Government document reveals Channel 4 might be privatised

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Government document reveals Channel 4 might be privatised

The UK government is considering whether to privatise Channel 4, just one month after the culture secretary John Whittingdale promised it wasn't. Photographer Steve Back snapped a document being taken into Downing Street, which is clearly legible and confirms the controversial discussions. Addressed to two unspecified secretaries of state, it reads: "Work should proceed (to) examine the options for extracting greater public value from the Channel 4 Corporation (C4C), focusing on privatisation options in particular."

Channel 4 is rather special in that it's a publicly-owned, but commercially-funded public service broadcaster. It doesn't receive a cut of the licence fee, but like the BBC it has a duty to commission shows that are creative and beneficial to the public, whether they attract enormous viewing figures or not. The company is also set up as a not-for-profit, so any surplus money it makes is pumped back into programming. Privatising the channel could help the government to reduce the budget deficit -- similar measures are being considered for the BBC, which has sparked a heated debate ahead of its next charter renewal.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reiterated that the government has made "no decisions regarding reform," but the direction it's heading in is now clear. Public service broadcasting is a long-cherished part of British culture, but the volume, and how it's produced could change dramatically over the next few years.

[Image Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA ARCHIVE IMAGES]

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