‘Biggest restructure’ in Channel 4 history underway

UK broadcaster Channel 4 is to undergo its biggest restructure in its 35-year history.

A radical new strategy will see content spend on ‘nations and regions’ (i.e. producers outside London) increase from the current 35% of total programming investment to 50% by 2023.

That represents a £250 million (US$345 million) uptick, and will mean the establishment of a new national headquarters outside London and two smaller creative hubs elsewhere.

Government pressure on Channel 4 to move its headquarters out of London has intensified over the past year, and the new ‘multi-site’ operating model is the result.

The current HQ on Horseferry Road in London will reduce its size, with office space there made available to nations and regions producers doing business in the capital.

Overall, Channel 4 claims the new structure will mean 300 staff working outside London – including key creative managers – with the ambition to grow that number over time.

Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon yesterday announced a pitching process beginning in April for cities and regions across the UK to put their case to become the home of the national HQ. Decisions on all three spots should be made in the third quarter of this year.

Cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool have all been linked with the new national HQ in recent months.

Commissioning editors overseeing significant budgets will be based at the new hubs, with the new national base and Horseferry Road hosting regular executive and board meetings. The national HQ will include a short-form-focused digital production base.

In partnership with current affairs producer ITN, three Channel 4 News bureaus will open across the regions and nations by 2020, tripling the number of jobs based in those areas.

Executive board member Jonathan Allan will work with Mahon to deliver to ‘4 All the UK’ strategy.

“As a public service broadcaster with diversity in its DNA, Channel 4 has a unique ability to reflect our society,” said Mahon, who succeeded David Abraham as CEO last year. “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 UK.

“With this new strategy we will go even further to make sure that people right across the UK are represented on screen and in the make up of our own organisation – and it will also build on what we already do to support creative businesses, jobs and economies in the nations and regions.”

UK indies body Pact was encouraged by the development. “Pact welcomes the announcement that Channel 4 will be increasing its spend outside of London to 50% by 2023,” it said in a statement. “This is what Pact has campaigned for to help all companies secure more network commissions.

“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 programmes.

“Pact recognises the important role that Channel 4 plays in the UK television marketplace as a publicly owned public service broadcaster, with a unique remit to promote diversity and innovation both on and off screen. The health of the UK TV production sector is closely interlinked with that of Channel 4.”

The bodu added it woulc be Mahon and new programming director Ian Katz “to ensure that there is a higher volume of return”.