Interview

Channel 4 is Coming to Bristol

Bristol’s media industry is set for a boost as Channel 4 has announced one of its new Creative Hubs will set up home in the city.  

After beating finalists Cardiff, Manchester, and Birmingham for the honour, around 50 jobs will be transferred to Bristol from Channel 4’s current London headquarters in 2019. 

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, welcomed the “fantastic” news, saying, “this move will help to build on our existing thriving media industry and wealth of local talent.

“Bristol is a city that pushes boundaries, questions the norm and actively nurtures a strong culture of creative and digital innovation – we know Channel 4 will feel at home here.”  

The decision was revealed in October, with Glasgow announced as the channel’s second Creative Hub and Leeds becoming the new National Headquarters.   

Channel 4 is coming to Bristol (Image: PA)

 

Channel 4 said choosing Bristol enabled them “to build on [the city’s] thriving television production sector,” with “world-renowned factual producers” and “strengths in [….] animation and digital production. 

The decision is part of the channel’s ‘4 All the UK’ strategy announced in March 2018, encompassing the biggest structural change in Channel 4’s 35 year history. 

In a bid to better represent the whole UK on and off-screen, proposals include a spending increase from 35% to 50% on commissioning content from production companies outside London by 2023, worth up to £250m. 

Charles Gurassa, Channel 4 Chair, said, “We are very much looking forward to working with our new regional partners and more broadly with the production communities across the UK to further enhance our creative contribution nationwide.” 

In total the broadcaster will relocate 300 of 800 staff to the regions, supporting up to 3,000 production jobs across the UK. 

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive of Channel 4, said Bristol allows Channel 4 to “also partner with Cardiff and harness the power of the wider creative industry across the South West and Wales.”

Bristol is already home to over 130 production and post-production companies, such as the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Aardman Animations and The Bottle Yard Studios, where popular television series Poldark and The Crystal Maze have been filmed. 

Other notable titles created in Bristol include The Great British Bake Off, Blue Planet II, Skins and Deal or No Deal.  

The announcement met with praise from the city’s MPs, including Bristol West MP Thangam
Debbonaire, and Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East who said the broadcaster’s arrival will “give a real boost to the city’s creative sector”.   

But not everyone is thrilled by the choice.   

Mayor Rees led the winning bid, supported by a partnership of Bristolian media organisations, industry figures and production companies including The Bottle Yard Studios, Aardman Animations, Icon Films, and Plimsoll Productions, among others.

Channel 4 bosses visit Bristol and meet Mayor Rees after announcing Creative Hub move. | Photo credit: Bristol Council.

         

Channel 4 was particularly impressed by Bristol’s “exciting social mobility proposals to develop talent across the wider region,” said Mahon. “Diversity and inclusion have always been at the heart of Channel 4’s mission.

“I hope that this move will help to bring a new pipeline of talent into the industry.” 

Mayor Rees said: “We look forward to […] working with the broadcaster to realise our vision to broaden industry access and develop diverse talent from all areas of Bristol.”

Back in April 2018 Channel 4 launched a pitch process to find its new National HQ and Creative Hubs, receiving over 30 pitches from across the UK. These were shortlisted to 13 locations. 

National HQ or Creative HubCreative Hub only
BristolBelfast
CardiffBrighton
GlasgowNewcastle-Gateshead
Greater ManchesterNottingham
LeedsSheffield
LiverpoolStoke-on-Trent
West Midlands

       

In May 2018 six cities were taken forward, for consideration as either the National HQ or Creative Hub, or just as a Creative Hub. 

Dick Penny, Former Watershed CEO, said: “Bristol is the perfect match for Channel 4: unorthodox, diverse, rebellious and pioneering.”

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