UK Culture Secretary Slams ‘Misinformed Leftist Luvvie Lynch Mob’

A war of words has erupted in the British media over Channel 4’s plans to privatize – with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries in one corner, and the broadcaster’s chief executive Alex Mahon in the other.

Following confirmation this week of the government’s plan to sell the public broadcaster funded by advertising, Dorries wrote a column in the Daily Mail to highlight the ‘unique and important cultural role in British life’ played by the channel she says she is watching herself and the rest of her family. She called criticism of the government’s plan “lazy, exaggerated and misinformed rhetoric from the Leftie luvvie lynching mob”.

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She also wrote, however, about the huge sums spent by streamers producing original content and said: “To suggest that Channel 4 is not already competing with new platforms for audience share, talents, ideas and qualified employees is deliberately illusory.”

She added: “In fact, Channel 4 has cut the amount it has spent on new content by £158million at a time when it should be investing in new programming, technology and skills.

“The channel is niche and state-owned, a restrictive incongruity in itself.

“And because of the way Channel 4 is owned, it can’t create a back catalog to export, or have an in-house studio to create and sell content. Instead, it relies almost entirely on advertising, which increasingly migrates online. It would be irresponsible for any government to sit idly by and allow the status quo to continue.”

Dorries called the sale plan a huge opportunity to contribute to the “levelling up” agenda promised by this government – to shift opportunities more evenly between the north and the south of the country – and described it as the culmination of the vision of Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister who approved plans for the creation of Channel 4, in 1982. Dorries wrote: “In 1988 Margaret Thatcher was right. She could see that Channel 4 would only reach its full potential when it was freed from state constraints – and that is the vision and the result we will deliver.

Meanwhile, in The Sunday Times, Alex Mahon, who has been at the helm of Channel 4 since October 2017, highlighted the crucial role the company has played in promoting new and diverse voices on the channel, in funding of independent content – Channel 4 does not make its own original content – and the broadcaster’s very healthy track record, including the fact that Channel 4 has not taken taxpayers’ money in 40 years of operation. She wrote:

“Over the past two years, our revenues have reached record levels and, unlike other broadcasters, we have no debt – and we have £270 million in cash in the bank. More importantly, we We’re as creatively healthy as ever, with our shows earning no less than 44 Bafta nominations last week.

She also highlighted Channel 4’s favorable position in terms of attracting digital revenue, saying:

We are already leading UK television in the transition from traditional advertising revenue to online advertising revenue, and we know that many UK consumers want free content and are ready for the digital future. The plan we have proposed to the government as an alternative to privatization accelerates our existing digital strategy and multiplies the secondary benefits of public ownership, such as job creation and skills development outside of London – in places where private media companies generally do not invest.

Mahon added that more than 60,000 responses to the government consultation on privatization were received from broadcasters, producers and members of the public. The government has yet to release these documents.

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