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Nadine Dorries struggles at select committee

Nadine Dorries

Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries struggled with her brief at today’s hearing of the Culture Select Committee quoting incorrect numbers on how many consultation responses were in favour of privatising Channel 4 and casting doubt on the independence of a forthcoming review of BBC funding. In the past she has explained her dyslexia can make lead her to muddle her words.

Channel 4

The Culture Secretary, who is embarking on a historic privatisation of Channel 4, said during the hearing that she would not “justify a news organisation whose anchor went out to shout obscenities at Tories”, referring to a 2017 incident involving Jon Snow, who is no longer an anchor on Channel 4 news.

She also said however that it was “laughable” that the sell off was “vengeance” for news coverage.

When asked how many of the over 50,000 responses to the consultation had supported the privatisation, she replied that 96% had, when in fact the inverse was true.

She and the Government have argued that a publicly owned by advertising supported Channel 4 will be unable to compete with privately funded streaming services. Channel 4 however remained profitable with all income being reinvested into the commissioning of programmes and so far has not needed to resort to public funds. Many small media companies are dismayed at the prospect of privatisation because, due to Channel 4’s remit, they are required to commission their shows and not make them in-house. Channel 4 is also required to make much of its programming outside of London and ensure they are educational.

BBC Funding

When grilled about an upcoming funding review of the BBC she stated that the licence fee was an “unfair way of funding the BBC”, Damian Green MP then questioned her as to why the Government are holding a consultation on BBC funding when she had already made up her mind, calling it “a complete sham”.

The Culture Secretary informed the committee that despite her opinions she was looking for an independent chair to lead the funding review and that she would be “completely hands-off”.

After coming out against the licence fee, the Culture Secretary added that it is “time for a modern, fair way of funding the BBC – what that is, I don’t have an opinion”.

Final Thought

While Nadine Dorries may think the idea of her taking revenge on Channel 4 is “laughable”, even for a Junior Cabinet Minister, her performance is concerning. Defensive, confused and apparently poorly briefed, she stumbled through the select committee meeting with obvious hostility towards both the institutions she is charged with regulating and the process of government in general.

Revealingly, she tried to gloss over unfavourable consultation results. As John Nicolson MP pointed out, 96% of the consultation responses were against privatising Channel 4, Damian Green questioned why the Government was holding a consultation of BBC funding when she had already made up her mind.

Her performance painted a clear picture of a Secretary of State unwilling and unable to win the case for her positions pushing through irreversible change to important cultural institutions for narrow ideological reasons.

Were she to succeed, not only would two serious checks on Government power in the UK be compromised, but it would set a precedent for a meaner, more mercurial and less considered style of British government going forward.

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