Thirty-something years ago, as a callow young drama student doing my final year dissertation, I spent a few months researching the impact of the new fourth channel (yes, I can remember when there were only three) on British filmmaking; specifically, British political film making. Without Channel 4, there would have been no "My Beautiful Launderette" and no "Once upon a Time in the Midlands", but also no "Handsworth Songs", the meditation on the 1985 riots made by Black Audio Collective, and a whole host of other lesser-known works.
Publicly owned but not publicly funded, Channel 4 has recently come under scrutiny, with the Government apparently considering selling. But this jeopardises the unique contribution that Channel 4 can and has made. Channel 4 was not created to be profit-generating; it was created to do some distinctive broadcasting, and it has done so. This moment should create an opportunity.
Why should a broadcaster and creator of films not be a social enterprise, with a clear and defined social purpose? Why should it not be collectively owned, with a clear commitment to equality and diversity, promoting voices which are otherwise marginalised, and supporting innovation? Aiming not to make money for shareholders, but to create value for the wider community? There are relatively few moments like this, particularly in the media industry. To sell Channel 4 to the highest bidder would be a failure of imagination, and a recipe for more blandness and less diversity. Time to build back better, including on our screens.
Following the news that the culture secretary is expected to launch a consultation into the future of Channel 4 (C4 privatisation would lead to regional cuts, broadcaster warns, 22 June), we urge the government to allow it to convert into a social enterprise.