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Screen Industries Category

Investigating the Impact of Channel 4’s Move to Bristol Part 3

by Andrew Spicer

Beneficiary company profiles; writers scheme; Glasgow hub.


In the previous blog I mentioned that the government intended to press ahead with privatising Channel 4. This took a more concrete form as part of the Government’s White Paper, Up Next: the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector, published on 29 April 2022 and was included in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament on 10 May 2022.[1] However, such has been the political turmoil since that time and such is the Government’s current disarray, that on 5 November the papers carried the story that privatisation has been shelved, at least for the life of this parliament, which could extend to January 2025.[2] If the Conservatives lose, then Labour’s policy is that Channel 4 continues in its present form. Thus it is very pleasing to state that Channel 4 now appears to be ‘safe’ and therefore that the gains that have been accrued from regional relocation look set to continue.[3]

The substantive topics for discussion in this blog are: profiling those companies that have benefitted from Channel 4’s funding schemes (detailed below); the introduction, by the Bristol hub, of the New Writers Scheme, launched in September 2022; and finally a brief profile of Channel 4’s other Creative Hub in Glasgow.

Funding Schemes and Beneficiary Company Profiles

1) Indie Growth Fund

A number of Bristol based companies have benefitted from Channel 4’s relocation to Bristol through its three schemes to support and stimulate independent companies to grow and prosper: the Indie Growth Fund, the Emerging Indie Fund and the Accelerator Fund. Two of these schemes were introduced as part of Channel 4’s relocation package, but the Indie Growth Fund was already established – originally launched in 2014. Its purpose is to enable UK indies to grow and develop their business with Channel 4 acting as a ‘strategic partner offering support, guidance and strategic advice to help grow the company towards an ultimate sale’.[4] Channel 4 contends that this fund’s future strategy will be to focus ‘on investing in companies in the Nations and Regions as well as interesting digital and diverse businesses across the UK’.[5] That last phrase is especially noteworthy as Channel 4 has announced its Future4 plan, which ‘builds upon our strong track record of digital innovation and will accelerate Channel 4’s pivot to digital by driving both online viewing and new revenues. It’s an ambitious and comprehensive plan to transform Channel 4 into a digital PSB that retains its distinctive brand and public service impact.’[6] The impact of that ‘pivot’ to Channel 4’s regions and nations strategy is beyond the scope of this project but will certainly revise the ways in which we will need to think about the future relationship between media, including television, and space, place and location.

The Indie Growth Fund is both a way of supporting UK indies, but also a fairly hard-nosed commercial activity. The head of the fund, Caroline Murphy, stated bluntly: ‘we want to make a commercial return on our investments, so we can plough the profits back into the country’s creative sector’.[7] In return for a 25 per cent investment, Channel 4 aims to help ‘young, promising indies across the country to help them take their business to the next stage’.[8] This does not automatically mean that the broadcaster commissions their shows, nor does it preclude companies from seeking commissions from other broadcasters; in fact that is encouraged. Channel 4 withdraws its stake after four to five years with the expectation that the indie will be a viable purchase for another company. To date, two Bristol-based companies have been recipients: Five Mile Films and Uplands Television.

Five Mile Films

Five Mile Films was founded in June 2018 by Nick Mirsky, who had spent six years (2012-18) as Channel 4’s Head of Documentaries after working for the BBC for 23 years.[9] The programmes he commissioned ranged from the popular and repeatable (24 Hours in A&E, First Dates) to the controversial (The Paedophile Hunter, The Romanians Are Coming). Some, including My Son the Jihadi, won awards. Mirsky decided to start an independent company rather than go further up the executive rungs because of his desire to ‘stay close to programmes’. Five Mile Films also has some very experienced senior staff, including Emily Assael as Head of Production and thus a company likely to secure a range of commissions.

Mirsky thought locating outside London would be commercially advantageous – lower overheads, cheaper office accommodation – and would also benefit from the pressure on the public service broadcasters to commission beyond the M25. His choice of Bristol was determined by the talent he knew was available there and its reputation for both the popular factual and high-end documentaries that would form the basis of Five Mile Films’ portfolio. ‘There was significant emigration of production talent [from London] … some to the north but more to Bristol. The first two people I employed had left London two or three years earlier’. From an initial room in Films@59, Five Mile Films moved further up the Whiteladies Road, the traditional centre of Bristol’s screen community. Although Mirsky’s decision predated the choice of Bristol as one of Channel 4’s Creative Hubs – a move that has had little direct effect on Mirsky’s relationship with the broadcaster – he considered that relocation was a clear ‘statement of intent … saying we really mean it’ by Channel 4, an unequivocal commitment to the regions and nations.

In May 2019 Channel 4 acquired a 17.5 per cent share in Five Mile Films rather than the customary 25 per cent but applied the usual commercial reasoning. Murphy commented: ‘Nick has an excellent track record as both a commissioner and programme maker so we’re looking forward to helping him build a creative team who [sic] can produce at scale outside London.’[10] Channel 4’s expectation is that ‘as it grows [Five Mile Films] will specialise in producing innovative cross-genre projects often mixing drama with documentary, popular factual multi-part series as well as authored and observational factual output’.[11] The first commission was The Dog House, a series of eight one hours programmes set in an animal rescue home, focusing on ‘the back stories of the abandoned strays, the unloved family pets, and the unmanageable canines who find their way to the rescue centre. At the same time we learn the stories of the dog seeking prospective owners and the dog shaped holes in their lives that they want to fill.’[12] The series reflects Mirsky’s understanding that the key to success is to make programmes that are ‘distinctive but not over-clever’, the latter being the flaw he perceived in some Channel 4 series that did not last beyond an initial season – ‘get really simple, obvious subjects but make them better than anyone else would make them’. Applying this logic, The Dog House, now in its eighth series, has proved to be very popular. Other Channel 4 commissions include a topical, single observational programme The Pandemic at No. 47 (2021) and The Simple Life (2022), a six-part series asking ‘whether we have made the right choices about how we live our modern, consumer-focussed Western lives’. Guided by ‘world renowned psychologist Barry Schwartz’, the series focuses on 30 British people – selected to represent a diverse range of modern Britain – living the simple life of an Amish community. Murder in the Valleys (2022), a four-part series for Sky, investigates the largest murder mystery in Welsh history. Five Mile’s carefully assembled portfolio looks on course to produce significant growth making the company ripe for acquisition when Channel 4 withdraws its investment in 2023 or 2024.

Uplands Television

Co-sited in Bristol and London, Uplands Television was founded in 2017 by the British-Nigerian historian filmmaker and broadcaster David Olusoga, Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester, and an experienced broadcasting executive, Mike Smith. Uplands Television specialises in making documentaries that focus on challenging aspects of British history, notably imperialism and the deep scar of slavery. These include Statue Wars (2021) for the BBC and One Thousand Years of Slavery (2022) for the Smithsonian Channel, and, for Channel 4, The Battle for Britain’s Heroes (2018), which questioned whether some of the country’s historic heroes deserve their exalted status, and Unremembered – Britain’s Forgotten War (2019), which revealed that thousands of Africans who died on their own continent serving Britain during The First World War were not even given an individual grave. Aired by Channel 4 on Remembrance Day, the film prompted an official apology from the government and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for ‘entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism’.[13]

Uplands Television, which received the Accelerator Fund (see below) in August 2020 and the Growth Fund in February 2021, was thus a known quantity for Channel 4, one which could be expected to deliver high quality, well-crafted programmes that fulfilled the broadcaster’s brief to commission works that widen the scope of public history in both form and content and reach diverse and under-represented audiences. Murphy stated that the fund would enable the company to scale up the range and ambition of its programmes. Olusoga, thought the partnership would help Uplands be ‘an agent of change’, Smith that it would help the company ‘grow and widen its slate’.[14] Olusoga also considered that the Growth Fund has ‘given us development firepower, so we can get all of our ideas out to commissioners’ and connected the company to ‘some of the most significant players in the industry’; Smith commented: ‘Any time we think we’re in the weeds or need strategic advice, we can just pick up the phone and ask for support.’[15]

Channel 4 announced in March this year that it has commissioned Uplands Television to make a ‘revolutionary new history format’ for More4, the Museum of Us, four hour-long programmes presented by Sir Tony Robinson in which ‘ordinary people from one street in towns and cities across the UK have a week to investigate and curate a museum about the history of their “ordinary” residential road’.[16] The format is really not that ‘revolutionary’, clearly indebted to Channel 4’s hugely successful Time Team (1994-2014) and also to Olusoga’s A House Through Time (2018-21) for the BBC, which focused on the history of a single dwelling in an English city, including Bristol. Museum of Us encourages ‘ordinary people’ to dig where they stand, starting with their own personal connections and gathering evidence of the story of their street through time and how this forms part of Britain’s national history. It will again feature Bristol as one of the locations.

The company’s website carries the announcement that Olusoga and Smith have decided to close the company after five years in order that Olusoga can ‘dedicate more of his time to presenting work and the writing of new books’.[17] This is probably not the outcome Channel 4 would either have anticipated or welcomed – it is only 18 months after it invested in the company – but demonstrates that the major decisions rest with the indies themselves and not the broadcaster.

2) The Emerging Indie and Accelerator Funds

Both these funds were introduced as part of the relocation package. The Emerging Indie Fund ‘provides financial assistance to indies for slate development and offers direct access to a Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, and expert advice from a variety of departments within Channel 4 including commercial affairs, legal and ad funded programming’.[18] The Accelerator Fund is a partnership with the TV Collective, a community interest company that promotes diversity within the UK’s screen industries through a variety of ways. The fund offers indies led by minority ethnic talent (at least 25 per cent), with a turnover of less than £5 million and without investment from a multi- or pan-national studio the opportunity to ‘grow their networks, increase their screen business skills, and gain increased access to commissioners and other departments within Channel 4’ and so ‘achieve sustainable growth’. The relevant commissioning editor meets with the indie on a regular basis to discuss their slate, and indies selected can take part in ‘masterclasses, executive coaching, and networking opportunities … We’re looking for new, distinct voices and stories that are aligned with Channel 4’s editorial priorities and Future4 strategy.’[19] Two Bristol-based indies – Angel Eye Media and Honey Bee Media – have benefitted as well as the four profiled below, all of which I interviewed.

Blak Wave[20]

Founded at the end of 2019 by producer-writer-director Michael Jenkins and producer-director Dr Somina ‘Mena’ Fombo, Blak Wave and is one of the few Black-led production companies in the Bristol. It was established with the aim of creating imaginative non-fiction content for broadcasters that reflects the experiences of the Black community and is committed to producing documentaries for television as well as digital platforms or online. It has also branched into fiction filmmaking. Blak Wave has been supported by the BFI, the Arts Council and the BBC as well as Channel 4. Both Fombo and Jenkins were attracted to the idea, however difficult, of running an indie because they felt alienated from a white-dominated industry and disillusioned with mainstream film and television culture. As Jenkins commented in interview:

I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing on TV and was angry at the media because of all the racism and stereotypes. I hated platforms like the BBC, the news – I thought they were the enemy. So I never thought working with the BBC was an option for me. I thought, “they’re never going to give me a voice, and they haven’t got any black people there anyway, so I’ve just got to do it myself.

Fombo went to London initially after graduation from university to try to forge a career in the media but Jenkins has no desire to relocate to London: ‘I don’t have any aspirations to go to London – I want to see what sort of opportunities can be created from here. Now, with BBC and Channel 4 here, I’m thinking, “why do I need to move out of the region? Maybe we can make something work here”’.

Blak Wave has been awarded both Emerging Indie and Accelerator funds from Channel 4. Sacha Mirzoeff commissioned The Shadow of Slavery for Channel 4’s Take Your Knee Off My Neck series, which explored British filmmakers’ response to George Floyd’s killing in May 2020.[21] In the programme, Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees and protestors discuss the impact of toppling the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston on 7 June 2020. Channel 4 also supported Time to Shine, a celebration of black music and culture through the activities of a female DJ.

Drummer TV[22]

Established in 2012 by Tamsin Summers and Rachel Drummond-Hay, Drummer TV is one of the few production companies in the UK owned exclusively by women. Both women are passionate about supporting the local film community, particularly nurturing and helping to develop new talent. They acted as mentors for Fombo and Jenkins as they created Blak Wave. Drummer TV is part of the Cultural Diversity Network, which is committed to promoting accurate and up-to-date information about cultural diversity. Drummer TV has a diverse workforce, 20 per cent of whom are from ethnic minorities and 20 per cent are Deaf or disabled; the company has made several programmes for the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust, including RTS winner I Want to Change the World (2020), Summer in Lockdown, You, Me, Garden, and Where Is the Interpreter, which took the government to task for not providing sign language support for public announcements during the pandemic.

Although long-established, Channel 4 chose to support Drummer TV through the Emerging Indie fund in order to enable the company to progress to making more ambitious documentaries enabling it to make the transition into prime time, mid-evening, broadcasting schedules. Previous documentaries, including the brilliant British Workers Wanted and A Very British Job Agency about the work of job agencies in Bognor in a post-Brexit world, were shown at 10.00 and 11.00 pm respectively.

Indefinite Films

Indefinite Films was established in August 2009 by filmmaker Bruce Goodison and

producer Kate Cook to make scripted programmes. These include the award-winning Leave to Remain (2014) about an Afghan refugee in the UK and Murder in the Car Park (2020), a three-part series for Channel 4 based on a true incident, an element that characterises its productions. Goodison and Cook, who have worked together for over twenty years, are, according to Goodison, ‘naturally drawn to tackling challenging subject matter where our central characters face choices that are authentic, but handled in a way that’s really eye-catching and different … We want to take creative risks with new voices to find the most engaging way to tell true stories.’[23] Indefinite Films is one of only six Bristol-based companies that specialise in scripted content, by far the smallest production genre.[24]

Indefinite Films received support from the Emerging Indie Fund in December 2020, having previously won funding from the BBC’s Small Indie fund.[25] Cook commented: ‘we’re excited to have their backing to take Indefinite Films to the next level with a view to producing more narrative content out of Bristol. There is a strong creative talent pool in the city that is growing all the time, so we’ll be looking to collaborate with that regional talent, as well as looking further afield and overseas. We look forward to taking our slate forward with the support of Channel 4’s drama department.’[26] Part of Indefinite Films’ attractiveness to Channel 4 was the company’s ability to, as Cook put it, ‘bridge the world of documentary and drama’ that could potentially deliver the ‘state of the nation’ stories that are infrequently proposed to the broadcaster. Channel 4’s Head of Drama Caroline Hollick commented: ‘We were really impressed by Indefinite’s bold approach to finding ambitious ideas for drama. This feels like a good time to support the company as they focus on developing some really original ideas that have heaps of potential for Channel 4. They’ve also been very proactive in creating a network for talent in the South West, something that is in line with Channel 4’s ambition to see more from the nations and regions in out content. We look forward to working with them on their drama developments and also in finding talent.’[27] Indefinite Films also has a demonstrable commitment to supporting local talent and voices from under-represented sections of UK society: Cook is a founding partner in Bristol Screen producers, an alliance or collective of experienced producers in the region dedicated to nurturing emerging filmmakers, sharing and raising the profile of local filmmakers and acting as an open door for potential stories.[28] It helps run the BFI’s New Producers Lab for entry-level creatives. Cook commented that there were ‘all these pockets of creative talent doing things but not knowing about each other’. Indefinite Films wishes to continue to be ‘infrastructurally lean’ and is thus hesitant about opening an office in Bristol whilst remaining fully committed to the region.

Cook regards the Emerging Indie Fund as very limited financially but a ‘great relationship builder’, especially with the drama commissioner that was one of the major innovations in Channel 4’s Bristol hub, as discussed in Blog#2. Indefinite Films has benefitted from ‘a direct relationship and talk about ideas’ in which Channel 4 will say quite quickly if an idea interests them or if Indefinite Films should pitch it elsewhere with advice about where to go, encouraging the company not to be wholly dependent on the broadcaster. However, despite its energy and assets and the potential of having a drama commissioner in the city, Indefinite Films continues to struggle because Bristol is still very much a ‘TV city’. Bristol-based drama productions have, since the departure of Casualty in 2011, always suffered from the competition from a better-funded and more welcoming production environment in Cardiff. Designated a Centre of Excellence for drama, the BBC and the Welsh Government invested £20 million in building the Roath Lock Studios and continue to support productions filmed there through providing additional resources. For the BBC, Bristol is a Centre of Excellence for Factual, principally the Natural History Unit, and thus drama is not part of its portfolio for the city. The expansion of the Bottle Yard Studios – three new stages were opened on 4 November at an adjacent site in Whitchurch – is to cope with the increased number of high-end television productions that are attracted to using Bristol rather than to open up spaces for indigenous drama productions that will be, for the foreseeable future, much smaller scale. Thus increasing scripted production in Bristol will take time to grow and offer opportunities for career progression. However, there are hopeful signs: the New Writers Scheme discussed below and the news of a possible Screen Agency funded by the West of England Combined Authority that would administer a drama fund.

Proper Job Films

Launched in 2020, Proper Job Films is a partnership between filmmaker Harvey Lilley and military historian Patrick Bishop intended to ‘create innovative, thought provoking and entertaining content in specialist factual, documentary and drama’.[29] In interview, Lilley considered its core priority to be ‘quality programmes that take you under the skin of something’. Its first commission was The Real Peaky Blinders (2022) a two-part series for the BBC followed by The Falklands War: The Untold Story, a feature-length documentary that offered a revisionist account of the conflict, with senior miliary figures prepared to discuss issues they could not admit to in 1982 that was screened in March this year. The programme attracted a significant audience of around 2 million and plaudits from numerous reviewers: ‘this thorough, rigorous documentary is an exhaustive and engaging account of what happened, by many who were there’.[30]

Lilley describes the company as being run on a ‘guerrilla basis’, working from home and hiring space and freelancers when needed. The importance of the Emerging Indie fund for Proper Job Films was a limited amount of development funding – including research for the Falklands film – that is always the most difficult finance to secure, but perhaps more importantly the direct and supportive relationship with Sacha Mirzoeff as a factual commissioner. Being in receipt of the funding also acts as an advertisement for the company in its search for commissions and thus help to grown the business.

New Writers Scheme

The New Writers scheme was introduced by Channel 4 on 16 May 2022 working alongside its partners, the BFI, Bristol City of Film, the Bottle Yard Studios and UWE.[31] Although part of the broadcaster’s national 4Skills programme, this initiative comes from its Bristol Hub and covers eight counties in the West and South-West, from Cornwall to Hampshire. The scheme is targeted at emerging screenwriters from this region, offering the twelve successful applicants training days, masterclasses (in-person and online) and mentoring designed to build their knowledge of the industry, writing skills and networks to develop and write drama scripts. These must reflect ‘the lived experience of people in the region, with a particular focus on diverse perspectives’. The scheme was launched on 8 September 2022.

The scheme is too recent to be evaluated – which UWE is undertaking – but it is clearly an affirmation that the Bristol Hub is committed to strengthening drama within the region, which aligns with its championing of Indefinite Films and the WECA funding that is in the pipeline. One of the significant aspect of the scheme is that it not only requires the writers to be based in the region but that their dramas also reflect the experiences and perspectives of people living in the region. Location and representation do not always go hand in hand. In Producing British Television Drama: Local Production in a Global Era (2019), Ruth McElroy and Catriona Noonan observe that although the BBC filmed both Dr Who and Sherlock (2010-17) in Roath Lock Studios, neither represents Wales nor speaks to the experiences and identities of those who inhabit that nation. One producer referred to Cardiff as just a convenient production ‘warehouse’.

The Glasgow Hub

Although a full-scale comparison between the two Creative Hubs in Bristol and Glasgow is beyond the scope of this project, I visited the Glasgow hub in July in order to get some sense of the similarities and differences, interviewing Stuart Cosgrove who headed Glasgow bid to host Channel 4 and Jo Street who has become its Head of Hub.

In preparing its bid, Glasgow had received assurances from Edinburgh that it would not submit a rival bid and from Belfast that it support Glasgow’s bid if its own was unsuccessful. Both Belfast and Edinburgh preferred the proximity of a Creative Hub – or headquarters, Glasgow’s bid was for either – in Scotland rather than the north of England. Edinburgh is 75 minutes away by rail or car and Belfast a short flight (23 minutes in the air). Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had assured Channel 4 that the broadcaster would be supported by an independent Scotland, in effect future-proofing Glasgow’s application.

Stuart Cosgrove led a group representing Glasgow’s creative companies, local authorities and regional development bodies and the city’s bid emphasised both direct and indirect economic impacts. The bid was orchestrated carefully to present the ‘granular detail’ Cosgrove thought Channel 4 was looking for as opposed to the corporate rhetoric he considered was the basic flaw in the bids from Birmingham and Manchester. Glasgow’s bid has a number of striking similarities to Bristol’s, centrally Glasgow’s creative credentials, and ‘what we’ll do for you’: a strategic partnership with complementary benefits for both entities.[32] As with Bristol, Glasgow’s application emphasised its contrarian nature, ‘a city that likes to challenge authority and refuses to take itself too seriously … a city alive with attitude, teaming with young people and ignited with an audacious belief in its own creativity’ (p. 5). There was a focus on youth throughout and the creative potential of its 130,000 student population, reflecting Channel 4’s core 16-25 demographic. The bid also made great play of Glasgow’s ethnic diversity, its established Indian and Pakistani communities together with ‘post-asylum’ communities – Iraqis, Sri Lankan Tamils, Somalians and Syrians. Above all, Glasgow showcased itself as ‘one of the UK’s biggest and most diverse production communities … unique in the range and depth of its independent production’ (p. 8). These indies were connected through a number of existing mini-hubs, including those in the old bonded warehouses on the canal and in Film City, characterised as dynamic, thriving networks of which Channel 4 could be part. The bid argued that Glasgow’s creative community was supported by a developed infrastructure: the Glasgow Film Office, Invest Glasgow, the City Innovation District, and was a creative gateway connected to Edinburgh and Dundee’s interactive games development, alongside the opportunities that would come with the imminent opening of BBC Scotland. The Clyde Gateway regeneration programme and the Barrowland and Collegelands regeneration projects were offered as opportunities for Channel 4 to make a important difference to the physical fabric of the city as well as its cultural ecology: ‘relocation here would have a significant social and economic impact’ (p. 37).

However, David Lee et. al. comment, although the bid offered these sites as possible locations for Channel 4’s offices alongside ‘perhaps the most obvious site, the Pacific Quay hub, where there is an existing cluster of media production including the BBC, STV, MG ALBA, and Film City Glasgow’, none of them was chosen.[33] Instead, Channel 4 opted for locating in the old Garment Factory in the Merchant City, an attractive, cool and aspiration area of Glasgow close to the city centre and the central bus and train stations, a choice that closely mirrored that of Finzel’s Reach in Bristol. Channel 4 occupies a single floor of what is a unique, iconic building that has been carefully restored to retain period features as well as a light and modern office accommodation, ‘which reflects Channel 4’s values of innovation, inclusion and creativity’.[34] Rather than take on the burden of helping to regenerate a run-down area, Channel 4 decided on a central location that would afford its staff an attractive and accessible workspace. As in Bristol, the award of a prestigious Creative Hub has been seen as a major economic and cultural asset that the City Council can use as an example of its innovative and future-facing strategy that can harness the dynamism of the creative economy, becoming what Cosgrove termed a ‘victory for the city’s self-image’.

Channel 4’s choice as Head of Hub was Jo Street who had spent twenty-five years working for the BBC, based in Glasgow since 2008 and therefore, like Mirzoeff, was well known to and knowledgeable about the regional creative community, understanding the breadth of regional talent. Her main job is as a commissioner, running the largest department, daytime and features, whose principal purpose is to making popular shows that will endure: ‘returnable, repeatable that’s our big mantra’, with volume commission, usually 20 episodes at a time. Accommodating 16 staff, the Glasgow hub is slightly larger than in Bristol and was able to open slightly earlier, in November 2019. Every level of employment is represented in the Garment Factory office thus announcing that career progression is possible in Channel 4 without needing to go to London.

Street considers that she has a figurehead role as Head of Hub, representing Channel 4 to the wider regional community as well as championing Glasgow and Scotland’s creative community nationally and internationally: ‘to be visible, bang the drum and be a loud voice about Scotland, and what we’re doing and how prolific we are’, showcasing regional-based indies to the rest of the organisation. She is convinced that even in the era of Zoom or Teams meetings, a physical base outside London is extremely important: ‘its about having boots on the ground in places, that’s what matters. It matters to creatives to be able to pop in here and have a meeting and not have to schlep to London. It matters that people who are commissioning programmes are living in places other than London.’ Her Glasgow location affords Street credibility and status within the region, able to collaborate with Screen Scotland and co-operate with other agencies to promote the city-region. Although commissions are based on the quality of the idea rather than production location, Street was able to keep Scottish Indies afloat during the pandemic: ‘they would have got lost had everything come out of London’. Street is connected to the rest of Channel 4 through the nations and regions commissioning group that meets monthly, alternately chaired by her and Mirzoeff, and an out of London leadership group chaired by Sinead Rocks, Head of Nations and Regions. Street considers that the Hub is on course to achieve, over time, its central objectives: to raise the profile of Glasgow and Scotland’s creative talent, to implement national and locally-inflected training schemes, working towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Her presence demonstrates Channel 4’s genuine commitment the nations and regions, enjoying a significant degree of budget autonomy and devolved spend.

This blog has been concerned principally with providing information rather than argumentation. However, what I have tried to research through this project and emphasised throughout these blogs is that the mere fact of moving production out of London does not in itself constitute a commitment to regional creativity and cultural diversity. Relocation is therefore not a solution but part of a wider process. As I see it, the most encouraging aspect of Channel 4’s hubs are that they seem determined to become genuinely embedded, part of their respective region’s cultural and economic fabric.

In the final blog I will report back on my visit to Channel 4’s new headquarters in Leeds and on an event at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol on 3 December, ‘Channel 4 at 40: The TV Revolution and Bristol, which brings together programmes and speakers from the earliest days of Channel 4 (launched on 2 November 1982) and those who are currently in receipt of commissions, including Blak Wave and Proper Job Films, profiled above.


[2] See, inter alia,

[3] For further discussion of the issues around privatisation, I should like to recommend an excellent and wide-ranging blog, ‘Channel 4: Privatising Public Space’, by Professor John Ellis, himself a former television producer whose company, Large Door won numerous Channel 4 commissions:

[4]; my emphasis.

[5] Ibid.

[6] There is a downloadable summary available on this web page.


[8] Ibid.

[9] Most of this profile and all quotations, unless indicated, are taken from my interview with Mirsky on 11 April 2022.

[10], my emphasis.

[11] Ibid.


[13] Ibid.


[15] Ibid.





[20] There is a longer profile in Andrew Spicer, Steve Presence and Agata Frymus, Go West! 2: Bristol’s Film and Television Industries (Bristol: UWE 2022).


[22] For a longer profile see Go West! 2.


[24] See Go West! 2. Watford and Essex is the sixth company, moving to Bristol after Go West! 2 had gone to press.


[26] Close-Up Film, 12 December 2020.




[30] Rebecca Nicolson, Guardian, 27 March, 2022;



[33] David Lee, Katherine Champion & Lisa Kelly (2022), ‘Relocation, relocation, relocation: examining the narratives surrounding the Channel 4 move to regional production hubs, Cultural Trends, 31: 3, pp. 222-239, at p. 227.