Roll up, roll up! The great Channel 4 sell-off is now on. The Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, is pushing ahead with plans to privatise the broadcaster after 40 years in public ownership. Ministers hope to raise around £1 billion, with the proceeds potentially being used to fund the levelling up agenda.
Inevitably, such a plan has sparked the squeals and howls from the usual suspects. There’s the accusations of ‘cultural vandalism’ and selling the ‘family silver’ – the implication being that the broadcaster ought to be considered a precious substance. After all, if we lose C4, we run the risk of gems such as Naked Attraction and Made in Chelsea being replaced by cheap, low-brow commercial rubbish. God forbid.
Still, while some arguments against the sell-off do have their merits, others simply do not. Below are five of the more hysterical reactions to the news that, er, a minor public broadcaster will be sold by the state.
‘The seedbed of fascism’
Amid all the angst and outrage from various left-leaning MPs, congratulations to Claudia Webbe for winning the gold medal on the most deranged response. According to Webbe, changing the ownership model of a broadcaster which attracts just 10 per cent of UK viewers represents ‘the seedbed of fascism.’
‘Right out of the Orban playbook’
Clearly the re-election of Hungary’s president on Monday now means everything must be seen through that lens. Step forward New Labour guru turned FBPE king, Alastair Campbell. Perhaps revealing an insight into his own modus operandi, the master of media manipulation claims that the announcement is ‘right out of the Orban playbook and timed to make it blatant.’ Only a king of spin could compare the situation in Hungary – where media freedom and plurality has been systematically dismantled – with the state relinquishing power, here in the UK.
The ‘Orbanisation of British media’
It’s not just card-carrying Boris-bashers who’ve condemned the announcement. Channel 4’s former economics editor was on hand to offer some sage and reflective criticisms. Paul Mason also claimed Dorries’s plans were part of Boris Johnson’s efforts to ape Viktor Orban, claiming in a subsequent tweet that ‘Losing C4 News would go a long way towards the Orbanisation of British media, with Global pursuing a generally non-liberal agenda, plus right wing dominance of print.’ That would be the same Global Media whose LBC division just hired Andrew Marr, Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel?
‘A sniper hellbent on destruction’
The editor of the Yorkshire Post clearly has strong views on Channel 4’s potential privatisation. According to Mitchinson, the ‘brilliance’ of its news division is now ‘in the crosshairs of a sniper that is hellbent on fundamentalism.’ Gosh. A subsequent message suggested that he might even quit his job in protest at the announcement, with Mitchinson tweeting mournfully ‘I’m not sure I can do this any longer.’ A future successor to Jon Snow perhaps?
‘Traitors to their country’
The final word should go to property expert Kirstie Allsopp, who argues that any Conservative MP who votes to privatise Channel 4 is a ‘traitor’. No such charge of disloyalty can be levelled at her of course – she’s earned hundreds of thousands of pounds from the broadcaster for such imaginatively titled programmes as Location, Location, Location, Love It or List It UK, Relocation, Relocation and Location Revisited.
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