The boss of Channel 4 has gone into battle with the government over the privatisation of the Bake Off broadcaster as ministers launched a consultation on its future.
The chief executive, Alex Mahon, painted a dark picture of life outside government ownership just hours before the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, fired the starting pistol on a potential sale.
He revealed that the Government will explore whether selling Channel 4 next year would offer greater investment and financial security amid fears that its ad-funded business model may not survive the rise of streaming giants Netflix and Disney+.
Mr Dowden claimed the It’s A Sin broadcaster could access new capital, create strategic partnerships, push into global markets and diversify its business by moving out of government control.
Such a move could strengthen its position as a public service broadcaster and ensure “Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting”, he added.
However, Ms Mahon warned that its core purpose of serving younger viewers, investing in the regions and supporting the nation’s burgeoning TV production sector was at threat of “irreversible” damage from a shift into private hands.
She told MPs on the Culture committee that Channel 4’s sale would only reach maximum value if its remit for making uniquely British shows was pared back, raising fears that ministers may seek to rein in its position as a public service broadcaster to bump up the price tag.
She also pushed back at the prospect of merging it with rivals such as ITV, or offloading it into the hands of American media giant, over fears that its core purpose would be eroded by new owners seeking returns for shareholders.
“You have got to think about what the driver is for consolidation. Consolidation is sought by companies to create bigger and bigger companies, so they can drive a greater return for shareholders,” she added.