The new government led by Liz Truss is re-examining the business case for the privatisation of Channel 4, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said on Tuesday.
“We are looking especially at the business case for the sale of Channel 4 and making sure that we still agree with that decision, and that is what I am doing,” the cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m the type of politician that bases their decisions on evidence, that bases their decisions on listening and that’s what I will be doing over the coming weeks.
“I will take that approach when it comes to Channel 4 and every aspect of my brief.”
Boris Johnson’s government appeared determined to complete the sale of Channel 4, which is publicly owned but privately funded. The privatisation plan was politically controversial and was strongly opposed by Channel 4 leaders.
It is unclear what the Truss government’s re-examination of the “business case” for a sale will determine. But it is worth noting that several publicly listed media companies, including ITV and Netflix, have seen their share prices fall significantly since the start of 2022.
In interviews with both Today and Sky News on Tuesday morning, Donelan was also asked about the future of the BBC and the licence fee.
She told Today that the BBC had done a “tremendous job” of covering the royal funeral on Monday, saying it “showed the true value of the BBC”.
“But for me, that means it’s even more important that we make sure that the BBC is sustainable in the long term,” she added.
“When you look at platforms like Amazon, like Netflix, and other things, it does make you question whether in the long term, in a modern age when the media landscape is changing so remarkably, then is it sustainable? And I think we need to ask that question.
“And it’s no secret that I have been a sceptic for a long time of the licence fee, but as I said before, the approach I take on all policies is, one, to base my decisions on evidence, and to also listen.”
Meanwhile, Donelan told Sky News the Online Safety Bill would be brought back to the Commons “as soon as we possibly can”, but that some parts of it would be tweaked.
The fate of the bill under the new Conservative administration has been something of an open question in recent weeks, despite assurances from senior government figures that the bill would still become law.
Donelan told Sky News: “We will be bringing it back to the House as soon as we possibly can. It does require a little bit of work, not in relation to protecting children online. Absolutely not.
“We’re not changing any of that but we want to make sure that we’ve got the balance right in terms of free speech in relation to adults.”
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