When the Channel 4 move was brought up at the RTS Cambridge Convention, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had carried out surveys to gauge the public opinion on the matter. It asked the following question:
To what extent do you agree/disagree that C4’s regional impact would be enhanced if more of its people and activities were located outside of London?
There was an impressive 80% agreement that relocation for the public-service broadcaster would be beneficial for the output. It was felt that London commissioners can be unrepresentative of the nations as Channel 4 lacks commissioning staff outside London, except for Glasgow. Furthermore, the survey questioned whether the entire operation should move or simply a portion of the broadcaster, and this caused a larger mixed response (Data sourced DCMS report – LINK).
In her speech, Karen Bradley MP stated that no decisions had been taken and the government was looking at multiple solutions. The possibilities included multiple small hubs for the broadcaster, or more commissioners based outside of the capital, but necessarily the entire broadcaster. However this plays out, there are several cities that have announced their intention to bid to house Channel 4.
As England’s second major city, Birmingham does offer a replacement for London, but the city is only starting its regeneration for the modern era. BBC Three, now exclusively online, has set up a second base in Birmingham and one of the key advantages for the city is its position within the country, more centrally located than London and with rail connections all the way from Penzance to Aberdeen, ideal for those looking for a commissioning. Birmingham is seeing a number of redevelopments in the city, yet the city’s 2031 development plan is more geared towards business and enterprise, rather than a cultural approach to developing the arts. With one of the highest diversity in its populations, the local authority is keen to bid for the relocation, given their estimates that Channel 4 would provide £2.3 billion directly, and raise £5 billion for the local economy overall (LINK).
Led by Phil Redmond, creator behind Brookside, Liverpool has long been in the process of building its cultural identity already. The city was named as one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2008, so certainly has the credentials behind it that would allow Channel 4 to fit into the area. The investment that its 2008 title brought in and tourism spend (up 34%), but whether Liverpool can become a centre for a national broadcaster is a hurdle the city faces. Alongside Phil Redmond, the Vice Chancellor at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor Nigel Weatherill, will chair a partnership aiming at bringing Channel 4 to the city.
Centrally located in the UK, Sheffield has seen a revolution moving the Steel city away from its forging past into a digital age. These include the Electric Works campus, which has been earmarked as potential office space for Channel 4. The cultural industries play a key role within the city’s environment, already hosting Doc/Fest and multiple cinemas, including Curzon, The Light and the Showroom. The city council was confident enough spend £10,000 to allocate a site (LINK) and commission an artist’s impression, pictured at the top, built beside the regenerated rail station – an impressive first impression for visitors. The city predicts that a Sheffield HQ for Channel 4 would be worth in the region of £1 billion to the city alone, not counting for residual worth across the region.
There are several more cities rumoured to be considering a bid to house the broadcaster, including Bristol, Cardiff and both Leeds and Bradford in West Yorkshire. None of the cities have announced anything substantial for their bids, but rather are keeping an eye on the developing situation. It’s clear that multiple Northern cities are undergoing a renaissance in the cultural industries and bringing a national broadcaster would be a significant coup for any city. However, any relocation would be subject to an extensive consultation, the broadcaster already stated its preference to remain in London. Could the broadcaster be forced into relocating some of its commissioning staff to outside London?
This story will likely continue for months to come.