Accidents waiting to happen to Channel 4…

‘ACCIDENTALLY’ displaying documents while walking into Downing Street seems to happen so often that there must be a policy about it somewhere.

Advice is surely available on exactly how to display a ‘secret’ document so that the ‘hidden’ words are visible to the photographers, and therefore to the world.

Sometimes such inadvertency might be by mistake, but it is hard not to suspect that this has generally been done on purpose.

The latest whoops moment concerns the future of Channel 4. An official has just been photographed carrying a document into Downing Street. He is holding this in such a way that the words can be seen. Part of what is visible reads: “Work should proceed to examine the options of extracting greater public value from the Channel 4 corporation, focusing on privatisation options in particular.”

The author of this paper was apparently identified as a senior civil servant in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is run by culture secretary John Whittingdale, who is suspected of wishing to flog off Channel 4. In recent weeks he has made several speeches in which he appeared to deny any intention to privatise Channel 4. And by the loud protestations of ministers shall you know the truth behind their words.

Whittingdale has already started to attack and assess the BBC; now it seems he wants to have a go at Channel 4 as well. The background to Channel 4 is confusing: the broadcaster is state-owned but commercially funded. This non-for-profit model, according to Channel 4, allows it to “deliver significant public value to viewers and the UK economy with a unique remit focused on innovation, diversity and new talent”.

Channel 4 is also a good and interesting station, quirky and odd at times, but innovative too. And Channel 4 News is generally the best TV news available: less old-fashioned than ITV, less dully mainstream than the BBC, and willing to take chances more often. All that and the splendid John Snow with his trademark jazzy ties, too.

The station’s remit is to cater for minority audiences and some channel insiders believe the risks it likes to take could make privatisation difficult.

Sadly, the Treasury just eyes the potential £1billion it could raise from the sale. So as with the BBC, now Channel 4 has Chancellor George Osborne’s finger-marks round its neck. That man will do anything in order to shake out an extra quid or two.

I guess these things are a matter of taste, but to me our national TV mix would only be worsened by a watered-down, tamer version of Channel 4. As it would be too if the Government insists on downsizing the BBC in some sinister form or other.

As for accidentally displaying what you are carrying, people sometimes do such things in order to be noticed. Here is a memory emerging through the red mists of embarrassment. I was on a three-month post-grad journalism course in Harlow in 1980 or thereabouts. Not long since podded from my English Literature degree, I loved what I was doing, but clearly felt a higher calling too. I walked round Harlow with a copy of the Times Literary Supplement shoved into my pocket. The title was on show so that people would know what I was reading. What a twerp I must have been.

Leave a Reply