Leading British television and film unions have issued a joint letter protesting the privatization of public service broadcaster Channel 4.
The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU), comprising the Crew Union Bectu, the Performing Arts Association Equity, the National Union of Journalists, the Musicians Association and the Writers’ Union of Great Britain, represents more than 120,000 creative workers in the UK.
In a letter to UK Culture Secretary Nadine Doriz, who has been leading the privatization of Channel 4, the FEU wrote: “We strongly oppose this decision and urge you to reconsider the sale of your much-loved, highly successful cultural property.”
“The decision to sell such a lucrative network is hard to understand. The economic rationale for privatization, including the claim that ‘change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to thrive and flourish’, does not just happen – Channel 4 is already flourishing in itself.” Reported a surplus of 101 million [$1.2 million]And is a powerful force for economic growth, enhancing skills, creating jobs and stimulating growth in creative industries.
The letter also cites research by analysts at Ernst & Young LPP who found that if Channel 4 sales went ahead, the UK creative industry would be hurt by 2 billion ($ 2.4 billion), 2,400 jobs would be at risk and “at least 60 manufacturing companies” .
“Channel 4 does not cost the UK taxpayer anything, but also gives us a prosperous independent manufacturing sector, thousands of jobs and world-renowned, innovative content,” Filippa Childs, FEU president and head of Bectu, said in a joint statement. “Selling this much-loved and fully self-sufficient public service broadcaster will be a major blow to the creative industries, which have been hit the hardest by the epidemic and continue to face long-term skills shortages, and have major consequences for UK broadcasting.”
“On behalf of our more than 120,000 members and the UK’s creative workforce, we call on the Secretary of State to hold this unique British institution in public hands. Industry, workers and the public have expressed their opposition.
Read the full letter below:
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing about the government’s proposal to privatize Channel 4. As unions representing the UK’s creative workforce, we strongly oppose this decision and urge you to reconsider the sale of your much-loved, highly successful cultural property.
Channel 4 is a major success story, constantly pushing the boundaries of entertainment and thought-provoking news content for British audiences. This success is built on the current model, which supports a prosperous independent production sector and gives commissioners a degree of risk and creativity, from which the public benefits.
It’s not just quality content that proves its worth – the numbers speak for themselves. The broadcaster’s unique remittances allow it to invest £ 12 billion directly in the UK manufacturing industry, creating 10,000 jobs in the supply chain, with one-third of these in nations and regions.
It is a fully self-reliant broadcaster, investing 100 percent of its revenue into the institution at no cost to the taxpayer. After 40 years of public ownership, we are disappointed that the government is now trying to prioritize the interests of shareholders over public services.
The decision to sell such a lucrative network is difficult to understand. The economic rationale for privatization, including the claim that ‘change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to thrive and prosper’, simply does not arise – Channel 4 itself is already flourishing. It reported a surplus of £ 101 million in 2021, and is a strong driving force for economic growth, skills development, job creation and growth in the creative industries.
It invests heavily in the UK’s world-leading film and TV sector and supports independent production across the country, producing resources to produce hit TV shows such as ‘Dairy Girls’, ‘It’s a Scene’, and ‘Googlebox’. A little The UK’s world-class reputation in TV production and filmmaking is fundamental to achieving our global UK ambitions and the government’s stratification agenda. Channel 4’s unique remittances allow it to take risks on independent products, which are not guaranteed under the private model.
Any change to Channel 4 remittances could have a huge impact on the British film industry, and with the sale or discontinuation of Film4, which has an annual budget of 25 million, Channel 4 will have a devastating effect on the UK film industry as it spends more on the UK. Film than any other UK broadcaster.
Channel 4 ensures that its investment is spread across the country, with 50% commission outside London as a result of its national and regional strategy. Opening headquarters in Leeds brought significant investment to the region and created 200 jobs, not to mention ample opportunities for film and TV workers across the North. Additionally, some of the UK’s largest manufacturing companies, such as Sky Studios and Workerby, set up new offices in Leeds, and created creative clusters in Glasgow and Bristol to bring in new production companies and promote existing ones. Why is the government willing to risk this important contribution to its stratification agenda?
Channel 4 is an award-winning source of news and current affairs. Its epidemic coverage attracted a record audience in 2020 – 17 percent for individuals and 49 percent for a significant population aged 16-34, with three-quarters of a million views of coverage on social platforms. AFCAM found Channel 4 News to be one of the most reliable media sources providing information about the epidemic.
We have also seen its success in diversifying into digital and youth markets. All 4 is the UK’s largest free streaming service, generating 1.25bn views in 2021, with the UK registering 80 per cent of 16-34 year olds. 19 percent of Channel 4’s revenue comes from digital advertising, better than the market and competition.
The government’s consultation on privatization received 60,000 responses, of which 91% were against privatization and there was clear, joint opposition from industry. Moving forward with privatization shows a desperate desire and strong public sentiment to ignore the real concerns of those involved, working and champions in the creative industries. The government has yet to show any real evidence of how the change of ownership will benefit Channel 4, the creative industries and the public.
The move to sell Channel 4 will also have a major impact on the employment of UK freelancers, who are critical to the success of the broadcasting sector. Independent analysis by Ernst & Young LPP indicates that the privatization could hurt the creative industries £ 2 billion, with 2,400 jobs at risk in the construction industry and at least 60 manufacturing companies at risk of closing.
We are again disappointed that the government did not heed this warning; You know very well that the creative industries were most affected by the epidemic and continue to face long-term skills shortages. With the current cost of living linked to the crisis, which many of us have never experienced, we must ask why your government is willing to risk the livelihood of the people in this way.
We are deeply concerned that the sale of such a profitable network that contributes so much to the UK broadcasting and independent manufacturing sector will have major consequences for the UK broadcast landscape. Channel 4 not only costs the UK taxpayer exactly nothing, but also gives us a rich independent manufacturing sector, thousands of jobs and world-renowned, innovative content.
We urge you to reconsider your plans and put this unique British institution in public hands.
Philippe Childs, President of the Federation of Entertainment Associations and Head of Bectu
Paul Fleming, Secretary General of Equity
Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary of the National Association of Journalists Naomi Pohl, General Secretary of the Musicians Association
Eli Pierce, Secretary General of the Writers Guild of Great Britain
Optional screen reader