THE director of Screen Scotland has said he has “major” concerns about the impact the privatisation of Channel 4 could have on Scotland. 

In a white paper published earlier this year, the Westminster government outlined that it was their intention to pursue a change of ownership of Channel 4. 

The controversial move has sparked a lot of debate ever since and resulted in a petition being launched to halt the proposal. 

Speaking at the Culture Committee in the Scottish Parliament this morning, director of Screen Scotland David Smith said: “It 100% depends on who buys it but our concerns are major. 

“There’s no evidence to suggest that a sale of Channel 4 to a private buyer will be good for Scotland. 

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“There’s plenty of reasons to be concerned. I’m keen to see what the evidence is that this is a good idea.”

Specifically, Smith spoke about how ITV is one of the likely buyers and the potential consequences of how their model would work. 

He said: “ITV tend to commission the majority of their content in-house from companies that they themselves own and mostly within England. 

“Channel 4 doesn’t do that. It’s a publisher broadcaster. It is the cornerstone, along with the BBC, of our creative economy in Scotland.

“I’m keen to see what the evidence is that this is a good idea.”

The committee also heard from the managing director of Firecrest Films Nicole Kleeman. 

The company have produced a variety of different works as a result of funding provided by Channel 4 including a documentary about the Scottish prison service.  

Kleeman said: “I’m greatly concerned having read the white paper. 

“We all think of Channel 4 of a broadcaster but Channel 4 is also an incubator. It’s an incubator of businesses like ours. 

“Channel 4 recycles the profit that it makes into companies like us, supercharging our growth.”
Kleeman confirmed that when Channel 4 first invested into them, it tripled their turnover. 

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The SNP have also commented on the potential impact which privatisation could have.

MSP Jenni Minto said: “It is extremely concerning to hear about the devastating impact that the planned sale of Channel 4 will have on Scotland’s creative sector, which has for years produced and nurtured an immense amount of Scottish talent.

"Channel 4 is an integral and critical part of the sector, providing independent broadcasting companies a platform they would not otherwise have. 

"Without it, their opportunities will be vastly reduced and talent will be lost. 

"The only reason Channel 4 faces privatisation is because of a petty vendetta against it by the Tories, led by Nadine Dorries.

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"We cannot trust the Tories to protect the future of Scotland's vital cultural and creative sector, the only way to protect is future is by becoming an independent country."

Stuart Cosgrove, who used to work as the Controller of Arts and Entertainment and then as Head of Programmes for Channel 4, spoke with The National about the impact privatisation might have. 

He said: "It strikes me as vengeful ideology rather than business led. 

"Channel 4 is a hugely successful company which even during Covid delivered increased profit, returned corporation tax to HMRC and commissions numerous indies to create content many which also return tax to the revenue.

"It has no private shareholders an so all profits are returned to programme budget to fund news, independent film and shows like Derry Girls. 

"A privatised C4 will seek to maximise profit for shareholders and that will eventually lead to less companies commissioned and more predictably commercial genres such as factual/entertainment formats."