Relocation creates real buzz – but also uncertainty for chunk of staff

After racking up the railway miles and assessing a whole raft of potential locations, the consensus is that Channel 4 has chosen its new trio of locations wisely.

It gets to be a genuine trailblazer in Leeds, taps into the significant Scottish indie base in Glasgow, and can push into natural history and engage the wider factual community via its Bristol hub.

C4 will be transformative for the TV industry in Leeds. The city houses ITV’s sizeable Emmerdale operations and some regional news teams, but nothing as significant as the 200-strong office that is now in the works.

The choice of Leeds feels like a win for multiple cities in the north of England. C4 will be keen to tap into Bradford’s diversity and has the chance to improve the under-representation of Newcastle and the surrounding region.

Bristol’s win should not be taken too badly by Cardiff, which should also benefit from the glow of the C4 hub at its nearby neighbour (and praise be, the Severn Bridge tolls are ending before Christmas). Glasgow, meanwhile, felt like a no-brainer given Scotland’s rich indie heritage and the sense of momentum around production from the country.

“C4’s three locations need empowered decision-makers with enough clout to make them effective – and that means convincing senior figures to move”

There have been almost no gripes about C4’s forensic decision-making process and a sense that the broadcaster has been both fair and canny in its dealings with the bidders. I suspect it will secure some very attractive property deals in each of the locations.

But in many ways, the painful part of the relocation process starts now. Jokes abound about the C4 servers struggling to cope with all the traffic to Rightmove, but the reality is that somewhere between one in three and one in four C4 roles are likely to be moved outside of the capital.

That means opportunity and excitement for some, but anxiety and uncertainty for others.

That uncertainty hasn’t prevented C4 from adding to its ranks – it landed the highly rated Fatima Salaria last week after a protracted courtship – but it must now take vital strategic decisions about which jobs to move.

The three locations need empowered decision-makers with enough clout to make them effective – and that means convincing senior figures to move, or potentially watching them leave the organisation.

There is an extent to which the whole ethos of relocation is about reinvigorating out-of-London relationships and unearthing new talent.

But C4 needs to ensure it stays strong during the upheaval, and can keep Horseferry Road humming while it determines the future of such a significant proportion of its staff.

Chris Curtis

Chris Curtis is the editor of Broadcast