Over the years, Channel 4 has demonstrated time and again its commitment to providing quality television programmes - many of which have become instantly recognisable in households across the UK as well as abroad.
Presently it boasts an impressive media portfolio, encompassing E4, More4, Film4 and 4Music, as well as online activities, a bespoke video-on-demand service and other standalone digital projects. However, in considering the future of our publicly owned, national broadcasting organisations, it is right that they deliver in every possible way for the public.
In moving to Salford, the BBC became a strategic asset in the Northern Powerhouse vision; generating £277million for the UK economy in just one year, according to a 2015 report by KPMG. It is for that reason that in 2017 the Government included within its election manifesto proposals to move Channel 4 to the regions, in a bid to stimulate creativity and further economic activity right across the UK.
Last Thursday’s news, confirming Channel 4’s intention to move 300 of its 800 staff into new a new national HQ and two smaller broadcasting hubs outside of the capital; combined with a pledge to invest £250million into regional production companies over the next six years, is a welcome development in the future of British broadcasting. Not least for the opportunities that it will create to generate more informed and balanced television for viewer’s right across the nation to enjoy.
It is for that reason that I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with cross-party MPs in our region and our Metro Mayor, Andy Street, to rally support for Channel 4 to consider the West Midlands as a future home.
Not only does the region offer an ideal new location for the broadcaster to set up shop, but the West Midlands has a dynamic and growing base of digital and creative firms that can support Channel 4 and the wider development of the broadcasting sector. The region is also bursting with first class business and finance companies that would ensure that the growth of the media sector is well serviced and supported locally and we have a strong local skills base, driven by our young and diverse profile, and complimented by a network of 13 award-winning universities.
And in considering our geography, the West Midlands boasts a central location with strong transport and digital infrastructure links that provide excellent connectivity to both UK and international markets. With the arrival of HS2 and further planned investment opportunities it is clear that our appeal to investors will continue to go from strength to strength.
Having already succeeded in our regional campaign to have Coventry named as the UK’s next ‘City of Culture’ and secured an international status as the next host of the Commonwealth Games, I am confident that the West Midlands is the right choice and the strongest contender in the race. Already the WM generation campaign is attracting the attention of Channel 4 executives, and I was delighted to join as a counter signatory alongside 81 other local leaders from across a variety of cultural, social, political and industrial sectors in publishing an open letter to Channel 4 in The Times, to make the case for our region.
Finally, I must take this opportunity to commend Andy Street and all his team at the West Midlands Combined Authority for all of their hard work in drawing up the proposal for Channel 4’s move to the region. In relocating to the West Midlands Channel 4 would certainly benefit from Andy’s vision and support and I sincerely hope that the West Midlands is named as the victor in this fierce competition.
Dame Caroline Spelman is the Conservative MP for Meriden