Channel 4 is launching the search for a location for its new national headquarters by outlining its plans to more than 100 representatives of UK cities and regions on Monday.
The broadcaster is to kick off the bidding process with a presentation at its Horseferry Road headquarters in London, led by its chief executive, Alex Mahon, and Jonathan Allan, its chief commercial officer who is running the process. The publicly owned broadcaster is also webcasting the event to invitees across the UK who cannot attend in person.
Channel 4 will distribute a 15-page brochure outlining what it is looking for and the timeline for submissions with final decisions on the “winning” locations due in the third quarter.
The initiative, called 4 All in the UK, will be the biggest structural change in the broadcaster’s 35-year history: it will open three new “creative hubs” in the nations and regions, with the largest to be a new national HQ that will have facilities including a TV studio and host executive and board meetings.
The plans include 300 of its 800 staff moving out of the capital – currently only 30 staff are based outside London, 25 sales people in Manchester and five employees in Glasgow. Channel 4 News will open three new news bureaux, with a trebling of news jobs in the nations and regions by 2020, while spend on shows made by TV production companies based outside London will rise from £169m annually to about £350m a year by 2023.
More than a dozen cities and regions across the UK – including Birmingham and Manchester, Brighton, Bristol, Nottingham, Sheffield and Hull – have expressed an interest in hosting a new Channel 4 headquarters and benefiting from the broadcaster’s largesse.
The lobbying has already been intense, with Andy Street, the John Lewis managing director turned west Midlands mayor, describing his region as the “frontrunner”.
Channel 4 will have to tread carefully to make sure any enticements and inducements offered by bidders to try to win the pitch process do not break state aid rules.
Government rules say that state aid is “any advantage granted by public authorities through state resources on a selective basis to any organisations that could potentially distort competition and trade in the European Union”.
“Like any company, Channel 4 will have regard to all relevant legal and regulatory obligation in this process,” said a spokeswoman for the broadcaster. “We have robust processes in place for all our third-party business arrangements, which will also apply as we progress the selection of our new locations.”