Richard Attenborough, the late Oscar-winning director and chair of Channel 4, could be “turning in his grave” to see the broadcaster privatised, his son has claimed.
Michael Attenborough mentioned that Michael Grade – Channel 4’s chief government from 1988 to 1997, who will monitor the privatisation course of as chair of the printed regulator, Ofcom – was breaking a promise to his father by supporting the sell-off.
In a letter to the Guardian, Attenborough, who’s a theatre director, mentioned: “Perhaps Lord Grade needs reminding of the promise he gave my father, Lord Attenborough, when he was running Channel 4 and my father was its chairman. Namely that he ‘would die in a ditch before he’d see Channel 4 privatised or its public service commitment in any way diminished’.
“My father must be turning in his grave. I only wish he was here to face, expose and oppose him.”
He added: “Grade knows only too well that once profit becomes the prime motive, undertakings about risk, diversity, regional spread, grassroots commissions etc will inevitably be eroded and tragically disappear.”
As chief government and chair of Channel 4 respectively within the late Nineteen Eighties, Grade and Attenborough fought off the primary try by Margaret Thatcher to privatise the channel she herself had greenlit in 1982.
Attenborough mentioned he had written privately to Grade, a Conservative peer, to precise his dismay and that whereas Grade wrote again rapidly, he didn’t correctly clarify his change of coronary heart.
“He used a phrase like ‘the landscape of the media has changed massively and it’s not just as simple as there being the famous four main terrestrial channels’,” Attenborough mentioned. “But that doesn’t really explain anything. He’s of course right – the landscape has massively changed. What I don’t understand is why the rationale behind this unique creation, Channel 4, needs to be altered.”
He added: “I have openly said to him, Michael, you have betrayed everything that you went out and stood for and everything that you and dad fought for: how could you do such thing?”
Channel 4 is exclusive in being publicly owned, thus retaining its independence, and with a public service remit. Attenborough mentioned: “To turn it into a private enterprise, to privatise that, seems to me to be a direct contradiction of its inception. I’m absolutely bewildered by it. There are very few people on earth who can say they knew my dad better than I did and I am absolutely sure he would be spinning in his grave.”
In a column for the Mail on Sunday, the tradition secretary, Nadine Dorries, who’s main the privatisation course of, mentioned Channel 4’s state possession was a “restrictive incongruity in itself on to the scene, with juggernauts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ upending the old order”.
She mentioned Netflix spent £779m on UK unique productions in 2020 – greater than twice as a lot as Channel 4. She additionally criticised Channel 4 for reducing the quantity it spent on new content material by £158m “at a time when it should be investing in new programmes, technology and skills”.
The Channel 4 board mentioned in its 2020 annual report that it made the cuts throughout a interval of giant uncertainty owing to the coronavirus pandemic “to ensure liquidity and safeguarding of the business through a wide range of situations”.
Dorries mentioned these criticising her have been the “leftie luvvie lynch mob” and claimed that there was “no reason” the sale couldn’t lead to extra of Channel 4 shifting north out of London.