In a major shakeup, Britain’s Channel 4 is set to locate a sizable number of employees outside of London and has committed to allocating half of its £700 million ($968 million) core programming budget to shows from outside the British capital. The proposed increase in regional spending, from the current 35%, means an extra £250 million going into localized production by 2023.
The broadcaster said Thursday it intends to set up three new hubs including a new national headquarters, complete with studio space, which will co-exist with the existing London base. Channel 4’s news operation will also open a new regional bureau. By 2020, the evening news is expected to be co-anchored from London and from what are referred to as the nations and regions, meaning Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and other parts of Britain.
About 300 jobs will be located at the new regional outposts, and the London operation will be scaled back. Several British cities are courting Channel 4 to be chosen as home to one of the new hubs. A pitch process will start next month and be complete by the third quarter. The hubs are to be set up in 2019.
The shakeup comes amid political pressure on the broadcaster to become less London-centric. A full-scale relocation had been proposed, but Channel 4 will keep its central London base, with part of it given over to becoming a “creative workspace” for independent producers.
Like the BBC, Channel 4 is a public-service broadcaster, but it is funded by advertising rather than the license fee that subsidizes the BBC. It has no in-house production, and instead orders all of its programming from independents, playing a key role sustaining the U.K.’s creative sector.
The move to the regions is expected to create 3,000 new jobs outside London in the creative industries, said CEO Alex Mahon, who took over the top job at Channel 4 just a few months ago. She noted that the move to spread production spending and staffing was part of the broadcaster’s wider commitment to diversity. “It is the biggest change in the structure of Channel 4 in our 35-year history,” she said.
Mahon added: “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 U.K.”
Matt Hancock, the British government’s culture minister, welcomed the news that the broadcaster was moving some operations outside of London. “We have long been committed to Channel 4 moving out of London,” he said. “I’m delighted Channel 4 [has] decided, under the strong new leadership of Alex Mahon, to establish the new national HQ outside of London.”
Pact, the trade body for British producers, also welcomed the news that Channel 4 will up its programming spending outside London to 50% of the total programming budget. “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 programs,” Pact said in a statement.