Has the Government forgotten about Levelling Up?
So at TheBusinessDesk.com it’s rare as editors we share our opinions, not because we don’t have them but perhaps because we often feel it’s not our place!
However in this instance I’m afraid I’m going to follow folk rock artists Frank Turner’s advice…I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up!
I recently took part in a press conference about Channel 4’s future and heard from the broadcaster’s CEO Alex Mahon about its suggestions for what the “next episode” of this 40 year old institution looks like. I’ll be honest I bought in!
The impact it’s had on Leeds since arriving is clear there’s a sense of civic pride, there’s a sense of, dare I say, swagger and most importantly there’s a sense the decision by Channel 4 was vindicated by the fact its digital content arm 4Studio appears to be flourishing! So when Mahon says it’s worrying that the Government’s plans to sell Channel 4 into private ownership come with now guarantees that they keep a presence in Leeds or any of their other nation and region centres, we all need to take heed!
However, what really worries me is that this is the decision of a Government which regularly touts Levelling Up and could through a sale (assuming Channel 4’s numbers are right) end up costing the nations and regions economies £86m a year.
This can be contrasted with the broadcaster’s own figures that if it delivered its plans, it would make and broadcast programmes from across the UK and invest £2bn in nations and regions content over the next decade – a net benefit of £200m per year by my maths.
Now I’m not saying Channel 4’s plans are wholly right – I’ll leave those debates to the experts – but surely plans that deliver for the nations and regions are exactly what Levelling Up is about.
Mahon has said this debate will run and run, it will be discussed in the media and it will discussed by politicians and perhaps most importantly it should be discussed by us all, as viewers of Channel 4. Whether you’re a fan of Countdown, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, The Last Leg or just its news and documentary output, the chief executive is right, there’s just something “special” about the broadcaster and we need to make sure this isn’t lost.
It will be interesting to see what happens next in the months and potentially years ahead but I for one will go with the consensus vote, which according to Mahon is for the channel to remain in public ownership and most importantly for it to keep disrupting the television and streaming landscape and supporting the exciting independent production and creative industry which exists not just in Yorkshire but across the UK!
I think the crucial answer we must get is, will the net benefit to the country of a sale be not only what’s best for today but right for the long term future? And at present when looking at the Channel 4’s impact on Leeds and Yorkshire over a relatively short space of time I’m not entirely convinced!