Channel 4 boss casts doubt on potential Sheffield move

An artists' impression for the proposed new Channel 4 headquarters in Sheffield.
An artists' impression for the proposed new Channel 4 headquarters in Sheffield.

Sheffield's ambitious bid to provide a home for Channel 4 appears to have been dealt a blow after the broadcaster's chief executive cast doubt on the move.

The government launched a consultation earlier this year about the possibility of moving the channel out of its £100 million London headquarters to another base elsewhere in the UK to help drive creative jobs throughout the regions.

This led to a dozen local authorities expressing an interest in hosting the broadcaster, including the Steel City, Bradford and the West Midlands.

But David Abraham, the outgoing Channel 4 chief executive, described the proposal as "highly problematic" and expressed concerns that up to 80 per cent of the channel's 800-workforce could leave the organisation if a move happened.

He criticised the Conservative Government as being “irresponsible” for making it part of their election manifesto pledge in June to relocate Channel 4 out of London.

Speaking to the House of Commons' digital, culture, media and sport committee last week, Mr Abraham said: "In the Conservative Party party manifesto was an edict that Channel 4 would move, and that was a deeply disturbing prospect.

“As a manager, regardless of how much I might believe in that, can you imagine what it would have been like to have managed a creative organisation through that in a time when there is a recession?

“That is deeply disruptive and I think irresponsible, but it was a proposal, a full, forced move under government edict of a statutory corporation that is answerable to Parliament.

“That was a very highly problematic proposition.”

His comments come after culture secretary Karen Bradley recently said the move might only result in a part relocation rather than the whole channel.

Sheffield's bid leaders have previously revealed the move could be worth a whopping £1.4 billion to the city’s economy over the next 15 years and create 4050 jobs.

In addition a recent Government report said relocating the channel out of London could be worth £600m to the economy and create 7500 jobs.

Sheffield bid leaders have earmarked vacant land near the railway station in Sheaf Square as a potential site to build Channel 4's new headquarters.

The broadcaster is also being offered 80, 000 sq ft of office space in the nearby Digital Campus on Sheaf Street.

The department for digital, culture, media and sport has not revealed a timetable yet for when a decision will be made on the proposed move.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for business and investment, said: “We have put forward a compelling case for Channel 4 to build a home in Sheffield. This goes way beyond our long association through films and television.

“We want to develop a home which could see a national institute put research, emerging technologies and education at the heart of Channel 4’s innovative approach to broadcasting for the next 50 years and beyond.”