It’s official - Norwich bids to become new home of Channel 4
PUBLISHED: 08:04 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:34 07 December 2017
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There are hopes Norwich could become the new home of a major broadcaster after throwing its hat into the ring during a bidding process.
Norwich City Council has expressed an interest to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to become the home of Channel 4 when it relocates from its London headquarters.
The government hopes the move will see the channel boost regional growth, with a report suggesting it could create almost 7,500 jobs and bring almost £600m in economic benefits.
In May, council leader Alan Waters and Graham Creelman, chairman of Norwich Cultural Board, wrote to the government, urging them to “be bold” and choose Norwich over larger cities which could risk “swapping London for a ‘little London’”.
In it, they said the east has “massive potential” and Norwich has “one of the strongest creative offerings in the country”.
In its response, the DCMS said, with an election then on the way, no decision had been made and proceedings would be put on hold for the election - but the council has said it is still keen to pursue the bid.
Mr Waters said: “We are still very keen to welcome Channel 4 to Norwich and look forward to hearing more about the bidding process when the government decides how that would happen.”
In November, Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, told Karen Bradley, secretary of state for DCMS, that Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) was an excellent example of why Norwich should be chosen - though, at the time, she would not be drawn on the channel’s future.
Professor Richard Sawdon Smith, dean of arts and media at NUA, agreed that the fine city could be a fine spot for the channel.
He said Norwich had a “proud history” as a centre of broadcasting talent and expertise which spanned back to the 1950s - and that the university’s courses were “producing the future talent” the channel would need.
“No doubt Britain’s biggest cities will be top of Channel 4’s list of options outside London,” he said. “But as a left-field candidate, Norwich could make a surprisingly strong case.”
David Richardson, vice-chancellor at the University of East Anglia (UEA) agreed, and said: “We would very much welcome any prospective move to Norwich for Channel 4. UEA is rightly very proud of all its creative and talented graduates, including journalists, writers, actors, comedians and directors.”
He said the university’s roll call included actor Matt Smith, BBC special correspondent Razia Iqbal, author David Grossman and television, film and theatre producer Sir Colin Callender, among others.
“There is a flourishing creative sector in Norwich and, as we all know, it’s a fantastic place to live and work,” he said.
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said it showed the council was taking a forward-facing approach.
He said: “Norwich should be welcoming the fact that the council are going for it. Even if we don’t get, it puts Norwich on the map and it shows the huge growth in our creative industries.
“The fact that we are confident enough to go for it speaks volumes, and shows we are open for business.”
He said the city was a “brilliant location and a beautiful place”, and that anything that would help keep talented graduates in Norwich should be welcomed.
Fellow MP Chloe Smith, for Norwich North, agreed and said: “I would welcome high-quality jobs such as Channel 4 coming to Norwich. The digital, creative and tech sector generally is very important to us.
“I’ll be meeting local leaders from this sector on Friday to discuss big issues ahead, including Brexit, and we would all want to back Norwich as an attractive, thriving city with excellent prospects.”
A spokesperson for the DCMS said they hoped to agree a way forward with the channel to “truly reflect and represent the full diversity of the UK”.
•Why Channel 4 could move
In April, the government launched a consultation asking how the channel could better contribute to regional growth.
A report published in October estimated that moving the broadcaster out of its £100m London headquarters could create almost 7,500 jobs and deliver almost £600m in economic benefits.
News of the relocation sparked several local authorities to express an interest in hosting the channel, including Sheffield, Birmingham and Manchester.
The channel, which is state-owned but funded by advertising income, has argued that relocation could damage its operations, with many of the independent television firms and advertisers it works with based in the capital.
Former chief executive David Abraham evem warned the move could “destroy” the channel, but national press has reported that the government is considering taking action in the new year to push through the plans.
•Norwich’s TV links
Norwich has a strong history of television links.
The city was home to Mustard TV and is the current home of both ITV Anglia and BBC Look East.
BC the bear became a well-known addition to ITV in the 1980s, as a creature who helped presenters, including Helen McDermott, on the children’s slot Birthday Club.
Game show Sale of the Century, broadcast in the 1970s, was also well-known for its famous opening line: “And now from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week.”
Meanwhile, Survival Anglia - which produced wildlife programmes including Flight of the Geese - was also based in Norwich until it relocated to Bristol in 2001.
But it is perhaps Alan Partridge, portrayed by Steve Coogan, who has brought the most attention to Norwich in recent years, as a host on the fictional Radio Norwich.
The city, and wider Norfolk, are the backdrop to his various series - with talk of the pedestrianisation of Norwich among the most well-known moments.
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