THE UK Government’s privatisation of Channel 4 may be “revenge” for the broadcaster’s “attacks” on Boris Johnson and “biased coverage”, according to one senior Conservative MP.

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee argued on Twitter that the Government plans are seen as “payback time” among the Tory party.

Dorothy Byrne, the channel’s former head of news and current affairs, has described the announcement as a “bit of red meat” for Tory backers.

READ MORE: Channel 4: Fears Scottish jobs could go as UK Government set to privatise broadcaster

However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has insisted the decision is about allowing the channel to “thrive in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape” and compete against the big streaming platforms.

So why are people suggesting the policy pursuit is linked to Channel 4’s editorial coverage of the Tories?

These are five examples of times the Tories were not happy with the channel.

The ice sculpture incident 

Ahead of the 2019 General Election, the Conservatives threatened Channel 4’s licence when the broadcaster replaced Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage, with melting ice sculptures during a climate change debate.

Michael Gove had shown up hoping to participate in the discussion, but was rebuffed – being told the event was for leaders only.

After the humiliation, Tory sources said if they won the election they’d look at whether the channel’s remit should be “better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible”.

The National:

Spokesperson Lee Cain wrote to the Ofcom Election Committee to complain about the ice sculpture, branding it a “provocative partisan stunt” which was indicative of “wider pattern of bias”.

Despite this Ofcom rejected the Tories’ complaint, arguing that the sculpture had not been a representative of the Prime Minister himself and that “little editorial focus was given to it”.

The party then proceeded to win an 80-seat majority and launch a consultation on selling off the publicly owned channel.

The Kathy Burke tweet

In 2018, comedian and actress Kathy Burke sent a tweet replying to Boris Johnson speaking about Toby Young, writing: “He’s a c*** and so are you.”

It didn’t take long for eagle-eyed social media viewers to spot that Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear, who stepped down from the role in January 2022, had “liked” the post.

In a column for The Telegraph, “anti-communist” commentator Matt Kilcoyne used the incident as an example of the channel’s “brazen” political bias.

The "known liar" remark

In 2019, Dorothy Byrne, then Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, had a dispute with Downing Street after branding Boris Johnson a “known liar” at an Edinburgh festival event.

As she delivered the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Byrne (below) asked the audience what we could do about a “known liar [becoming] our Prime Minister”.

The National:

"I've talked to journalists from several television organisations about this issue. They said they would be loathe to use that word 'liar',” she went on.

"I believe that we need to start calling politicians out as liars when they lie.

"If we continue to be so polite, how will our viewers know that politicians are lying?”

During the speech she was also critical of Jeremy Corbyn, who she claimed, like Johnson, had dodged TV interviews with the channel.

Number 10 responded angrily, telling journalists: "It's disappointing to see the head of a supposedly impartial news organisation decide to use deliberately inflammatory language to make a strong political statement.

"We will now consider our response."

After the public row, Byrne stood by her words.

“It’s not a word I bandy around,” she told The Guardian. “But every now and then you just have to say something that’s true. I’ve said it. I don’t need to repeat it. Nobody has said that what I’ve said isn’t true.”

The "f*** the Tories" chant claim

In 2017, legendary (now retired) journalist Jon Snow attended Glastonbury festival – and eye-witnesses reported that he was not so politically impartial during the event.

According to people Snow partied with, Snow apparently joined in with the “f*** the Tories” chant before telling fellow festival-goers that he was meant to be neutral.

The National:

In response to the reports, Snow told HuffPost UK: “After a day at Glastonbury, I can honestly say I have no recollection of what was chanted, sung or who I took over 1000 selfies with.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen reacted to the news by saying he thought it was time for Channel 4 to tell the long-time presenter “where to go”.

The Philip Davies bust-up

In 2014, when Tory MP Philip Davies went on a tour of the Channel 4 newsroom, things got uncomfortable when Snow challenged his accusations of political bias.

The MP had previously accused Snow of being left-wing, saying to former Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns during a committee session: "Do you think Jon Snow conceals his political allegiances? Are you going to sit there with a straight face and say that?”

So during his trip to the broadcasting HQ, when he reportedly made similar accusations and suggested Snow should retire, it was no surprise that the exchange ended up in a 10-minute argument.

According to eye-witnesses (of which there were around 50) the incident ended with Krishnan Guru-Murthy having to intervene.

Davies claimed Snow had started the row, telling The Telegraph: "He stood up out of his seat and at the top of his voice, so everyone in the newsroom could hear he said, 'You said I'm left-wing and biased - give me one example of an interview where I've been left-wing and biased’.”

"I said I had come to look around and hadn't come for an argy-bargy. He just kept repeating the same thing in a deliberately loud voice. It was like he was the playground bully and the newsroom was his playground.

"This carried on for at least five minutes. I said I was quite happy to come back at a later date but I hadn't come armed with any examples today.

The National:

"It was ludicrous. I said, 'Look, John, you're past it.' Krishnan Guru-Murthy [above] then piped up, 'There's no need for that.'

"Then Jon Snow said to me, 'I hope you get on well with your 400 majority', which was my majority in 2005 so that was proof he was out of date. I said, 'You're past your best,' and he said, "At least I had a best'."

However, the MP denied other reports which alleged that Guru-Murthy asked him to leave the building.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “Our journalists never shy away from a full and frank discussion, and Jon Snow and Mr Davies had a robust exchange of views.”

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