The Government is sticking by its plans to move Channel 4 outside London – even suggesting that the company could move to a “small town”.
Speaking last night, culture secretary Karen Bradley said that the company would need to indicate its plans by Christmas and could move to a “city or a small town”. However it has suggested that not all the company has to relocate.
She said the broadcaster need to reveal "the direction of travel" in terms of a likely destination and have taken some "action" by the end of the current Parliament.
So far Birmingham has been identified as the most likely destination, although any number of the nation’s small towns are now in the running alongside major conurbations outside the capital.
The civic authorities of both Birmingham and Manchester have expressed a wish to be the new home of the broadcaster.
Speaking at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge Bradley said that “relocation may not mean the whole business” and that her preference was to “agree a way forward in concert with Channel 4”.
She added that she wanted Channel 4 to have a “major presence” outside London and that decisions about what programmes it showed “should not all be made in the bubble of Westminster”.
This is a slight watering down of the manifesto commitment for the 2017 general election which said: “Channel 4 will remain publicly owned and will be relocated out of London.”
Legislation could be used to force Channel 4 to move, Bradley said, but added that the government would prefer to reach an amicable agreement with the broadcaster.
Channel 4 has long opposed the move and sources at the broadcaster say that senior management is pleased that not all of the broadcaster is now likely to be forced to move from the capital.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We are committed to increasing Channel 4's regional impact and welcome the Secretary of State's desire to work with us to achieve this. Channel 4 is proud of our leadership on diversity and the existing contribution we make to the Nations and Regions and we are developing innovative and sustainable proposals to grow this further and give even greater support to creative talent across the UK."