CHANNEL 4 will be sold by the Government in time for the next Election, Ministers told the broadcaster tonight.
The biggest privatisation since the Royal Mail was flogged in 2013 is expected to raise more than £1billion and be completed by 2024.
But it risks a jewel of UK culture falling into the hands of streaming giants Netflix or Amazon.
A new flagship Media Bill will be at the centre of next month’s Queen’s Speech, where the government’s legislative agenda for the year is set out.
New legislation will enable the sale of the C4, set up in 1982 under Margaret Thatcher as a disruptor to the BBC and ITV.
The move is expected to spark a massive backlash after clashes between the channel and the Tories ahead of the 2019 election.
Read More on HOAR
That year Channel 4 boss Dorothy Byrne was slammed after branding Boris Johnson a”known liar” and a “coward” and compared him to Putin during a rant at a TV festival.
And former lead presenter of Channel 4 News Jon Snow was caught on camera screaming “f*** the Tories” at Glasto in 2017.
But ministers will make the case a sale is in the best interests of the organisation as it will give it more freedom to raise money privately and keep its own content in an age of streaming.
Last night a senior government source said: “Ministers have decided that, although C4 as a business is currently performing well, government ownership is holding it back in the face of a rapidly-changing and competitive media landscape.”
They added: “A change of ownership will remove its straightjacket, giving C4 the freedom to innovate and grow so it can flourish and thrive long into the future and support the whole of the UK creative industries.”
It’s understood the proceeds of the sale will be earmarked for levelling up funds, “putting money into independent production and wider creative skills in priority parts of the country.”
Read More on HOAR
Sources insist any buyer will have to pass an “fit and proper person” test by regulator Ofcom but he ultimate decision of who to sell to will land with the PM and Culture Secretary.
Insiders insisted Channel 4 would be require an “ongoing commitment to prime time news” and “we will ensure it continues to make an important social, economic and cultural contribution to the UK.”