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UK's Channel 4 reveals plan to tap capital as alternative to a sale

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: General view of Channel 4 Television studios in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Channel 4, the publicly-owned British broadcaster that the government wants to sell, published its alternative plan to privatisation on Thursday, including setting up a joint venture that would own the rights to commercialise shows globally.

The government announced last month it had decided to sell the broadcaster, saying it would struggle to compete against global streamers like Netflix if it remained in public hands and had limited access to capital.

Channel 4 was created by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s to deliver an edgy alternative to the BBC and ITV.

Its unique model - funded by advertising but owned by the public and with no in-house production - helped establish Britain's independent programme making sector and brought new voices to the screen.

Chief Executive Alex Mahon said the broadcaster had presented its plan to government earlier this year, and was making it public to inform debate in parliament, the industry and the wider public.

Lawmakers across parliament and television grandees oppose a sale, saying it would jeopardise Channel 4's distinctive programming, and the plan faces two years of scrutiny.

Mahon said Channel 4 wanted to expand its commitment to the regions and nations of the United Kingdom, including commissioning more than 50% of its programmes outside London, and increasing its staff outside the capital - in Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester - from 400 to 600 by 2025.

"In terms of content, Channel 4 would seek to invest 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year in distinctive home-grown British programming by 2030," she told reporters.

"This would be achieved in part by creating an IP joint venture, leveraging necessary private capital to find future generations of hit shows that make Britain famous worldwide, and that make Channel 4 the envy of other broadcasters."

The private capital - outside of the public sector balance sheet - will enable the company to grow faster, build scale and compete harder for content, it said.

($1 = 0.7959 pounds)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle)

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