The British government has shelved plans to privatize Channel 4 after an 18-month ownership review, but the broadcaster may face relocating some or all of its operations outside of London.
On Wednesday, UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said in a speech at the Nations and Regions Media Conference in Salford (where fellow pubcaster BBC has also set up a major hub), that where the channel’s headquarters are based and where it spends its money is under review.
Channel 4, which is publicly owned but commercially funded, is a “precious public asset,” said Bradley. But it must “provide a platform for unheard voices and untold stories from right across the United Kingdom.”
She added that the government wants “the benefits of this national asset to be spread far and wide, not just in London,” and said she was “unsympathetic towards those who recoil in horror at the very idea of media jobs being based outside the capital.”
Channel 4 has more than 800 staff but less than 30 of those are based outside of the UK capital, a figure, the government says, needs adjusting. The new consultation, which comes after a year and a half review of privatizing the channel, will see the government carefully scrutinize the broadcaster’s distribution of public coin. Channel 4, which currently houses programs such as Gogglebox and Catastrophe and soon The Great British Bake Off, earmarks 35% of funding for original British shows for productions outside of London but the government will look to see whether that figure should rise to 50%.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “The most important factor in supporting the nations and regions is where we spend our money rather than where Channel 4 is headquartered. A substantial relocation would be highly damaging to Channel 4’s business model and diminish our investment in the creative industries around the UK and our overall contribution to the UK economy.”
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