Advertisement

Why Channel 4's luvvies should stay in London

The idea of spreading Channel 4 staff around the country is well meant, but the regions have their own ideas, says Matthew Lynn.

952_MW_P14_City-View_02
Channel 4 is heading up north its staff aren't

The idea of spreading Channel 4 staff around the country is well meant, but the regions have their own ideas.

It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Last year Channel 4, which is owned by the government but funded privately, decided to move its headquarters to Leeds, as well as opening "creative centres" in Bristol and Glasgow. According to its chief executive, Alex Mahon, the relocate out of London would mean the channel was "even more open to new talent and new voices from underserved areas" and would "better reflect the diversity of all of the UK".

Advertisement - Article continues below

The only trouble is, no one seems to have bothered to ask the staff. When the moment to pack up their desks and start house-hunting came, nine out of ten staff members decided to stay in London and look for new jobs instead. All its senior executives ducked the opportunity to lead by example and decided to stay put as well.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Channel 4 has revenues of nearly £1bn, so it is a sizeable business, and it can probably survive that. But it is hard to believe the exodus won't have an impact on performance, and recruiting all the new people it needs could be very difficult in a city with no ready-made pool of talent in the broadcasting industry. It would be hard to think of a more catastrophic management decision in the last decade.

For years, the government has been trying to rebalance the British economy. But Channel 4 is making the same mistake as government planners to try and force people to move out to the regions. There are two problems with that. The first, as the station has just discovered, is that they just don't want to. Any firm making a move out of the capital risks losing not just its best people, but also the nebulous yet crucial network of contacts and suppliers that made it successful in the first place. The second is that the major cities are doing really well all by themselves, and they don't need a lot of reluctant London television "luvvies" suddenly turning up on their doorstep.

Advertisement - Article continues below

According to a report last year by the Centre for Cities, the fastest-growing cities in the UK between 2002 and 2015, in terms of population and jobs growth, were Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool. London came in 20th place. Growth has been so sustained in some of the growing cities that the issue has been how to find enough space for people and businesses. Regional cities have been growing organically by creating new businesses, not by uprooting companies from London and plonking them down elsewhere. Manchester has been expanding in sport, leisure, travel, logistics and design. Bristol has been developing its own tech industry. Liverpool has developed in life sciences and education; Birmingham in financial services and manufacturing.

How to encourage more growth

The UK's regional cities have been doing really well in the last decade, restoring much of their former vibrancy and prosperity. The gap with London on wages and house prices is starting to close. There are plenty of ways that trend can be encouraged. What they don't need to do is import Londoners.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

UK house prices may be heading for a Boris bounce
House prices

UK house prices may be heading for a Boris bounce

The latest survey of estate agents and surveyors from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is "unambiguously positive" – suggesting house pric…
16 Jan 2020
Are UK house prices really on the rebound?
Property

Are UK house prices really on the rebound?

The latest house price data from the Office for National Statistics paint a picture of a housing market that is showing signs of rallying. That's not …
15 Jan 2020
How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Have UK house prices turned the corner?
House prices

Have UK house prices turned the corner?

The average price of a house in the UK rose by 0.8% on the year in November, the fastest pace since April.
5 Dec 2019

Most Popular

Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back
Income investing

Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back

The value of dividends paid out by UK stocks has plummeted this year as companies “rebase” their payment policies. But things could soon start to look…
6 Aug 2020
Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold
Silver and other precious metals

Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold

Gold and silver continue to soar, but there's still time to get in. And there's another precious metal that looks set to go on a bull run too, says Jo…
7 Aug 2020
Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag
Toys and gadgets

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag

Jaguar’s classic E-type sports car has been reinvented for the modern age. The result – the Eagle Lightweight GT – is a thing of beauty.
7 Aug 2020