Many Conservatives are questioning proposed sale of Channel 4, ex-minister says

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There are “many” within the Conservative Party who are questioning whether privatising Channel 4 would be the correct course of action, a former minister has said.

Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell said the issue should not be characterised as a “Tories versus Channel 4 debate”.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on the potential sale of the broadcaster, he told Labour’s Angela Eagle she “must reflect that these are Government proposals and there are many of us within the Conservative Party who are questioning them in the same way as she is”.

Conservative leadership bid
Andrew Mitchell (Isabel Infantes/PA)

The Government is currently consulting on plans to privatise Channel 4.

The channel, which was founded in 1982 to deliver to under-served audiences, is owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the decision to review Channel 4’s ownership structure had been taken because the changing media landscape posed a serious threat to traditional linear broadcasters.

Media minister John Whittingdale told the debate: “When Channel 4 was created, there was a choice of the BBC or ITV.

“It was founded in 1982 by a Conservative government to provide alternative viewpoints and it has been very successful in that.”

Channel 4 new HQ
(Victoria Jones/PA)

He added: “There has been a huge explosion in the range of choice and some of that content, which originally was not available and Channel 4 was set up to provide, is now available in a large number of different places, and so Channel 4 does need to adapt to that.”

Channel 4 chairman Charles Gurassa has previously warned the Government against going down the “high-risk and damaging path” of privatising the broadcaster.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, seen by the PA news agency, he said the Government risks “sleepwalking into the irreversible and risky sale of an important, successful and much-loved British institution”.

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