Some of the UK’s biggest stars and creators issued passionate defences of Channel 4 at tonight’s BAFTA TV Awards in the wake of the UK government’s decision to privatize it.
Big names, from 12 Years A Slave creator Steve McQueen to Studio Lambert founder Stephen Lambert and comedy presenter Mo Gilligan, used their BAFTA victory speeches to back the network and criticize the government’s decision.
McQueen, who won Best Factual Series for BBC doc Uprising, said passionately: “The BBC and Channel 4 are things we have to hold on tight to and fight every inch for.”
Lambert, whose production company has created some of the network’s biggest hits, including Come Dine With Me and Gogglebox, which won for Reality & Constructed Factual, described the government’s move as a “destructive plan.”
“If the government goes ahead with this plan to sell Channel 4 then a big part of what makes TV good will have ended for no good reason,” added the pioneering British formats creator.
Late last month, the government issued a landmark Broadcasting White Paper that confirmed it will push on with the sale of Channel 4. The broadcaster has since fought back by publishing its rejected alternative proposal, which was delivered to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in February. The sale is expected to make the government around £1BN ($1.2BN) but could have a major impact on the nation’s thriving production sector as Channel 4 will for the first time be able to retain the rights to its shows, disrupting the ecosystem that currently ensures producers keep them.
Elsewhere, key Channel 4 talent such as Gilligan showered praise on the Public Service Broadcaster.
“Channel 4 trusted me and let me be myself and bring Black boy joy to our screens,” said Gilligan, who won for The Lateish Show With Mo Gilligan. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
Comedy creator and actor Jamie Demetriou, who won his third BAFTA for Channel 4 cult comedy Stath Lets Flats, used his speech to hail the network for giving him the opportunity. “I would never have done this without you,” he added.
The chorus of Channel 4 defenses was kicked off earlier in the night by BAFTA Chair Krishnendu Majumdar, who used his opening speech to make the case for the UK’s Public Service Broadcasting sector, in what were certainly coded remarks against the government’s decision to sell.
Majumdar said: “Public service television is one of the foundations of distinctiveness and independence of thought in this country.
“Mark Rylance stood on this stage six years ago and said: ‘We’re a nation of storytellers, we’re admired around the world for it… and woe to any government or corporation who gets in the way of that.’ His words carry more weight now than ever. Now is time for the industry to come together and stand up to make the case to protect public service broadcasting.”