U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Could Drop Plans to Privatize Channel 4: Report

New U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could drop plans to privatize public service broadcaster Channel 4, according to a report in the Financial Times.

“The decision to drop the sale of Channel 4 from the media bill has been signalled by Downing Street to industry and Whitehall,” the report said. The privatization plan had been floated during the tenure of Sunak’s predecessor Boris Johnson and carried forward by then Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

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Sunak had “privately been sceptical of the case for prioritizing the Channel 4 privatization while he was chancellor,” the report said. However, during Sunak’s summer leadership campaign after the ouster of Johnson, after which Liz Truss briefly became Prime Minister, Sunak had supported privatization.

“Privatization will help Channel 4 to thrive in an age where they are also competing with Netflix, Amazon, Apple and many more — standing still is not an option,” Sunak’s spokesperson had said at the time.

However, things have changed since then. Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous economic policies led to the U.K. economy cratering and Sunak and his chancellor Jeremy Hunt have an enormous repair job at hand, with Channel 4 not being a priority. Before becoming chancellor, Hunt had said that losing the competition between the BBC and Channel 4 would be a “shame” for public service broadcasting.

The move to privatize Channel 4 is deeply unpopular across the U.K. media industry and many in the ruling Conservative Party are also opposed to it.

“It’s likely that the government will want to quietly drop privatization”, the Financial Times report says, quoting a senior member of the Conservative Party. “It’s unpopular with some parts of the party, has a huge impact on our creative sector and the media bill can be pushed through without including it.” A U.K. media bill was proposed in April to provide a level playing field in the country due to the competition from giant global streamers.

The current U.K. Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan had said in September: “We’re looking at the business case for the sale of Channel 4 and making sure we still agree with that decision and that’s what I’m doing.”

Channel 4 declined to comment.

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