ISBA statement on the privatisation of Channel 4

ISBA is very disappointed with the decision by the Government to proceed with plans to privatise Channel 4.

Outside of public ownership, there is a substantial risk that Channel 4’s public service broadcasting remit would be diluted and challenged over time by a new private owner – one that naturally would be pursuing profit and returns to shareholders as a priority. It is easy to see how this would disrupt the current business model, content output – and, by extension, the audience. No new owner, with a purely commercial incentive, could be guaranteed to maintain all the facets of Channel 4’s current offering - including its investment outside of London, with a new headquarters in Leeds and support for the UK's independent production sector. 

Another key concern of our members is the undue dominance in the TV advertising market that may result. At present, there are three TV saleshouses – owned by Channel 4, ITV, and Sky – involved in the buying and selling of advertising space. Were these to be consolidated, it would create undue dominance in the TV advertising market and reduce competition. For the market to be effective for both advertisers and consumers there needs to be competition. 

We urge the government to reconsider this decision, given the strong public support for Channel 4 and the important role it plays in the UK's media landscape. 

Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA