Broadcaster’s relocation could add £5 billion to the local economy.
The West Midlands Combined Authority 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 £2.3 billion of gross value added (GVA) between 2021 and 2030, according to the submission. It would also create £2.7 billion 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 £7 billion by 2030; the arrival of Channel 4 would generate a total of £5 billion.
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. 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.
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.
Cllr Patrick Harley, Leader of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, commented: “The arrival of Channel 4 will act as a catalyst to fuel the region’s flourishing creative sector and build on the vibrant talent-pool that exists in the West Midlands. The region’s skills-base, and strong institutional support for development in the creative and digital sector is unrivalled.
“This industry is already expected to be one of the region’s largest growth areas over the next decade, adding a further £2.2 billion GVA to the West Midlands economy. The region is therefore investing heavily in the next generation of creative and tech skills, making us poised to welcome Channel 4 and build our legacy as the UK’s innovation hub.”
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.
Ninder Johal, Black Country LEP Board Member, added: “The West Midlands continues to demonstrate its entrepreneurial credentials from home-grown start-ups to businesses choosing to move to and invest in the region. This track record in welcoming and supporting business, as well as in working collaboratively with partners from business to creative and digital sectors, demonstrates the West Midlands commitment to, and experience in, bringing organisations like Channel 4 to the region.”