Masterly inactivity should be new culture secretary Michelle Donelan’s motto

New UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan (below) says the Government will “reconsider the business case” for privatising Channel 4. That shouldn’t take long as there isn’t one.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, a heightened example of former PM Boris Johnson’s ‘Allo ‘Allo’ style of government, wanted C4 privatised (or, more likely, sold) to take on the streaming giants. Without, at any time, specifying what it was going to use for money. Streaming, even as its costs rise exponentially, isn’t the gold mine Netflix and others hoped. C4 is much better as it is – not costing UK taxpayers anything – and exploiting its own back catalogue.

Other items on the former higher education minister’s plate include funding the BBC (Dorries was all for removing most of it.). It may have dawned on Donelan, who actually seems to know something about media, and her colleagues that a proficient BBC has actually proved pretty useful over the last couple of weeks.

Then there are the HFSS rules on advertising fat-inducing foods; not wholly her responsibility but the subject of fierce lobbying by the Advertising Association among others and media owners who stand to lose revenue. This is a trickier one, an ad ban may not make much difference to the nation’s ever-expanding waistlines but people shouldn’t make and sell this stuff.

Equally a further betting ad ban would blast a huge hole in Sky’s revenue but its sports channels are a dire succession of queasy betting ads after 9pm (William Hill’s efforts are especially mendacious) and the world would be better off without them.

Finally there’s the Online Safety Bill, a partly praiseworthy attempt to curb some of the internet and social media’s excesses but one which would have the unfortunate effect of putting yet more power into the hands of online media owners who continually demonstrate their complete inability to police their existing output – whatever Facebook’s Nick Clegg tells Ofcom.

In most of these things the best solution for Donelan would be to leave well alone. Masterly inactivity doesn’t usually appeal to politicians new to the job but it used to be the Tory way. It’s supposed to be the party of small government after all.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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