Channel 4 Relocation — [Sir Graham Brady in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:42 pm on 10th May 2018.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 3:42 pm, 10th May 2018

Thank you for your robust chairmanship and discipline so far in ensuring a geographical spread of speakers, Sir Graham. I congratulate my Glaswegian colleague and friend, Stewart Malcolm McDonald, on bringing the debate. He made a marvellous, erudite case for Glasgow, which I hope to embellish on somewhat.

When considering Channel 4’s new “Location, Location, Location”, where better than where that magnificent programme, which is a great standard bearer for Channel 4’s publishing capability, is produced—in Glasgow? It is an independent production by IWC Media and is one example of the great pedigree that Glasgow already has in broadcast media. Where better for Channel 4 to relocate than Glasgow?

Glasgow’s relationship with public service broadcasting goes back to the very father of public service broadcasting, John Reith, who was educated in Glasgow and cut his teeth as an apprentice at the North British Locomotive Company in my constituency before traveling to London to set up the BBC in 1922. Glasgow’s relationship with the spirit of public service broadcasting is as old as public service broadcasting itself, and is embellished both by the grit of the city’s industries and the glamour of its creative capacity.

Bound up in the spirit of Channel 4 is its ability to take risks and to be radical. Who was more radical than John Logie Baird himself, one of the pioneers of television, who pioneered his craft at what became the University of Strathclyde and transmitted the world’s first long-distance television pictures to Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel in 1927?

Glasgow today hosts two of the main broadcasters in the United Kingdom, including the ITV franchise Scottish Television, which started in 1957 and was born out of Glasgow’s music hall and theatre tradition, based at the Theatre Royal in the city. That tradition continues today. Think of “Mrs Brown’s Boys”, one of the greatest productions on the BBC and one of its greatest comedy shows. It was born out of the risk taken by Iain Gordon, the proprietor of the Pavilion Theatre—the only independent theatre in Scotland—in bringing the stage show to Glasgow. As a result, it spun off and had such roaring success that it became an amazing BBC production. That shows the risks taken by our city’s cultural champions at every level, from theatre through to broadcast media itself.

BBC Scotland, the mainstay of Glasgow’s broadcast media capability—launched formally in 1968 but based in the city since 1957—broadcasts 15,000 hours of radio and television productions per year. That is one of the striking things about Glasgow’s capacity: its broadcast media production capability. When I went down to Channel 4 last month, when it launched its call for places in the UK to bid for the relocation of its headquarters, one thing that struck me about its building in Victoria was that it has no studios: Channel 4 does not produce, it is a publisher. Critical to Channel 4’s criteria for its location is its desire to be at the centre of a major hub and a major ecosystem of production capability.

That is where Glasgow has great strengths. It is already at the centre of an unrivalled capacity for delivering broadcast media production, ranging from massive global hits such as “Outlander”, which is filmed and produced at studios in Cumbernauld in the greater Glasgow city region, through to “Question Time”, which I am sure many Members are familiar with and which is produced by Mentorn Media, based in Glasgow. An old university colleague is an assistant producer on “Question Time”; I know many people who are highly involved in broadcast media production in Glasgow. There is a great talent base in the city to draw on.