Channel 4 to move hundreds of staff but keep London HQ
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Channel 4 to move hundreds of staff but keep London HQ

Channel 4 has reached a deal with the government to move hundreds of staff out of London and create a new “national HQ” in another city – but it will not be forced to sell its £100m base in London. The broadcaster has laid out a plan to move 300 of its 800 staff out of the capital next year. It currently employs only about 30 staff outside London.

Next month Channel 4 will invite pitches from cities across the UK to host its second HQ, as part of a plan expected to be approved by the government. “This is the biggest change in the structure of Channel 4 in its 35-year history,” said Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive.

Mahon said Channel 4 would open three new “creative hubs” in the nations and regions, with the largest to be a new national HQ. It will have facilities including a TV studio and host Channel 4 executive and board meetings. She added that the locations for the new hubs would be confirmed by the end of the September.

Mahon said Channel 4 News would also be “on the move”, with an increased regional presence. The broadcaster’s national news programmes are made by ITN, which is based in London. “We will launch three new news bureaux in the nations and regions,” she said. “One will become a major hub. We will triple the number of Channel 4 News jobs in the nations and regions by 2020.”

The plan includes a commitment to spend half of Channel 4’s total £700m annual programme budget on shows made by TV production companies based outside London by 2023. It currently spends £169m annually.

“The biggest contribution Channel 4 can make to regional economies and jobs is how much we spend on programmes,” Mahon said. “This move alone will increase spend to [regional] TV producers by over £250m by 2023.” Channel 4 has estimated that its plans will also create 3,000 new jobs in the creative industries outside London.

Channel 4 will not be forced to sell its headquarters in Victoria in central London. Instead the space freed by staff relocations will be used as “new work space for independent producers and and creative companies from the nations and regions” in the capital.

Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive: ‘This move will increase spend to [regional] TV producers by over £250m by 2023.’ Photograph: Adam Lawrence/Channel 4

The government has been pushing for Channel 4 to relocate a significant part of its business to another city, with Birmingham considered the favourite location in the event of a wholesale move. The city, which has lobbied hard under its mayor, the former John Lewis boss Andy Street, will still hope to be a big winner under the partial move plan.

A dozen cities and regions across the UK have been lobbying to provide a new home for Channel 4, including Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds.

The deal marks the end of almost two years of acrimonious wrangling between the government and Channel 4 spanning two culture secretaries and two chief executives.

Charles Gurassa, Channel 4’s chairman, has said that if the government tried to force the broadcaster into a plan that would “damage our ability to deliver our remit”, then the broadcaster’s board would block it.

Channel 4 has maintained that a wholesale move out of London would cripple its business. The broadcaster’s former chief executive David Abraham said up to 80% of its workforce would quit if they were forced to move out of the capital.

Channel 4 has insisted that functions such as the TV ad sales team need to remain largely in London, as that is where the vast majority of the UK’s biggest advertisers and their media agencies do business. The broadcaster has about 25 salespeople in Manchester and five staff in Glasgow.

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