BARONESS Ruth Davidson has hit out at the UK Government over plans to privatise Channel 4.

The Tory peer is one of several Conservatives to have spoken out against the plans after they were confirmed on Monday night by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

Conservative ministers claim that selling off the publicly-owned broadcaster will allow it to compete with streaming giants such as Netflix.

A wide range of critics have railed against the proposals, warning privatisation would do economic and cultural harm.

Leading the Tory backlash, Davidson tweeted: “Channel 4 is publicly owned, not publicly funded. It doesn't cost the taxpayer a penny. It also, by charter, commissions content but doesn't make/own its own.

“It's one of the reasons we have such a thriving indy sector in places like Glasgow. This is the opposite of levelling up.”

Former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has also criticised the plan.

He told Sky News: “I’m not in favour of it because I think that as it stands, Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC on what’s called public service broadcasting — the kinds of programmes that are not commercially viable — and I think it’d be a shame to lose that.”

The former Tory minister said he didn’t know why the Government was pushing ahead with the move, adding: “And I’m not against privatisation in in other contexts, but what I’m in favour of is competition.

“And I think that we have very high standard of broadcasting in this country because we have competition not just in the very popular soap operas and boxsets and series that are going to be commercially very successful, but we also have competition in other areas, like news and documentaries, which are not likely to be commercially viable.

“And I think it’s really important to maintain that competition and I do think Channel 4 is part of that ecosystem.”

READ MORE: We Own It explains why Channel 4 privatisation would be bad for Scotland

Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley saying he opposes the privatisation as he feels it is “bad for the diversity of television, bad for viewers and bad for independent producers”.

Channel 4, which was founded in 1982 to deliver for the under-served, receives its funding from advertising, not from the taxpayer.

No price tag has been set by the Government yet, but reports suggest the channel could be sold for as much as £1 billion.

Dorries tweeted: “Proceeds from C4 sale will be invested in left behind areas investing in indies and creative skills desperately needed in our rapidly growing creative industries. We made more films here in last Q 2021 than Hollywood, many more studios opening. Funding creative skills is key.”

READ MORE: Nadine Dorries flounders after being asked simple question about Channel 4

A statement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it had made the decision to allow the channel to “thrive in the face of a rapidly-changing media landscape” while a Government source said the move would “remove Channel 4’s straitjacket”.

But the broadcaster has said it is “disappointed” at the Government’s decision without “formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised”.

The channel explained that it presented the Government with an alternative to privatisation that would “safeguard its future financial stability” and allow it to do more for the public, creative industries and the economy.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 30,000 people had signed a petition to Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider the privatisation.

The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci tweeted: “They asked for ‘a debate’; 90% of submissions in that debate said it was a bad idea. But still they go ahead. Why do they want to make the UK’s great TV industry worse? Why? It makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense.”

The National: Armando Iannucci

The writer of It’s A Sin, Russell T Davies, has previously said privatising Channel 4 would be a “great crime” that would result in programmes like his hit series not being made.

Philippa Childs, the head of the broadcasting, entertainment, communications and theatre union, described the action as a “short-sighted sale of an incredible UK asset”.

Anti-privatisation group We Own It said selling off Channel 4 would be "an act of economic and cultural vandalism".

Lead campigner Tom Morton commented: “The Government is trying to act like they are doing Channel 4 a favour, saying that privatisation is the only way that it can compete with Netflix and Amazon. But this is nonsense. Channel 4 isn’t struggling. In fact it's performing above and beyond expectations."

He added: "The real reason for privatisation is so that the government can yet again take public assets and put them in private pockets and the people who will pay the price for it are working people and small businesses in the regions and nations outside London."

Baron Grade of Yarmouth, who was the channel’s chief executive between 1988 and 1997, has said “the status quo is not an option” and that its current remit is like a “straitjacket” in today’s media landscape.

He told the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee last October: “Channel 4 needs to do what every other free-to-air advertiser-supported business is doing, which is to own its own IP and to be able to gain scale.

“Everything in the Channel 4 constitution presently is against that and therefore it will, in my view, in a very short time really begin to struggle.”

The Telegraph reported that ITV is understood to be interested in buying the channel, while Discovery has held informal talks. Rupert Murdoch has been linked to a possible takeover, while bids from Sky, Channel 5 owner Paramount, Amazon and Netflix are also possible.

A Government source told the newspaper that ministers “expect a lot of interest in purchasing C4 from a range of serious buyers who want to build on C4’s strengths and help unleash its full potential”.

Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon said in an internal email to staff on Monday that they had proposed a “vision for the next 40 years” which was rooted in “continued public ownership” and “built upon the huge amount of public value this model has delivered to date and the opportunity to deliver so much more in the future”.

However, she added that ultimately the ownership of the channel was for the “Government to propose and Parliament to decide” and that her priority now was to “look after all of you and the wonderful Channel 4 spirit”.

The broadcaster said that it will continue to engage with the Government during the legislative process and plans to do everything it can to “ensure that Channel 4 continues to play its unique part in Britain’s creative ecology and national life”.