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Channel 4 is looking for a new headquarters in the regions and plans to move 300 staff out of London. A decision on where its new home will be is due to be announced on 1st October, and Birmingham is one of seven cities shortlisted.
Strictly speaking, Channel 4 could still choose another town or city in the West Midlands, although the favoured location is believed to be a site on the edge of Digbeth, Birmingham’s media and creative quarter.
I must declare an interest here. I’ve lived and worked in and around Birmingham for most of my life. I also own a content production company in Digbeth, Ember Regis group. I love this city and consider it a hidden gem.
But, even as an impartial journalist, it’s difficult to make a credible case for Channel 4 choosing anywhere else. For me, there are five main why Birmingham is the logical choice.
We’re at the heart of the nation
Geographically, Birmingham is the closest major city to the UK’s centre of population. We’re the hub of the national motorway system and will eventually be the hub of the high-speed rail network too. We also have one of the country’s busiest international airports.
We’re the youngest city in Europe
A big challenge for traditional broadcasters is to retain younger viewers in the face of the relentless growth of online video, particularly YouTube. Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with 40% of its population under the age of 25. There’s nowhere better to develop the edgy and innovative content Channel 4 needs to produce to win over this crucial demographic.
We’re the most culturally diverse city in Britain
Another challenge UK broadcasters face is to reflect the nation they serve. There still aren’t enough black and Asian presenters and actors on television, and too many programmes fail to reflect the diverse nation we’ve become. Birmingham is the most diverse city in the country, with more than a third of its population coming from a BME background.
We’re home to some of Britain’s best creative talent
Birmingham has a number of creative and technology hubs — the Impact Hub, Digital Birmingham, the Custard Factory and Silicon Canal, for example — and a thriving arts scene. Birmingham City University, whose new campus is opposite the proposed site for Channel 4, has a burgeoning reputation for nurturing creative talent and boasts some of the best studio facilities in the country.
We provide quality of life and value for money
Channel 4 is under pressure to provide better value for the UK tax payer. Birmingham has some of the most attractive commercial property prices in the country. Several big companies have drastically cut their costs by moving here in recent years, including HSBC and Deutsche Bank. A report last year by PwC and Demos identified Birmingham as the fastest-improving UK city to live and work.
To be honest, I’m not getting my hopes up. So many times in the past Birmingham has missed out on projects that other cities (usually London) made a mess of; the Millennium Dome and Wembley Stadium are two obvious examples which ended up costing tax payers a fortune.
But I honestly think that when bosses at Channel 4 sit down over the next couple of months to weigh up their options, they’ll see there is a standout candidate. Birmingham really is the natural home for Channel 4.