Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Media
24 November 2021updated 04 Apr 2022 7:52pm

Nadine Dorries, who owns Channel 4, doesn’t know who pays for Channel 4

Perhaps the Culture Secretary thinks it’s the same as BBC Four?

By The Chatterer

Nadine Dorries’ first appearance before a select committee as Culture Secretary yielded a number of eyebrow-raising moments – not least her surprising assertions about the funding of Channel 4.

Dorries is in the midst of deciding what to do with the broadcaster: two of her predecessors, Oliver Dowden and John Whittingdale, had both mooted privatisation; earlier this month Dorries pushed back a deadline for responding to submissions. At the hearing, she said the consultation will focus on “how Channel 4 will survive in the future”. 

A lot of people are awaiting an answer: Dorries has previously said she has 60,000 submissions to wade through. So imagine the surprise of culture select committee member Damian Green when, in response to his question about why politicians are involving themselves in what is essentially a private sector enterprise, Dorries answered by pointing out that “just because it’s in receipt of public money [it doesn’t mean] we should never audit the future of Channel 4”. 

Startled, Green interrupted to point out Channel 4 is “not like the BBC, it’s not in receipt of licence fee money”. 

Dorries engaged in some Johnsonian floundering. “Aaaand,” she stammered. “Sooo… although it’s… yeah. And…”.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Right.

Admittedly, as Dorries herself pointed out, she has only been in her post for eight weeks – so perhaps we should excuse her lack of knowledge about Channel 4, which was established by an act of parliament in 1980. The channel is now ultimately owned by Dorries’ department, but is funded entirely through advertising revenue. Last year it made a £74m pre-tax surplus (the company is not-for-profit). 

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

Or perhaps Dorries is simply more of an ITV girl: after all, who better to run the nation’s cultural institutions than a former I’m A Celebrity contestant?