It was reported this week that Karen Bradley, the new Culture Secretary, is keen to encourage Channel Four to relocate to a city in the North of England. Her thinking is that moving the station out of the capital would go some way to correcting the heavy London bias in the UK’s national media.
She has a point; despite the BBC moving much of its news and sport programming to Salford, the main TV networks continue to follow a very London centric agenda. Even the Great British Bake Off, which announced this week that it is transferring from the BBC to C4, has a very Home Counties feel to it.
Interestingly, it wasn’t always this way, British TV in the 1970s and 80s seemed to be more reflective of the nation as a whole, due in no small part to the federal structure of ITV which had big and ambitious regional stations such as Central, Granada and Yorkshire. This resulted in the ITV network giving prime time slots to programmes from around the country. Taggart was set in Glasgow, Tiswas was broadcast from Birmingham and Sale of the Century proudly boasted of being “from Norwich”.
The merger of ITV into one company in 2003 brought about the end of such diversity. ITV’s Saturday night gameshows now come live from the Australian jungle rather than from Norwich.
While I accept that London is the nation’s political and economic capital, the vast majority of the UK population don’t live there and there is a real need for network TV to better reflect what happens outside the confines of the M25. At a meeting I was at a year or so back Phil Redmond, producer of Brookside among other things, talked passionately of his frustration after decades of unsuccessfully trying to persuade the Government to base a national TV station in Liverpool.
Channel Four has always struck me as being a bit too London orientated, so a move out of the capital (press speculation seems to be suggesting Manchester or Birmingham) would be no bad thing.