HC Deb 11 July 1994 vol 246 cc652-3
6. Ms Glenda Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received regarding the future funding of Channel 4; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Peter Brooke)

I have received letters from the chairman of Channel 4, the chairman of the ITV Association, two of the chairmen of ITV companies, more than 50 letters from hon. Members on behalf of independent programme production companies, and some letters directly from independent programme producers. On 21 June, I met the chairman and chief executive of Channel 4 and listened to their views. I shall consider all those views and those of other organisations with an interest.

Ms Jackson

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply, but he did not mention a statement on the future funding of Channel 4. Will he assure the House and the country that the path of privatisation will not be pursued in that area and that the element of public service broadcasting which is integral to Channel 4 will be of overriding importance and will be protected, whatever form of future funding is eventually reached?

Mr. Brooke

The Government considered the issue of the privatisation of Channel 4 in 1989, but decided against it, and we have seen no reason to change our mind since. The White Paper that the Government issued last Wednesday was an index of the Government's support for public sector broadcasting.

Mr. Ashby

Does my right hon. Friend consider—or perhaps recall—that most Conservative Members believe Channel 4 to be a most excellent channel, whose independence must be maintained? One of the problems that the channel faces is that it has a funding agreement which is out of date and does not take into account the success that it has subsequently achieved. Will my right hon. Friend give assurances that that will be looked at carefully because we want a well-funded, independent Channel 4 to continue?

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend is almost as eloquent as Sir Michael Bishop and Michael Grade were when they came to see me on 21 June—and that is a high compliment. I said in response to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) that I would consider the views that I had heard, and those of other organisations with an interest. That I will do.