported Channel 4 could be steered towards privatisation as soon as next year.

Ms Mahon told journalists the channel is “financially in a really strong position”, and added: “On privatisation, the Government has a right to look at it.

“It hasn’t looked at it for five years, I think, maybe four-and-a-half, and it’s reasonable to look at it from time to time, and a lot has changed in that time.

“But I think, in any examination of it, we’ve got to be clear that it’s about – as the Secretary of State said to the select committee – about making Channel 4 stronger.

“And, you know, my question would be: what’s the analysis to show what makes us stronger?”

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (Yui Mok/PA)

A British Broadcasting Challenge letter sent to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, which announced Sir David’s support for the campaign, warned against privatising the channel.

“Privatisation of Channel 4 is such a major decision with far-reaching consequences for the channel’s remit, the jobs it supports across the UK and for the whole UK PSB and production ecology, that it begs the question: ‘What’s changed?'” it said.

The letter added: “We believe PSB is too important to us all to be tainted by any sense of party politics or political agenda.

“We believe transparency and public debate are the best way to build a broad public consensus for the outcomes of any review.”

It added the group “are calling for an open and transparent debate on the future of public service broadcasting” in the UK.

Mr Dowden previously confirmed that privatisation of Channel 4 was under examination in a review of public service broadcasting.