Wednesday briefing: Coming up next, the fight over Channel 4

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Top story: ‘Stop short-sighted political and financial attacks’

Greetings to you, the reader. It’s Warren Murray bringing you the top stories right at this moment.

Channel 4’s four decades as a publicly owned broadcaster may be about to come to an end, with ministers wanting to move quickly and sell the channel in a shake-up that could transform the landscape of British television. The channel has long come under attack from Conservatives who complain that some of its output is biased against the Tories – leading to suspicions that there is a political motivation to the government’s move. The legendary Sir David Attenborough has warned that the government is pursuing “short-sighted political and financial attacks” as he puts his name to a campaign against dismantling the UK’s public service broadcasters – the heavily regulated channels run by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5.

Unlike other broadcasters, Channel 4 is required to reinvest its profits in distinctive programming to serve diverse audiences across the UK – funnelling cash to the independent production companies that make all its shows. Tom Harrington, of the media analysts Enders Analysis, predicted the government would have to water down such requirements, in order to attract a private-sector buyer seeking to make profits. The announcement comes as the government takes an increasingly aggressive approach towards broadcasters, welcoming the new rightwing channel GB News while regularly battling with the BBC over funding and so-called “culture war” issues. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, is expected to unveil plans for Channel 4 today.

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‘One man’s lie’ – Republicans in the US Senate have blocked Joe Biden’s reforms aimed at protecting voting rights and shoring up American democracy. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, said: “Because of one man’s lie, Republicans are now doing the dastardly act of taking away voting from millions of Americans … making it much harder for them to vote, and many, many, many will not.” Schumer was referring to Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen – Republican states have since passed a flurry of laws to make voting more difficult. Despite Democrats controlling the Senate by a single vote, taking the bill forward required 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice-president, reiterated her and Biden’s support for the For the People Act and the less far-reaching John Lewis Voting Rights Act: “The fight is not over.”

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Midweek catch-up

> Tens of thousands of EU citizens living in the UK will be issued with a formal 28-day notice if they have failed to apply for post-Brexit settled status within a week, the government has warned.

> US authorities have seized a range of Iran-linked news websites, accusing them of spreading disinformation. Notices bearing official US seals appeared on home pages saying they had been seized. Some of the sites belonged to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

> Dozens of festivals are facing “devastating consequences to their survival”, MPs have warned, amid confusion over how a £1.57bn post-Covid arts fund will affect the sector.

> A woman in Singapore who tortured and killed her Burmese maid has been jailed for 30 years. The judge said Gaiyathiri Murugayan had psychiatric problems but knew what she was doing to Piang Ngaih Don, who was Burmese.

> Three in four domestic abuse offences reported to the police are closed without a perpetrator being charged, according to the inspectorate of constabulary, which has called on all forces to assess the closure rates for such crimes and draw up a plan of action for improving them.

> The government has been criticised for supporting a campaign encouraging schoolchildren to commemorate what is being called “One Britain One Nation” day on Friday. The OBON campaign wants schoolchildren to clap for a minute and sing a song that ends by chanting “Strong Britain, Great Nation” four times.

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Britney Spears to speak – The singer Britney Spears is due to directly address a Los Angeles courtroom today about the controversial conservatorship that has given her father, Jamie Spears, control over her estate, career and other aspects of her personal life for the last 13 years. Spears is planning to appear remotely. The New York Times reported yesterday on court papers suggesting she has for years strongly objected to the conservatorship.

Britney Spears performing at the 2016 Billboard awards in Las Vegas
Britney Spears performing at the 2016 Billboard awards in Las Vegas. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

In recent months, documentaries have either aired or gone into production about the conservatorship. These all appear to have been completed without Britney’s involvement or consent and she has condemned them on Instagram where she posts photos and videos that have fuelled a “Free Britney” fan movement. Her father, through lawyers, has maintained that he has cared for her affairs responsibly ever since she became mentally ill in 2007.

* * *

Crypto currency – The new £50 note goes into circulation on Wednesday featuring Alan Turing, the scientist best known for his codebreaking work during the second world war. It joins the Churchill £5, Austen £10 and Turner £20 in being printed on polymer.

The new Alan Turing &#xa3;50 note
The new Alan Turing £50 note. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

But with consumers increasingly going cashless, for millions of people it may be months or even years before they see or touch one – and 50s have a bit of a sketchy image as well.

Today in Focus podcast: No justice in Daniel Morgan case

The brutal murder of the private investigator in 1987 has become the UK’s most investigated killing – but 34 years later it remains unsolved and mired in new official findings of police corruption.

Lunchtime read: Gone and largely forgotten about

An anti-Brexit protest march in London in 2019 calls for another referendum on Britain&#x002019;s EU membership
An anti-Brexit protest march in London in 2019 calls for another referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

On the fifth anniversary of Brexit, commentators reflect on the EU’s success at rallying together after Britain’s exit.


Gareth Southgate has said England are ready to handle the step up in quality in the last 16 of Euro 2020 after securing first place in Group D with a comfortable 1-0 win over the Czech Republic. With Jack Grealish casting his spell at Wembley, Southgate’s side produced a performance that was actually fun to watch, writes Jonathan Liew. But it was the end of the road for Scotland, as Luka Modric turned on the style in a 3-1 win for Croatia at Hampden Park. Following the defeat, Steve Clarke vowed to make Scottish appearances at major championships a more regular occurrence. Germany’s thrilling win over Portugal and the easing of lockdown measures have transformed the mood of the people in Munich ahead of the national side’s final Group F match against Hungary.

Rain and bad light may have decimated the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand but the match heads into its reserve day with a result still possible following a gripping arm-wrestle between the two sides. Eoin Morgan has dismissed controversy over tweets sent by him and Jos Buttler in 2017 and 2018 that appeared to mock common Indian use of English, insisting the problem is people “taking [them] out of context”. Warren Gatland says hugging opponents will be off limits when the British & Irish Lions play their opening game against Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday. And the world and Olympic champion Sun Yang will not compete at the Tokyo Olympics after the court of arbitration for sport reduced the Chinese swimmer’s ban for doping violations to four years from eight.


The City of London will become home to one of the UK’s largest low-carbon heating systems by capturing heat from more than 200m (650ft) below the streets of the Square Mile. The £4m scheme, to be housed near Smithfield Market, will provide the same amount of heat as used by 2,300 average UK homes with 50% less carbon emissions. Investors across the City are set for a cool start today, however, with the FTSE100 on course to open flat. There’s not much heat in the forex market either as pound hovers at $1.393 and €1.169.

The papers

The Guardian’s print splash today is “Ministers will push to sell Channel 4 in TV shake-up”. As with others there is room also for England beating the Czech Republic at the Euros while Scotland sadly made their exit against Croatia. “60,000 coming home” – the Metro enthuses that Wembley will host the “biggest official mass gatherings in 16 months” for the finals. “Easy queasy” says the Sun pointing out that it’s far from job done with a likely tough last-16 match ahead.

The Mirror leads with “Daily test hols hope” – it says the government wants vaccinated returnees to be able to opt for that instead of quarantine. “Blueprint for holiday lift-off” – the Mail also talks up prospects of a double-jabber amber waiver. “Facemasks and distance rules set to go on July 19” says the Times.

The Telegraph has “Gove: no new Scottish referendum before next election”. The Express marks five years since that other referendum with “Boris: Brexit is unlocking our true potential”. In the FT it’s “More than 5m people become millionaires despite pandemic” – that’s according to Credit Suisse.

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