David Cameron has announced plans to sell off Channel 4 Television, in a bid to raise an expected £1billion from the privatisation of the Broadcaster.
Despite previous statements that there were “no plans” to privatise the TV channel, Mr Cameron today said that the government are now looking “at all of the options” with regards to privatisation.
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Two months ago official was pictured walking into Number 10 carrying a paper setting out options for a sell-off, which are being discussed at cabinet level.
It came just days after Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told MPs: ‘There are no plans to sell Channel 4.’
Today Mr Cameron was challenged at Prime Minister’s Questions on the plans by the SNP’s John Nicolson, a former journalist for the BBC and ITV.
The MP for East Dunbartonshire said: ‘Can the Prime Minister confirm that remains the Government’s position, that no discussions are under way to privatise and thus imperil this much loved and important public institution.’
Mr Cameron replied: ‘Well first of all, let me say I’m a huge fan of Channel 4 and Channel 4 was a great Conservative innovation. I think it was a combination of Willie Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher that helped to bring Channel 4 to our screens and I’m a huge fan.
‘I want to make sure that Channel 4 has a strong and secure future and I think it’s right to look at all of the options including to see whether private investment into Channel 4 could help safeguard it for the future.
‘Let’s have a look at all the options, let’s not close our minds like some on the Opposition front bench who think that private is bad and public is good, let’s have a proper look at how we can make sure this great channel goes on being great for many years to come.’
The remarks fuelled speculation that privatisation plans could be announced at the Autumn Statement later this month.
Mr Nicolson said: ‘My understanding is that there are Government proposals to privatise Channel 4 and they are at an advanced stage.
‘The SNP will resist any move to privatise this much loved public institution.
Privatisation will drain an estimated £150 million a year from programme making and into the pockets of shareholders. Distinctive Channel 4 output like the Paralympic coverage, Dispatches and ‘Unreported World’ will be threatened.’