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Channel 4

Volume 633: debated on Thursday 21 December 2017

We have been clear all along that this is a publicly owned broadcaster. Channel 4 must provide for and reflect the country as a whole. We are still in discussions with Channel 4 about how it should do this, including through relocating staff out of London, and we will set out next steps in due course.

Merry Christmas, Mr Speaker. Will the Secretary of State confirm that moving Channel 4 out of London would bring an approximate £600 million benefit to broadcasting, and that it is unacceptable that only four of the 120 commissioners of programmes for Channel 4 currently live outside London? There is an economic benefit, whether it is Salford, which I prefer, Birmingham, Sheffield or Leeds, and it should be done now.

I thought it was going to be a bid for Wrexham, so I am interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman’s views on other locations. There are many estimates of the benefit, but Channel 4 relocating out of London would have a clear benefit to the country. It is a publicly owned broadcaster and as such we expect it to deliver public benefits above and beyond commercial benefits, and that includes relocating out of London.

While I welcome the reports that Channel 4 will be employing more people and investing more money outside London, does my right hon. Friend agree that to send the message that Channel 4 is an alternative broadcaster serving different audiences, its headquarters should not be in SW1?

My right hon. Friend speaks with great experience and knowledge on this matter, and the House does well to listen to his wise words.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, as Channel 4 is not a programme maker but only a programme commissioner, there is limited benefit in moving staff, and surely it should be the programme making that reflects the diversity of the country?

This is one of the arguments that has been made about how Channel 4’s business model operates. We have seen what happened with the BBC’s move to Salford—although I accept that the BBC has a different business model. That creativity and clustering of talent has had benefit. One has only to look at the analysis of the amount of programming that is currently commissioned outside London to see that basing Channel 4 outside London could have significant benefits for those independent production companies that are not in SW1.