LIZ Truss's new Culture Secretary has hinted that the government could scrap plans to privatise Channel 4.

Michelle Donelan said ministers would re-examine the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

However, she also suggested the government would look again at the BBC's licence fee to see if it was "actually sustainable in the long term and is providing that choice element to the general public”.

Her predecessor, Nadine Dorries announced the £1bn sale of Channel 4 just five months ago, claiming that government ownership was holding it back "from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.”

The channel has a unique funding structure, in that while it’s state-owned, it’s entirely commercially funded, making its money through advertising.

Launched 40 years ago under the Thatcher government, it has a public service remit that commits it to working with independent producers and making programmes for a younger, more diverse audience.


Ms Dorries announced she was quitting cabinet earlier this month after Ms Truss's victory in the race to replace Boris Johnson.

Ms Donelan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Ms Truss’s government was "looking especially at the business case for the sale of Channel 4 and making sure that we still agree with that decision."

She added: “I’m the type of politician that bases their decisions on evidence, that bases their decisions on listening and that’s what I will be doing over the coming weeks.

“I will take that approach when it comes to Channel 4 and every aspect of my brief.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, when pressed as to whether there was “a bit of room for manoeuvre” regarding the sale, she insisted: “I think it just means that I’m looking at the business case but I will update you once I’ve done so.”

On the BBC's funding model, Ms Donelan said: “It is no secret that I have been a long-term sceptic of the licence fee and that we need to make sure that the BBC is sustainable in the long term. So I’m looking at this in the round.

“I’m somebody that listens, I’m somebody that decides policy based on evidence and that’s what I will be doing over the coming weeks.”

She declined to say outright whether the licence fee should be scrapped, but said rival TV services from streamers such as Netflix and Amazon raised questions about whether “the current model that the BBC uses is actually sustainable in the long term and is providing that choice element to the general public”.

Earlier, she praised the BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s funeral and admitted that online streaming services would not provide that kind of live broadcast.

She said: “I think the BBC have done a tremendous job in the last few days and nobody could fault them. I went to see the operation and it was phenomenal and required everyone to get their heads down and prioritise public service through the period and they did that, spot on,” she said.

“It showed the true value of the BBC but for me that means it’s even more important that we make sure the BBC is sustainable in the long-term.”

In January, Ms Dorries announced that the licence fee would be frozen at £159 for the next two years until April 2024.

She said she wanted to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 as it was “completely outdated”.

The review was due to begin before the Commons summer recess on July 22 but was thrown into doubt after Mr Johnson’s resignation as Tory leader.

John McVay, chief executive of Pact, the trade body for independent TV and film production companies, said: “The new Prime Minister has made it clear her priority is to drive growth.

“Privatising Channel 4 would do the opposite, endangering the future of thousands of British production companies and endangering the future prospects of a thriving industry which has a presence right across the country.

“It literally makes no sense to try and find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and that is why I am delighted that the new Culture Secretary has committed to re-examining the business case for privatising Channel 4.”

Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.