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Channel 4 Escapes Privatization but May Be Forced to Move Out of London

British shows on Channel 4 include 'Catastrophe' (above)

The British government has shelved plans to privatize Channel 4, but has urged the state-owned broadcaster to devolve more of its activities to areas outside London.

In a speech delivered on Wednesday in Salford, Northern England – where public broadcaster BBC has set up a major broadcasting hub – the U.K. culture secretary Karen Bradley described Channel 4 as “a precious public asset,” but added that the government wants “the benefits of this national asset to be spread far and wide, not just in London.”

She added that the broadcaster should do more to “provide a platform for unheard voices and untold stories from right across the United Kingdom.”

Over the past year and a half, the government has conducted a review of Channel 4, which looked at a number of options, including privatization, which was fiercely opposed by the broadcaster’s chief David Abraham.

The government has concluded that the broadcaster’s operations are overly centered on London with more than 800 staff but fewer than 30 based outside the British capital. Among proposals it will consider is for Channel 4 to move all or a substantial number of staff out of London, with Birmingham in central England – Britain’s second most populous city – being mooted as a possible location for its new headquarters.

Bradley said she was “unsympathetic towards those who recoil in horror at the very idea of media jobs being based outside the capital.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson responded: “The most important factor in supporting the nations and regions is where we spend our money rather than where Channel 4 is headquartered. A substantial relocation would be highly damaging to Channel 4’s business model and diminish our investment in the creative industries.”

In a new consultation, the government will look at whether the amount of money spent on Channel 4 productions outside London, which is set at 35% of original British shows, should rise to 50%. As well as British shows like “Humans,” “Gogglebox” and “Catastrophe,” Channel 4 airs many U.S. series such as “Homeland,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “This Is Us.”

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