Government threatens to use law to force Channel 4 out of London

Sources say the option could be used if the broadcaster refuses to shift its operations voluntarily

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 05 December 2017 17:55
Comments
Channel 4 is being pushed to move from its London HQ
Channel 4 is being pushed to move from its London HQ

Ministers could use the law to force Channel 4 into moving from London if the TV channel does not “get on board” and agree to go voluntarily.

The Independent understands action could be taken in the new year if the broadcaster continues to refuse to shift operations from the capital.

The Government wants the broadcaster to move as part of a plan to boost jobs and growth in the regions, but has faced resistance from senior management who claim it might damage the channel’s income.

One Whitehall source suggested that the new Channel 4 management have until early 2018 to “get on board” with the move.

The individual, close to the process, said: “It is just very well-paid TV people who seem to be horrified at the idea of living anywhere apart from London.

“If they don’t come round to it, we will look at changing the law.”

Officials have identified a private members bill brought forward by Conservative Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton, which they believe could be used as a vehicle to make changes that would force the shift through.

Mr Brereton said his proposed piece of legislation, due to have its second reading in October 2018, could see Channel 4 having a “significant transformative impact on a new location”.

A government report has previously suggested that moving Channel 4 out of London could create nearly 7,500 jobs and deliver almost £600m in economic benefits.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has said the channel “should do more to support economic growth and provide for audiences outside of London”.

She is expected to hold meetings with Alex Mahon, the new Channel 4 chief executive, in the run up to Christmas in a bid to find a way through the dilemma.

Former Channel 4 CEO David Abraham has fought the move

Former chief executive David Abraham and chairman Charles Gurassa have fiercely rejected any move of Channel 4 and its 800 staff.

Mr Abraham has argued it would mean 60 per cent or even 80 per cent of Channel 4’s staff leaving.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We are proud of our leadership on diversity and the substantial contribution we make to the Nations and Regions and we want to grow this further and give even greater support to creative talent across the UK. “We are working closely with Government to ensure we support the important principles of regional representation and deliver our remit.”

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