The UK government has ruled out privatizing Channel 4, but it believes the public broadcaster can do more to deliver on its founding principles.
Culture secretary Karen Bradley addressed the future of C4 in a speech today (March 29) at the Nations and Regions Media Conference in Salford, England.
Over the last 18 months, the government has been looking at the risks and opportunities facing the broadcaster, aiming to ensure that “Channel 4 has a strong, sustainable, and successful future — able not only to survive, but to thrive.”
The government decided that C4′s public service remit for the indie production sector across the UK was vitally important, and best kept in the public hands.
However, the government will launch a consultation on how C4 can increase its impact away from its traditional base.
One of the key components the government will consider is whether Channel 4 should relocate some or all of its staff outside London, potentially including moving its headquarters. According to Bradley, Channel 4 has around 820 staff with fewer than 30 of them based outside central London.
“I am unsympathetic towards those who recoil in horror at the very idea of media jobs being based outside the capital,” she said. “Or for those who insist that people with ideas in the West Midlands, West Country or West wales must travel to Westminster to get programs made.”
While Channel 4 was pleased with the decision against privatization, it noted in a statement that “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.”
Kirstie Mary Allsopp, a TV presenter known from some of Channel 4′s property shows (Location, Location, Location), noted on her Twitter account that “moving Channel 4 anywhere would be idiotic, it’s in exactly the right location, and I should know!”
Other components of the consultation include considering spreading Channel 4′s spending power more widely across the country (C4 spends around twice as much on new productions from London as the rest of the UK put together, said Bradley), and assessing whether allowing C4 to take bigger stakes in prodcos would support the spur the growth of the regional sector and help Channel 4 diversify.
The government will work with C4 throughout this process, including finalizing the consultation document before it’s published in the coming weeks.
The developments come as David Abraham prepares to step down from his post as chief executive of Channel 4 following a seven-year tenure. He will remain in the post until a new CEO has been appointed and is in position.