UCL School of Management

21 April 2022

The effects of the privatisation of Channel 4 on the company’s cultural identity

Channel 4 company sign London UK

As talks continue around the potential privatisation of Channel 4, many are looking back at the lessons learnt from the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013. Cited in the Financial Times, research by Davide Ravasi and Mislav Radic into the cultural changes in an organisation warns that cultural tensions are likely to occur with the planned move.

Although nine years on the rhetoric around the privatisation of Channel 4 is similar to that of the Royal Mail. But have we learnt anything from the UK’s last large privatisation which we can take forward for Channel 4?
Research by Davide Ravasi and Mislav Radic found that the transition from a public service to a business had a substantial impact on the Royal Mail’s organisational identity and triggered tensions about “who we are” that persisted seven years after privatisation.

For many postal workers, the status of being a public servant was perceived as higher than being a part of a general private organisation. They continued to think of themselves as public servants and wanted their status recognised. As a public service broadcaster, Channel 4 faces this same challenge of managing a cultural identity threat as it carries a similar status compared with working for one of the many private-sector competitors.

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Last updated Thursday, 28 April 2022