News: 30 May 2018Research reveals the new Channel 4 hub ‘front-runners’

Our Development Economics team has developed its own shortlist of ‘front-runners’ for cities across the UK that could be the new hub for Channel 4.

The shortlist, to be announced on Wednesday 30 May, will feature several towns and cities that meet the criteria set by the channel. It includes a location that is within three hours travel to London, a working population of more than 200,000, have 'economic, demographic, diversity' and be able to attract and develop “new and diverse talent”.

The broadcaster has pledged to move some 300 staff to new hub outside of London by 2019 in a bold move to improve its regional presence and profile.

The Development Economics team analysed the suitability of each of the contending cities in England, Scotland and Wales across four key areas. These include having: a large, qualified labour force; decent housing affordability and quality of life; an established creative media industry and strong university links.

Glasgow, along with Bristol and Leeds, were ranked in the top five in the majority of these categories and, according to our research, should be “considered frontrunners for the new HQ” ahead of more established favourites such as Birmingham.

“This is a huge opportunity for a city to benefit from one of the biggest names in UK broadcasting,” said Morgan Reece, Associate. “The new regional hub is set to spawn a thriving media ecosystem, with Channel 4 already committing to spending half of its total £700m annual programme budget with TV companies outside of London by 2023.”

“Much like Amazon’s recent search for a second North American headquarters, Channel 4 will need to take a highly methodical and objective approach to selecting a new base – though the limited fiscal powers of UK local authorities mean we are unlikely to see an incentive package arms race as was the case with the Amazon completion.

“Channel 4’s selection criteria will very much be based on each city’s individual merit – and the four categories we selected will undoubtedly be critical in any future decision making.  We used objective data sources to allow us to rank each emerging candidate city, with Glasgow scoring highly across each category.”

In response to the research, our Partners from each of the selected cities outlined their thoughts on why Channel 4 should consider Glasgow, Leeds and Bristol.

Stephen Tucker, Partner in our Glasgow office, said: “Any new headquarters for Channel 4 would be a significant boost to the Glasgow economy and the City’s media quarter on the Clyde would be a natural destination. Barton Willmore ran the Govan and Partick Design Charrette a few years ago, which considered the future for both areas emerging out of the City Deal investment in a bridge link.

“The charrette identified a number of excellent development sites on either side of the River near the STV and BBC offices and further to the south around Ibrox. Govan in particular is an area of opportunity with fantastic community programmes like the Central Govan Action Plan and the Townscape Heritage Initiative. Land is affordable, and the transport links are second to none.”

James Hall who is a Partner in our Leeds office added: “This is a significant opportunity for Leeds – one that could lead to the creation of jobs and act as a catalyst for the growth of creative industries in the city.

“We already have a thriving film and TV cluster in Yorkshire, combine that with a highly skilled, degree-educated workforce; affordable housing and universities with world-class communication, media and cultural studies – it’s a recipe for success.

“Leeds and the surrounding area is a great place to live and work and attracting Channel 4 would provide another reason for the city to retain its graduates.”

Finally, our Partner in Bristol, Simon Prescott said: “This confirms what we already know and what the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, has long been championing that Bristol is a vibrant area that is the fastest growing city in the UK. At the same time it’s in a truly enviable position as the UK’s number one Smart City, playing a fundamental role in the south west powerhouse. 

“The city itself houses the third largest media hub in the country with already an established media presence and qualified workforce. For decades the area been lauded for the quality programming produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Wallace & Gromit maker Aardman Animations, the famous Bottle Yard Studios and ITV West Country among others who are all based here.  

“Not only would the creative and diverse city of Bristol be the perfect fit for the boundary-pushing and innovation that Channel 4 has become famed for, but I also feel that the catalyst for social change, risk-taking and inspiring Channel 4 would be the perfect fit for Bristol.”

A 2015 KPMG report commissioned by the BBC found that the BBC’s North West activities – including those from Salford – following the opening of a new office 2012, generated the equivalent to approximately five per cent of the area’s GVA or financial contribution to the local economy.

Channel 4 is expected to make a final announcement in October.

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