U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden Replaced in Cabinet Reshuffle Mere Hour Before Speech About Channel 4

Just 45 minutes before Oliver Dowden was set to address the British television industry at the Royal Television Society confab in Cambridge, the Culture Secretary was replaced in an extensive cabinet reshuffle.

He has been replaced by Nadine Dorries (pictured), an author who has served as a Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005. Dorries most recently served as Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, though she’s probably best known in the U.K. for a controversial 12-day on ITV’s reality juggernaut “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” in 2012.

Dowden was scheduled as the final session in a packed first day of the annual conference on Wednesday. Press had been briefed Tuesday night of what the Culture Secretary was going to say — a speech that would set out the financial benefits of privatizing “Great British Bake Off” broadcaster Channel 4.

On Wednesday morning, however, news broke of a major cabinet shakeup that could see Dowden move to another department, with early rumors suggesting he would replace Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary.

Just hours later, the government named Dowden as Minister without Portfolio, meaning he has cabinet status but doesn’t have any specific responsibilities.

Dowden — whose session was meant to follow a keynote by Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon — will no longer be speaking at RTS Cambridge, though another spokesperson for the U.K.’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport is expected to take the stage at 5.30 p.m. It’s still not known, however, who exactly that may be.

In a session that’s currently underway, Channel 4’s Mahon was quizzed about Dorries’ appointment by a journalist in the audience.

“She certainly knows something about television and production, but honestly I haven’t had time to digest it and, honestly, probably neither has she,” said Mahon, who quipped that this year’s RTS conference was effectively “Reshuffle Live.”

More to come. 

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