Following pressure at a ministerial level and consultation on how public service broadcaster Channel 4 could most effectively contribute to regional economic growth, stimulate regional creative industries, and better serve regional audiences to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, the service has announced a strategy that it says will significantly boost jobs in the Nations and Regions and representation of all the UK. The ‘4 All the UK’ plan is designed to ensure Channel 4 is serving the whole of the UK and the biggest change to the structure of the organisation in its 35-year history.
At the heart of the strategy is a major new commitment from Channel 4 to increase significantly its Nations & Regions content spend from its current quota of 35 per cent to a new voluntary target of 50 per cent by 2023. This will result in a cumulative boost of over £250m in Channel 4’s Nations & Regions commissioning spend. It reflects both external analysis and feedback from the industry that increasing spend would have the greatest impact on regional economies and jobs.
To support and catalyse this spend across the UK, Channel 4 will move to a multi-site operating model, establishing a new National HQ and two new smaller creative hubs in the Nations & Regions in 2019 – home to jobs from across the business including key creative decision makers. When this strategy is fully implemented, 300 Channel 4 jobs will be based in the Nations and Regions and the intention is to grow this further over time.
According to Channel 4’s Chief Executive Alex Mahon, a pitch process will be launched in April 2018 in which cities and regions across the UK can pitch to become the home of the new Channel 4 creative hubs – with the aim that a decision on the location of the hubs will be made in Q3 2018. Channel 4 Executive Board member, Jonathan Allan will take on lead executive responsibility, working closely with Mahon, for delivering the 4 All the UK strategy – including leading the pitch process for the new creative hub locations.
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 be known as Channel 4’s National HQ – and will regularly host Channel 4 executive and Board meetings – alongside Horseferry Road as Channel 4’s London HQ.
This National HQ will be home to a new studio, with the potential to be a base for daily programmes, and a new digital production unit – creating compelling short form digital content targeted at young audiences which reflects the diversity of UK culture and values.
Channel 4 News will also expand its footprint in the nations and regions opening new bureaux giving a huge boost to regional representation, aiming to become the first peak-time national news programme to co-anchor from both London and the Nations & Regions from 2020. In partnership with ITN, the programme will establish three new Channel 4 News bureaux with one becoming a major hub with a studio, digital and commissioning centre, tripling the number of jobs based in the Nations & Regions by 2020.
In total, it is expected that around 300 Channel 4 jobs will be based in the Nations & Regions. In addition, the increased programming spend will be supporting up to 3000 additional production jobs in the Nations & Regions economy.
“As a public service broadcaster with diversity in its DNA, Channel 4 has a unique ability to reflect our society,” declared Mahon. “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 & Regions,” she added.
The corporation will retain its Horseferry Road office, but will reduce its London footprint with space in the building becoming a new drop-in workspace for use by Nations & Regions indies and creative companies building their business with clients in the capital.
The 4 All the UK strategy has been fully approved by the Channel 4 Board.
“We have long been committed to Channel 4 moving out of London,” stated Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “I’m delighted Channel 4 have 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.”