August 8, 2022

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Channel 4, the public service broadcaster facing privatisation by the government, has encountered fresh controversy...

Channel 4, the public service broadcaster facing privatisation by the government, has encountered fresh controversy after the appointment of four new non-executive directors to its board.

The right-leaning Daily Telegraph highlighted one of the appointees, the Thinkbox founder Tess Alps, as a “Corbyn defender” and “vocal Labour supporter”. Despite the paper’s criticism, all the appointments were approved by Conservative culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

Alps’ track record in commercial media (she was also a sales director at ITV and chaired PHD) fit the job description for the £22,000-per-year role. Recruiter Saxton Bampfylde was briefed to find a person with “in-depth knowledge of the UK advertising market … who can bring contemporary understanding of how broadcasting consumption is changing”. Also important was the candidate’s ability to “bring a diversity of views and opinions to help ensure Channel 4 and its output are truly reflective of attitudes and values across the country”.

The other three appointees are Sarah Sands, the former Evening Standard and Today programme editor; David Kogan, a former journalist and chief executive of sports rights company Reel Enterprises; and Dawn Airey, who has held senior roles at Channel 5, BSkyB, ITV and Yahoo.

Were the government to go ahead with its plan to privatise Channel 4, Airey’s experience in the television sector could be highly relevant. As Channel 5 chief executive under the ownership of RTL in 2009 she publicly supported the latter’ attempts to merge the broadcaster with Channel 4, before RTL eventually sold the channel to Richard Desmond in 2010.

Channel 4 non-executive directors are appointed for a term of three years and expected to commit up to two days per month to their duties.

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At the end of last month, a House of Lords committee said that the government’s statement that it would prefer Channel 4 to become privatised rather than remain in public ownership was “not the right approach”. Its publication came after advertising and media leaders urged the government to halt its privatisation proposals in an open letter organised by Campaign earlier this year.

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