Leaders across the UK, creatives and businesses join forces in opposition against privatisation of Channel 4

Signatories include the Mayor of London, the Leader of Glasgow City Council and the acclaimed scriptwriter, actress and director Kay Mellor

In an open letter, Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, and other high-profile people from across the United Kingdom’s regions and nations, have expressed dismay at the Government’s plans to sell the publicly owned broadcaster Channel 4 to a private company.  

Dear Ms Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,  

As leaders, creatives and businesses across the United Kingdom, we are dismayed to hear that you have decided to move forward with plans to sell Channel 4. The current remit of Channel 4 means a commitment to things that matter most to people who often don’t have a voice. The channel celebrates and embraces being different and champions diversity behind the screen, on our screens and among its viewers.  

The unique public service model guarantees a meaningful commitment to talent, people and ideas in places like West Yorkshire and beyond. From Bristol to Bradford, Leeds to Lincoln, Glasgow to Gwynedd: Channel 4’s remit ensures that the programming reflects the lives of people across the vibrant and diverse Britain that we are all proud to call home. Its innovative Nations and Regions strategy, with 50% of commissioning outside of London and the South East and hubs in cities across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, shows us just that.   

Channel 4’s decision to bring its headquarters to Leeds followed a competitive process and recognised the qualities the region offered. The opening of the headquarters in The Majestic created 200 jobs and brought a wealth of investment, including The Unit in Bradford. But it also ignited a spark that went beyond the West Yorkshire borders. With the BBC’s Media City on the doorstep in Salford, the new headquarters signaled the beginning of a real Northern powerhouse in the cultural industries. Across the North, there was an excitement, with the next generation at the very forefront of our minds – a publicly owned Channel 4 bringing skills and training opportunities, apprenticeships and a genuine offer to harbour independent talent. We saw some of the UK’s largest independent producers setting up in the region or expanding their presence, alongside new production and studio facilities, plus significant financial support from the public sector. Is this not levelling up in action? 

Equally worrying is that selling off Channel 4 threatens jobs. In September 2021, an independent analysis by Ernst and Young LPP stated that the creative sector could be £2 billion worse off if the broadcaster was privatised, with 2,400 jobs in the creative industries at risk, with at least 60 production companies at risk of closure. At a time where we face a cost-of-living crisis, the likes of which many of us have never experienced, risking people’s livelihoods in this way is reckless and illogical.  

The economic argument for privatisation just doesn’t stand up. You have stated that “a change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive”, protecting its future model. But Channel 4 is already flourishing and thriving. It has a highly robust financial position for a not-for-profit organisation, and last reported an annual surplus of £74 million. It’s an engine for economic growth, creating an ecosystem of new businesses, creating jobs, boosting skills and stimulating growth for us all. Privatisation is a solution, where there’s no problem. 

A publicly owned Channel 4 also puts diversity and difference above profit. It takes risks, tackling major issues that have the power to spark national conversations. Think of Russell T Davies’ BAFTA nominated drama It’s A Sin, or the channel’s #BlackToFront project, which brought the issues of Black under-representation to the very forefront of our screens, and its longstanding support of the Paralympics. It’s these broadcasting decisions that break the mould, giving a voice to marginalised communities and pushing boundaries. There’s no guarantee that a global giant would protect these values and the remit that make Channel 4 so precious to us.  

And the broadcaster moves with the times. It was one of the first broadcasters to move into streaming, with its All4 platform launching back in 2006 - before Netflix. It has an enviable youth reach, with an 16-34 audience profile twice that of BBC1 and BBC2 and four in five 16-34 year-olds signed up to All4. 

It is a matter of public record that the big streaming services see public sector broadcasting, and Channel 4 in particular, not as a challenger, but as a necessary part of the whole ecosystem and a seedbed for talent.  

Channel 4 is a service made for us, but at no cost to us. It’s the jewel in our crown and something that we are rightly, very proud of.  

Your decision to privatise threatens the Channel 4 we know and love, its commitment to nations and regions and the UK’s unique, diverse and extraordinary creative sectors and independents.   

We would strongly urge you to reconsider this extraordinary and confusing decision. 

Yours Sincerely,  

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire 

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 Group of Northern LEPs 

 

Signed by 

Andy Burnham 

Mayor of Greater Manchester 

 

Dan Jarvis 

Mayor of South Yorkshire 

 

Dan Norris 

West of England Metro Mayor 

 

Jamie Driscoll 

North of Tyne Mayor 

 

Dr Nik Johnson 

Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough 

 

Sadiq Khan 

Mayor of London 

 

Steve Rotheram  

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region 

 

Cllr Bev Craig 

Leader of Manchester City Council 

 

Cllr Denise Jeffery 

Leader of Wakefield Council 

 

Cllr James Lewis 

Leader of Leeds City Council 

 

Cllr Shabir Pandor 

Leader of Kirklees Council 

 

Cllr Susan Aitken 

Leader of Glasgow City Council 

 

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe 

Leader of Bradford Council 

 

Cllr Tim Swift 

Leader of Calderdale MBC 

 

Cllr Andy D’Agorne 

Deputy Leader of the Council, City of York Council 

 

Cllr Nigel Ayre 

Executive Member for Finance and Performance, City of York Council 

 

Alan Lane BEM 

Artistic Director, Slung Low 

 

Alison Hobbs 

Head of Production, Candour Productions 

 

Andrew K B Warburton 

Managing Director, Area Rugs & Carpets Ltd 

 

Andrew Sheldon 

Founder True North 

 

Ben Hepworth 

Managing Director Versa Leeds Studios 

 

Bolu Fagborun 

Managing Director Fagborun Limited 

 

Caroline Cooper Charles 

Chief Executive Screen Yorkshire 

 

Chris Squire  

Creative Director Impossible Arts 

 

Christopher Swann  

Writer, TV Director & Producer 

 

Prof Damian Murphy  

Director XR Stories, University of York 

 

David Allison  

Regional Representative for Yorkshire Writers Guild of Great Britain 

 

David Taylor 

Owner, The Edge - coaching & development 

 

Prof David Wilson 

Director, Bradford UNESCO City of Film 

 

Deborah Munt 

Board Director, Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance 

 

Dorothy Byrne 

Former Head of News and Current Affairs, Channel4 

 

Ellie Peers  

General Secretary, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain 

 

Fran Peters 

Head of Production, Indielab 

 

Frank Darnley  

Sculptor, Cultural lead for Sowerby Bridge High Street Heritage Action Zone  

 

Gavin Clayton 

CEO hoot creative arts 

 

Gill Galdins  

Chair Theatre Royal Wakefield 

 

Gill Thewlis 

Director, Aperté Ltd 

 

Graham McKenzie  

Chief Exec & Artistic Director, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 

 

Helen Featherstone 

Deputy Director Yorkshire Sculpture Park 

 

Helen Meller  

Co-Director, Arvon Lumb Bank 

 

Jamie Sefton  

Managing Director, Game Republic 

 

Jenny Layfield  

Museum Director National Coal Mining Museum 

 

Jess Fowle  

Creative Director True North 

 

Jessica Brown Meek  

Founder, Duck Soup Films 

 

Jo Verrent  

Director, Unlimited 

 

Kamran Rashid  

Founder, Impact Hub Bradford CIC 

 

Kath Shackleton  

Producer Fettle Animation 

 

Katie Clarke 

Accessible Calderdale Project 

 

Kay Mellor OBE  

Rollem Production Company 

 

Kay Packwood  

Executive Director Northern Broadsides Theatre Company 

 

Kevin Rivett 

Music teacher, performance, Pennine Guitar Centre 

 

Lee Brooks  

CEO Production Park 

 

Lee Corner  

Director LAC Limited 

 

Libby Durdy  

Founder Duck Soup Films 

 

Lucy Smith  

Development Executive at Wise Owl Films 

 

Nat Edwards  

Chief Executive Thackray Museum of Medicine 

 

Dr Neil Kaiper-Holmes 

Chairman, Thackray Museum of Medicine 

 

Nicola Greenan  

Head of Cultural Partnerships, Bradford City Council 

 

Pat Fulgoni  

Singer Producer Promoter 

 

Dr Paul Gormley 

Principal, MetFilm School 

 

Peter Toon  

Producer, Mikron Theatre Co 

 

Philippa Childs  

Head of Bectu 

 

Rebecca Papworth  

Managing Director, Can Can Productions 

 

Rebekah Wray-Rogers  

Founder, Duck Soup Films 

 

Rick Ward  

Creative Director, We are the Allies 

 

Robin Cramp  

Industry Development Manager, Screen Industries Growth Network 

 

Shaun Parry 

Head of Youngest North 

 

Stuart Clarke  

Festival Director, Leeds Digital Festival 

 

Sydney Thornbury 

CEO, The Art House 

 

Zane Whittingham  

Director, Fettle Animation