Junior minister parachuted in to deliver Oliver Dowden speech after reshuffle

The former culture secretary is now Minister without Portfolio.

Junior minister parachuted in to deliver Oliver Dowden speech after reshuffle

Oliver Dowden’s planned speech to a Royal Television Society event has been delivered by a junior minister after he was replaced as Culture Secretary.

On Wednesday Mr Dowden was removed from his job with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport about an hour before he was due on stage at the society’s Cambridge Convention.

Media minister John Whittingdale stepped in at the last minute to appear at the event via videolink in order to read the speech Mr Dowden had been intending to give.

John Whittingdale visit to PA Media
John Whittingdale (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“Global investment is extremely welcome – but I want to make sure it doesn’t water down British creativity or the British brand,” he said.

“Public service broadcasters have a unique role and I want them to continue producing shows that allow people in every corner of the UK to see their lives reflected on screen, and that showcase the things we are most proud of to the rest of the world.

“To make programmes that are iconic, not generic.

“So, in our upcoming white paper, I intend to include proposals that will expand the remit of public service broadcasters, so that it includes a requirement for them to produce distinctively British content.

“If it’s set in Britain and made in Britain by our public service broadcasters, then it should be distinctively British.”

Mr Whittingdale also warned that “standing still is not an option” for Channel 4 following a Government consultation into the privatisation of the broadcaster.

At present, the channel, which was founded in 1982, is owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising.

In his speech, Mr Whittingdale said Channel 4 is “one of this country’s greatest assets”.

“One clear way of making sure our British broadcasters thrive is putting them in the right financial position to compete and succeed for decades to come – no matter what the future of broadcasting holds,” he added.

“Right now, Channel 4 is in a stable position. But I think too many people are fixated on Channel 4’s current situation. I’m much more concerned with its long-term future.

“I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. Without it, Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants.”

Channel 4 Privatisation
(Lewis Whyld/PA)

The Government can “unlock that much-needed investment” and “can do so while protecting the parts of Channel 4 that none of us want to lose”, he added.

The consultation into the ownership of Channel 4 closed on Tuesday.

Mr Whittingdale also praised Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics and its broadcast of Emma Raducanu’s US Open victory for providing “national moments”.

“A Channel 4 with a protected remit and deeper pockets could bring us many, many more in the future,” he added.

“If people disagree, then this is my challenge to them: please tell me how they’d intend to protect Channel 4 and the wider creative industries in a fairer, more sustainable way.

“Because standing still is not an option. In fact, it would be an act of self-harm.”

On Tuesday Channel 4 warned there is “no evidence” privatisation will benefit UK audiences or the economy and may instead “cause them harm”.

In a statement, Channel 4 said: “Having considered all the available analysis extremely carefully, we have concluded there is no evidence that the irreversible transfer of Channel 4 from the British public into private commercial hands will be of benefit to either British audiences of the UK economy, and may indeed cause them harm.”

Nadine Dorries has been named as the new Culture Secretary while Mr Dowden is now Minister without Portfolio.

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