Could the West Midlands be the new home of Channel 4?

Could the West Midlands be the new home of Channel 4?

Broadcaster’s relocation could add £5bn to the West Midlands’ economy

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has submitted a response to the government’s consultation on Channel 4, Increasing the Regional Impact of Channel 4 Corporation.

The government’s consultation sought views on how Channel 4 could most effectively contribute to regional economic growth, stimulate creative industries outside the capital, and better serve regional audiences.

The West Midlands’ response highlights how it would be an ideal location for Channel 4, if the broadcaster does relocate its headquarters outside of London. The submission also outlines the substantial economic and cultural benefits that the broadcaster would bring to the West Midlands.

Channel 4’s relocation to the region could directly generate £2.3bn of gross value added (GVA) between 2021 and 2030, according to the submission. It would also create £2.7bn of indirect GVA during the same period, by stimulating further development of the local creative cluster. The WMCA’s Strategic Economic Plan aims to grow the region’s creative sector by £7bn by 2030; the arrival of Channel 4 would generate a total of £5bn.

Andy Street, Mayor for the West Midlands, commented: “If we are successful in persuading Channel 4 to relocate to the West Midlands, the impact on our region would be genuinely transformative.

“Not only would our creative and digital sectors receive a massive boost, but there would also be huge regeneration and investment benefits.

“The West Midlands offers the ideal opportunity for a relocated Channel 4. Our pitch is that Channel 4 could thrive here in the West Midlands and we stand ready to work in partnership with them to make a success of any move.”

Channel 4 has the opportunity to build upon a platform of digital and creative skills, a rich legacy of TV broadcasting and media production, and clusters of innovation.

A relocation to the West Midlands would also bring significant benefits to Channel 4. As the youngest and most diverse region in the UK, it would enable Channel 4 to serve its audience and public service broadcasting commitments.

Nearly half (46%) of Birmingham’s population is under 30 years old, while Coventry’s population is seven years younger than the national average.

Just 27% of all public service broadcasting viewers think they see individuals from the Midlands on TV daily, compared with 53% who see individuals from London, according to the latest Ofcom Public Service Broadcasting Diversity Report.

The submission highlights how the West Midlands is a renowned business and creative hub that would provide the least disruptive option for a relocation.

The region has a strong track record in welcoming other major relocations such as global bank HSBC, and investors including BBC Three, Amazon, Jaguar Land Rover and HS2 Ltd.

Its skills workforce has been a key factor in attracting and retaining these firms, while the West Midlands is also cost-effective, with prime rents at 50% below London’s rates.

Cllr John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The arrival of Channel 4 would follow a number of other major organisations that are committed to locating or expanding in the West Midlands.

"The broadcaster would also be joining a long list of new and growing businesses, with the region producing over 22,000 new companies last year – double the UK growth rate.

"We would welcome Channel 4 to the thriving business environment here in the West Midlands.”

The WMCA offers wide-ranging support to Channel 4 should the broadcaster move to the region – including a package of business support for local firms, to maximise the opportunities offered by the local creative and digital sectors in working with the broadcaster.

The West Midlands already has the largest digital sector outside of London, employing some 25,000 people, and a range of internationally renowned cultural and creative organisations, with production companies including Maverick, Full Fat TV, North One and 7 Wonder.

The region’s road, rail and air links will help Channel 4 serve its audiences and work with its partners across the UK. The region’s central location – which is highly accessible from all parts of the UK – will be boosted further by HS2, with its route between London and Birmingham completing in 2026, followed by a second phase linking the region’s two HS2 stations to the north.

The WMCA’s response was co-ordinated by the West Midlands Growth Company, and has involved collaboration across the region. The document was supported by the West Midlands’ three local LEPs – Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire – along with its local authorities in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, Solihull and the City of Wolverhampton. KPMG and BOP Consulting were commissioned to help develop the response, which has also involved consultations with a wide range of stakeholders in industry, education, the media and the creative sector.

Anita Bhalla, Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP board director, said: “A decision by Channel 4 to relocate here would be great news for the city region and something we are making every effort to achieve.

“Greater Birmingham is investing in its future as a major hub for the UK’s creative and digital industries and we will support this move in whatever way we can.

"With HS2 on the horizon, the journey time from London to UK Central by the NEC will be 38 minutes and 49 minutes to the Birmingham Curzon station in the city centre, on both counts making us an ideal location for Channel 4.

“We have a young, digital and diverse population, with a technology and innovation sector that boasts more than 6,000 firms, delivering £1.6bn to the local economy - this is more than any other core city.

"Currently we have 37,400 students studying digital and creative subjects within an hour of Birmingham, helping secure our place as one of the country’s leading creative centres.”