The UK government is reported to be pushing ahead with an investigation into privatizing Channel 4, reversing its 2017 decision that the broadcaster was a “precious public asset” that would “continue to be owned by the country.”

Channel 4 was founded in 1982 with a public service remit to create “media content of high quality” that reflects “a culturally diverse society”, to “promote measures intended to secure that people are well-informed and motivated to participate in society in a variety of ways”, and to “support and stimulate well-informed debate”.

In just under four decades, Channel 4 has developed a reputation for its coverage of news and current affairs, introducing flagship programs such as the hour-long Channel 4 News, the documentary program Dispatches), and the debate format After Dark. Together with the BBC, Channel 4 has helped to establish in the UK a strong public service media offering of high-quality news, documentaries, and cultural programming as part of its mix, alongside reality TV, drama, and comedy.

The BBC and Channel 4 are nonprofit media organizations that are editorially independent from governments and private companies and have a public service remit. In the “post-truth era,” in which trust in news is at a premium, this model should not be undermined, but sustained and expanded.

But instead, public service media is under attack. It has been widely reported that Boris Johnson’s government has investigated abolishing the BBC license fee, while in 2020 it announced its intentions to decriminalize license-fee evasion. Meanwhile a campaign to #DefundTheBBC has trended on social media. Research has shown that the BBC’s real, inflation-adjusted public funding has fallen by 30% over the past 10 years. Now the future of Channel 4 as a public broadcaster is in doubt as well.

For the netCommons research project, a team of researchers I led found that a lot of people have reservations about the business model of many large social-media companies operating online.

Read the full article about expanding public service media online by Christian Fuchs at Nieman Lab.