EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4 may have escaped privatization, but on at least one point it remains at the mercy of ministers.
The British shopping chain is waiting for the government to approve the hiring of four new board members, after a recruitment process that has lasted almost a year.
People close to the process hope the issue will soon be resolved under pressure to inject diversity into a non-executive team at Channel 4, which has been all white since January 2022.
Ofcomwhich oversees the recruitment of Channel 4 board members, hired headhunters last October to search for four non-executive directors, but the process has been repeatedly delayed and ministers have still not approved the preferred candidates.
The government first asked Ofcom to halt the recruitment of directors last December after the sale of Channel 4 was abandoned after Rishi Sunak became the UK’s fifth prime minister in six years.
Ministers had to extend by nine months the mandates of Roly Keating, the former BBC executive who now runs the British Library, and Paul Geddes, who headed the Direct Line insurance company.
The recruitment process was delayed again in February, with Ofcom board minutes citing Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle as the reason, in which Lucy Frazer became Britain’s 12th Culture Secretary in 13 years.
Executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates finally got to work in April, announcing the four Channel 4 board positions, which came with salaries of £22,177 ($27,700).
Final interviews took place in July and Deadline understands Ofcom has put forward preferred candidates to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
A source close to the process said it could take months for individuals to be approved by the government. “They can’t let go,” this person said.
Ministers have shown in recent years that they are prepared to veto Channel 4 board members.
They blocked the renewal of the mandate of The king’s speech director Tom Hooper, film producer Uzma Hasan and Althea Efunshile, an experienced public sector executive who was the last non-white person on Channel 4’s board.
Channel 4 insiders said it would be “scandalous” if the government did not approve non-white candidates. Sources added that diversity was a “big priority” for Ofcom.
Channel 4 has an explicit responsibility to uplift the “unheard voices” of diverse communities, meaning a completely blank slate is out of step with the broadcaster’s mission.
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport insider said ministers hoped to announce the new board appointments “as soon as possible”.
A spokesperson said: “Ofcom is currently recruiting for vacant positions on the Channel 4 board. As set out in the Broadcasting Act, it is up to the Culture Secretary to approve names at the end of this process.
The Channel 4 board is chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire, former chief executive of retail group Kingfisher. He was appointed in April last year.