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UK government plan to sell of TV’s Channel 4 draws criticism

LONDON (AP) – The British government faced a backlash from opponents and the television industry yesterday over plans to sell publicly-owned broadcaster Channel 4.

The Conservative government said privatising the channel would help it compete with streaming services and “thrive in the face of a rapidly-changing media landscape.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter that government ownership was “holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.”

But critics said privatisation will wreck a channel that has backed acclaimed shows such as Black Mirror and Derry Girls, as well as highly regarded news and documentary programmes.

Channel 4 was founded in 1982 to make programmes for audiences under-served by existing broadcasters. It is owned by the government, but funded through advertising.

The broadcaster said it was disappointed by the government’s decision, saying it had been made without “recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.”

Unions and industry groups also criticised the decision. Chief Executive of Pact John McVay, a trade body for independent production companies, said Channel 4’s programmes are made by independent producers around the UK, and selling it “risks reducing the opportunities for independent producers, and reducing the amount of programming commissioned outside London.”

General view at the entrance of the Channel 4 Headquarters in London. PHOTO: AP