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Bishop of Ripon 'deeply alarmed' at proposed privatisation of Channel 4

by Premier Journalist

The Bishop of Ripon has expressed 'deep alarm' at plans announced by the UK government this week, to press ahead with the proposed privatisation of Channel Four.

Earlier this week, culture secretary, Nadine Dorries said that a change of ownership will give Channel 4 "the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster, long into the future". 

But Dorries' decision has sparked widespread criticism, including from Christian leaders. 

In a statement, Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, who is also the chair of the Sandford St Martin Trust, an organisation that promotes religious broadcasting of all faiths, said the decision risks the demise of religious and ethical content provision on the Channel.

She said: "The Trust is deeply alarmed at the news that the government is pushing ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4. It is our belief that one of the many risks associated with privatisation would be the demise of religious and ethical content provision on the Channel.

"In its current form, Channel 4 has reasonably successfully delivered on its remit, to represent and make content relevant to the UK's diverse faith communities, but we believe there is still room for improvement."

Rev Dr Helen-Ann praised Channel 4's 'Dispatches' and 'Unreported World' for being "unafraid of exploring the impact of religion on politics, economics and culture."

She continued: "If ever there has been a need for such a valued and valuable public service, the time is now. The Sandford St Martin Trust has long argued that to ignore religion is to leave a gaping hole at the heart of public service broadcasting.

"Because of its current remit, Channel 4 has been at the frontline of promoting tolerance and understanding across a range of social differences. It must remain there."

For Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Nick Baines, the proposal is "ideologically driven and therefore short-sighted and wrong". 

The former director of communications for the Church of England, Peter Crumpler also shared his thoughts. 

"Any decision to sell C4 seems born more of political doctrine, perhaps even vindictiveness, than a carefully considered approach to public service broadcasting."

"Given all the other pressures on it - from Ukraine to the spiralling cost of living and 'Partygate' - this controversial move seems hardly worth the energy it will expend," he said. 

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