Professor Phil Redmond CBE has called for the Government to initiate a ‘broad, inclusive and fully transparent’ debate around plans to relocate Channel 4.
Speaking at the first national debate into the proposed relocation of the public service broadcaster, Prof Redmond asserted that: “The future of Channel 4 forms part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy to rebalance the economy and readdress the acute media deficit we’re facing.
“It’s therefore important, that this particular debate should be conducted transparently, in the daylight and with academic rigour – as it was when Channel 4 was first established in 1980.”
The LJMU Ambassador Fellow highlighted that convening a regional panel ‘representative of all potential stakeholders – not merely those dependent on Channel 4’ and mandating for ‘guaranteed hours exclusively dedicated to programmes made outside of London, alongside quotas’ should be among the next steps taken to make Channel 4’s relocation a reality.
He also called for the media relocation debate to be expanded to include the regulator, Ofcom, which, he suggested could also benefit from a move out of London.
The event, part of a series planned by the Channel 4 to Liverpool Partnership, was opened by the Chair, Professor Nigel Weatherill, DL, Vice Chancellor of LJMU.
Addressing the audience, Professor Weatherill said: “Today isn’t about making the case for Liverpool, it’s about encouraging open discussion around what the key challenge is and what we need to do differently. We need to understand if it’s a case of reforming the system, transforming the system or maintaining the status quo.”
A panel of speakers from across the media landscape participated in the event including Gill Wilson, Head of Features at Channel 4 and Cat Lewis, CEO of Nine Lives Media. An active supporter of independent production companies based outside of London, Ms Lewis, stated that: “If television is a one-city-industry, it really limits our creativity and success, weakening the whole of UK plc.
“Unfortunately, all programmes regulated by Ofcom as ‘Made Out of London quota’ are currently permitted to employ 50% of their staff from London and many do so, giving them senior roles. More junior roles are filled locally – but this isn’t enough to leave a legacy and make a long-term impact on the economy of cities outside London.”
Gill Wilson, Head of Features at Channel 4, said: “While there is a clear media deficit in the UK, I question whether relocating Channel 4 is the answer to the problem we’re trying to solve.
“Championing regional production companies and investing in the creation of production hubs across the Northern Powerhouse would – in my view - offer a more effective solution. In turn, this would create opportunities for a diverse range of voices to be heard and provide a valuable training ground for young talent to develop.”
Other panellists at the event included Richard Caborn, Chair of Sheffield’s Channel 4 bid and former Minister of Sport, who made the case for relocating the broadcaster to the South Yorkshire city. Independent TV producer and journalist, Stephen Chapman, put forward the argument for a regional commissioning hub model.
Throwing the debate open to the audience before closing, a show of hands indicated a clear vote in favour of the full relocation of Channel 4 to an unnamed location.