Privatising of Channel 4 would be 'the reverse of levelling up' says LEP chief Sir Roger Marsh

A privatisation of broadcaster Channel 4 would be “the reverse of levelling up”, one of the region’s leading business leaders has said.

By Mark Casci
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:28 am

Sir Roger Marsh, chair of the Leeds City Region LEP, told The Yorkshire Post that the wider societal benefits established by bringing the broadcaster to Yorkshire would be in jeopardy were it to pass into private ownership.

Sir Roger, one of the key architects of the region’s successful bid to bring Channel 4’s new headquarters to Leeds, added that he felt any economic case for privatisation would be questionable given the broadcaster’s recent strong financial performance.

His intervention comes as a Government consultation on plans to privatise the channel closes to submissions by midnight tonight (Tuesday September 14).

Channel 4's new Leeds HQ.

At present the channel is owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising.

The Government has said it is consulting on privatisation because it wants to ensure the long-term survival of the channel.

While he would not be drawn on any political lines, Sir Roger said: “We have already seen that there are wider societal dividends for Channel 4 doing what they have done.

Sir Roger Marsh

“I think the danger is we would go backwards and that this would be lost. In a sense it feels like the reverse of levelling up. It feels like coming out.”

A recent report from accountancy giant EY concluded that a privately owned Channel 4 would result in a £2bn loss to the UK economy over the next decade and cost thousands of jobs.

Sir Roger said that the current model of Channel 4 was “the best of both worlds” in that it was creating opportunities for young people in the regions whilst contributing to the UK economy, adding he saw no reason to change it.

“What is that going to do with the UK P&L account as compared to all of the things it would perhaps unpick?,” he said.

The consultation on Channel 4 runs out today.

“What would be certain is the sum but what is uncertain is the collateral effect of it both ways.

“My judgement is that the collateral effect would be downside rather than upside in financial terms rather than societal terms, in allowing young men and women to be in this sector.

“They sparked a lot beyond the Leeds city region, they speak to a wide audience, they have had their best financial year yet, it feels like to me we have a pretty effective model. It is not broken so what are we trying to fix?”

Sir Roger was one of the key players in the successful bid to bring Channel 4 to Leeds.