Channel 4 will move out of London if the Conservatives win the 2017 General Election after the promise was enshrined in the party’s manifesto.
The manifesto, which was published on Thursday, says: “Channel 4 will remain publicly owned and will be relocated out of London, and we will work with the nation’s most eminent museums and galleries to ensure their works and expertise are shared across the country.”
The commitment chimes with comments made in March by culture secretary Karen Bradley that promised to keep the broadcaster in public ownership but supported moving some of some or all of C4’s 820 staff – currently located in Horseferry Road in Victoria – out of the capital.
Channel 4 remains steadfastly opposed to the relocation believing it would actually be counterproductive. It argues that the move would be costly and the best way to serve UK regions would come from commissioning more programmes out of London.
The Government often cites the example of the BBC’s launch of a “northern powerhouse” in Salford, where BBC Sport and Radio 5 Live are now based.
Channel 4 in turn argues that the BBC, which is directly funded by the licence fee and not from advertising, has the capacity to facilitate real change in a place like Salford in a way that a “publisher” broadcaster like C4 with no production capacity of its own doesn’t.
Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city and centrally located, is considered the favourite option with Leeds or Manchester also a possibility.
The channel has not yet formally commented on the manifesto pledge but one of the broadcasters’s programme suppliers played down the proposal.
“It is a manifesto commitment not a Parliamentary bill or even a Government policy and as we know manifesto pledges are not always seen through,” said the TV executive.
“Also it talks about relocation – not whether this is partial or wholesale or what it means.”
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We welcome the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment that Channel 4 will remain publicly owned. Channel 4 already delivers a significant impact in the UK’s Nations and Regions and we want to continue to work with Government as part of its consultation to explore meaningful ways to grow this further and support jobs, investment and growth in the creative economy across the whole of the UK. In doing so we want to ensure that Channel 4 remains commercially sustainable and is able to maximise its investment in original British-produced programming.”