Yesterday saw a new entry in the list of stupid decisions from an incompetent Government. Selling Channel 4. This one is the bright idea of Nadine Dorries.
There is very little substance to the decision itself. It was accompanied by a load of half truths, couched in “free market” language that would make a first year economics student blush. Suffice to say, it is a stupid and vindictive decision that achieves nothing except petty revenge.
Why is the “Culture” Secretary doing this?
Well, Nadine Dorries says it’s so that they can compete with Netflix. Whatever that means. Seriously – it’s one of the most idiotic comments that I’ve ever heard uttered by a politician. Channel 4 is already a successful Commercial venture. It gets no funding from the taxpayer. It makes all its money from the free market. What does this braindead cretin think they are going to do differently?
It feels futile even going into the differences, but I’ll do so for the sake of posterity. Netflix is a streaming service, Channel 4 is a free TV channel. Netflix makes its own TV programmes, Channel 4 is specifically banned from doing so. Finally, Netflix makes its money from subscriptions, Channel 4 does so via advertising. Asking Channel 4 to become like Netflix is like asking a Restaurant to open a Supermarket. They’re both in the business of entertaining people, but they go about it completely differently.
Of course, there is a very real chance that she doesn’t know how Channel 4 is funded. This is the awkward moment that she was educated on this point live on TV.
It is very possible that she has forgotten in the 5 months since this car crash. In reality, the most likely reason for this move is revenge. Nadine Dorries has had a few bruises from Channel 4 over the years. So has her crush, Boris Johnson. Their base also decries it as having an anti-Tory / anti-Brexit bias. This isn’t really true; they report the news. It’s hardly Channel 4’s fault if we have a government so up to its eyes in corruption, scandal and criminality that every other headline feels like an attack.
What has been the reaction?
The decision has been unpopular with production companies, advertisers, the public and even her own MPs.
The most unique thing about Channel 4 is the aforementioned ban on in-house production. It is also enshrined in it’s mandate that it must cater to a broad audience. This has two vital impacts. First, it props up an enormous independent production industry. Channel 4 works with over 300 production companies across the breadth of the UK. Second, these companies have created some of TV’s most original programming. Removing this mandate would mean that some of the best shows on TV would not have been created. Channel 4’s unique model means that they can, and must, take risks.
Advertisers are also up in arms. There aren’t very many companies that want to buy a TV channel. Whoever does is likely to be an existing competitor, which has major competition implications. There is a very high likelihood that this move will damage competition, not improve it. The Public are no happier. A consultation attracted 60,000 responses. The fact he Government has chosen not to publish these is the only indication needed as to how against this move the Public are.
Finally, senior Tory MPs are calling this what it is – a cynical attempt to throw red meat to the base. It is not lost on them that Channel 4 was launched under Margaret Thatcher. Interviewers today were hard pushed to find any MP brave enough to back this move. Tom Tugendhat, Jeremy Hunt, Ruth Davidson and many others were quick to decry it. The thinly veiled contempt they hold for the moron responsible was on display for all to see.
Is there any benefit to this at all?
No. No one really wants to buy it, so the amount recouped to the public purse will be negligible. Apparently reports suggest £1bn. That’s not even 1/30th of a Test and Trace and it’s only 1/4 of an acceptable fraud loss! Worse, the cost of doing this is likely to be extortionate. The move will be hugely complex and require a great deal of legislation. Frankly, there are far, far more important things to be working on right now.
Once again, the country is paying the price for a vindictive, authoritarian nationalist who treats elected office like a family business. Maybe they should stop people from starving to death before they embark on petty revenge.