Row brewing in Scotland over prospect of privatising Channel 4

A row is brewing between Holyrood and Westminster over the possibility of privatising Channel 4.

The UK government is running a consultation on putting the channel up for sale.

But the Scottish government says it sees “no reason whatsoever” for a sell off.

Some Scottish production companies fear a privatised Channel 4 would spend less money in Scotland and support fewer jobs.
The UK government insists C4’s public service obligations would continue if a change of ownership happens.

Channel 4 does not make any programmes specifically for a Scottish audience but production companies based in Scotland make some of its programmes.
It also has a “creative hub” in Glasgow’s Merchant City.
One of Scotland’s largest independent production companies is IWC Media which is based near St George’s Cross in Glasgow.

It makes programmes for several broadcasters but one of its best-known titles is Channel 4’s Location Location Location.
IWC’s creative director Mark Downie questions what benefits, if any, a sell-off of Channel 4 would bring to either production companies or the public.

He said: “Privatising Channel 4 would syphon off tens or hundreds of millions of pounds each year which is currently invested into a range of original British programming and hand that to shareholders as profit. Frankly, we don’t see the point (of privatisation). ”

Some critics argue that, to the viewing public at least, modern Channel 4 has lost much of its old idiosyncrasy and can often seem just like the other commercial channels.

Mr Downie points out that profits from popular programmes support investment in other output which would not be commercially viable. He summed up what he called “the Channel 4 magic” as “purposeful programming which is thought-provoking and uncommercial, paid for by popular successes.”

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Obvious examples might include the current affairs series Unreported World or the AIDS drama It’s A Sin.

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