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Channel 4 ups regional spend by $345m

Channel 4 in the UK is increasing its commissioning spend outside London by more than £250m (US$345.7m) and opening three permanent hubs in cities around the country.

Alex Mahon

The public service broadcaster’s new CEO Alex Mahon announced this afternoon the broadcaster would voluntarily increase its commissioning spend in the UK regions to half of its budget by 2023, up from 35% now.

A national headquarters will also be established outside London along with two smaller creative hubs in the nations and regions, housing 300 C4 employees including key decision makers. Channel 4 News will also get new studio space and bureaux in the nations and regions.

The broadcaster will reduce its current footprint at Horseferry Road in London, with space created there opened up to independent producers to use.

The channel, which has a public service remit to commission from the UK indie community, has been under political pressure for some time to reduce its dependence on London.

Successive secretaries of state for culture and media in the current Conservative government have pressed the idea of moving the channel’s base to a different city, with campaigns currently underway in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and elsewhere to house it.

That has led to the unveiling of the 4 All The UK plan today, described as the biggest structural change in the organisation’s 35-year history.

The location of the new hubs is yet to be decided, with a pitch process for cities launching in April and a decision due in the third quarter of this year. Executive board member Jonathan Allen will lead the process with Mahon.

In a statement, C4 said: “Programme commissioning editors overseeing significant budget and with responsibility for some of Channel 4’s biggest shows will be based across the three new creative hubs – alongside a variety of other creative and business functions.”

The largest of the creative hubs will include a new studio for daily programmes and a digital production unit. It will be known as C4’s National HQ, alongside Horseferry Road as its London HQ, and will host executive and board meetings regularly.

Alex Mahon, C4’s chief executive, said: “As a public service broadcaster with diversity in its DNA, Channel 4 has a unique ability to reflect our society.  This is a significant and exciting moment of change for Channel 4 as we evolve to ensure we are best suited to serve all of the UK.

“With this new strategy we will go even further to make sure that people right across the UK are represented on screen and in the make-up of our own organisation – and it will also build on what we already do to support creative businesses, jobs and economies in the nations and regions.”

Matt Hancock, the current secretary of state at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We have long been committed to C4 moving out of London. I’m delighted C4 has decided, under the strong new leadership of Alex Mahon, to establish the new national HQ outside of London, with 300 jobs – including key creative decision makers – to be based in the regions, rising over time.

“I know that many parts of the UK will be excited to pitch to be the new home of C4. We want all parts of Britain to benefit from our amazing creative industries, and C4’s leadership with a new national HQ outside of London is an important part of building a Britain that works for everyone.”

Indie producers’ body Pact also welcomed the move, adding: “Our members overwhelmingly see commissioning spend to be the most important way to achieve regional economic growth, build creative clusters and help serve audiences. The certainty of business is what allows companies to invest in talent, grow businesses and attract the talent needed to make programmes.

“Pact will be working with Alex Mahon and Ian Katz to ensure that there is a higher volume of returning series from the nations and regions over the coming years.”


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