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UK drops contentious plan to privatise TV network

The UK government on Thursday abandoned plans to privatise the public-service broadcaster Channel 4 after standing accused of waging a political vendetta against the edgy television network.

The privatisation was announced last April by then-culture secretary Nadine Dorries as a way for the pioneering channel to keep up with streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon. 

But Dorries, and then-prime minister Boris Johnson, were said by critics to have taken personal affront to Channel 4’s political broadcasting, which has often been harshly critical of the Conservatives.

With both Johnson and Dorries now out of office, the new government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it would instead seek reforms to ensure the channel hires more talent and makes more programmes outside London.

“Channel 4 is a British success story and a linchpin of our booming creative industries,” Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan said in a statement.

“After reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors, I have decided that Channel 4 should not be sold,” she said.

The company launched in 1982 and its remit involves supporting the UK independent TV sector and producing a diverse range of programmes.

It is publicly owned but funded commercially, drawing 90 percent of its income from advertising, and predated other UK networks in coverage of gay, disabled and ethnic minority people.

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon welcomed the government’s change of heart.

“The principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world,” she said.

“I am personally delighted that we will be able to do more, making positive change for the people that others don’t fight for.”

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