New Frontiers? Channel 4’s Move out of London

A One Day International Conference, Watershed Cultural Cinema, Bristol

11 March 2020

Hosted by the Moving Image Research Group, University of the West of England Bristol andthe BAFTSS Screen Industries Special Interest Group 


In October 2018 Channel 4 announced that it would be relocating its London National Headquarters to Leeds, with Glasgow and Bristol also set to become regional ‘Creative Hubs’. Part of Channel’s ‘4 All the UK’ strategy, these new bases are designed to ‘attract and develop talent from across the UK, both on and off-screen, and support the significant increase in the organisation’s Nations & Regions spend on creative content’ (Channel 4website).

As one of the three main UK public service broadcasters, Channel 4’s relocation to Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol is arguably one of the most significant events in these cities’ screen histories. The channel’s relocation is embedded within broader strategies that aim to challenge London’s dominance and to ‘rebalance’ the UK’s screen ecology. This strategy was triggered by a variety of forces: devolution in which Scotland and Wales gained their own parliaments; the BFI’s five-year plan Supporting UK Film that aims to devolve 25 per cent of its production funding to regional film clusters and has a set aside a £2m National Cluster Growth Fund to strengthen regional economies; the BBC’s relocation of five departments to MediaCity UK, Salford, Greater Manchester in 2011; and the policies of the television regulator Ofcom, which has set stringent targets for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to spend a greater proportion of their programming budget outside London.

Although this conference has been occasioned by developments within the UK’s screen industries, we hope it will offer both UK and non-UK researchers the opportunity to discuss and debate developments in thereconfiguration of regional screen industries, and to present research projects and work-in-progress that examine the relationships between centre and periphery in any country.

Potential topics for papers and panels include, but are not limited to any of the following topics:

  • What is the historical relationship between regions and the ‘centre’ or ‘centres’ of production? (e.g. in the UK between the regions/nations and London) and how might this be changing?
  • Have the production cultures and output of regionally-based creative companies, principally public service broadcasters, been shaped by their respective locations? If so, in what ways?
  • What is the nature of the interrelationships between the companies that compose regional creative ecologies? How might Channel 4’s relocation contribute to or disrupt these networks?
  • What role do creative companies play in the wider civic, social and cultural life of their regions? What is their impact on regional and social cultures?
  • What is the relationship between regional creative ecologies and the predominantly freelance labour on which broadcasters such as Channel 4 depend? How open are local labour markets and how diverse are regional labour forces?
  • In what ways might Channel 4’s relocation alter how it operates as a ‘publisher-broadcaster’?
  • What is the relationship between regional cultural production and the increasingly global dynamics shaping audio-visual culture? How do the tensions between the regional, national and global play out in different context such as commissioning, regulation, diversity and content?
  • How much does organisational devolution actually effect change and stimulate creativity in regional media, and can audiences expect to see the results on screen in terms of new voices and genuine diversity?

The conference invites the following types of contribution from both researchers and film and television practitioners:

    • Individual 20-minute conference papers
    • Pre-constituted panels (3 x 20 minutes)
    • 10-minute presentations of current research or position papers for a roundtable discussion

Keynote speakers will be Andrew Spicer, Professor of Cultural Production University of the West of England Bristol, and Justin Smith, Professor of Cinema and Television History De Montfort University

Please send proposals either for individual presentations or position papers (maximum 200 words); or a pre-constituted panel (3 x 200 words individual abstracts and a 200 word panel rationale) to Dr Amy Genders: by Friday 1 November 2019.