Donelan replaces Nadine Dorries, who resigned from the post on Tuesday morning. Dorries, a former actor and romance novelist who was appointed by former premier Boris Johnson, said Truss had asked her to stay on as culture secretary but declined the offer. She had been in the post less than a year.
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Donelan, who has previously served as minister for higher education and secretary for education, will now be responsible for the department of digital, culture, media and sports. Among the top items for consideration will be whether to go ahead with privatizing Channel 4, which both Johnson and Dorries had committed to despite industry-wide criticism of the move, as well as reviewing the BBC’s license fee. As well as freezing the license fee, which is a mandatory levy for anyone who watches live television on any network or device, Dorries had indicated she hoped to eventually do away with it altogether.
Despite having appeared on numerous U.K. shows including “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here” and “Tower Block of Commons,” Dorries was almost universally disliked within the television industry during her tenure, particularly after a string of gaffes. These included apparently not understanding how Channel 4 is funded (during a government committee she suggested it was funded by the taxpayer, when in fact it is funded by advertising, despite being publicly owned) and accusing Love Productions, the makers of “Tower Block of Commons” of faking the unscripted show (Channel 4, which broadcast the program, found this not to be the case after conducting an investigation).
It remains to be seen whether Donelan, who dabbled in media and entertainment before becoming a politician, will fare any better. Donelan reportedly briefly worked for The History Channel and for Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment in the marketing department.
Last week, anticipating the change of leadership, producers’ body Pact sent an open letter to Liz Truss asking her to halt privatization of Channel 4.
“We recognise that Channel 4 is not perfect, just like every other organisation,” the letter, which was signed by over 700 production companies, reads. “However, taking forward privatisation plans in their current form would damage a thriving independent sector, deter voters, and endanger Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. We strongly urge you to reconsider these plans.”
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