Channel 4 is being warned by the Government to relocate out of London – or face legislation forcing a move.
The state-backed broadcaster, which has its HQ in Westminster, is under fresh political pressure to shift its staff and offices to either Birmingham, Manchester or Bristol.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is stepping up her demands, warning privately that the station has until the New Year to “get on board”.
Ministers have been taken aback by the reluctance of some at the channel to move the network out of London.
Channel 4 has argued that relocating outside the capital could be “highly damaging” if its entire operations were shifted far away from many of the independent TV firms and advertisers with which it does business.
Former chief executive David Abraham even claimed the move would “destroy” the channel, which was created in 1982.
Bradley is expected to hold last-ditch talks before Christmas with Alex Mahon, the new chief executive, in the hope of getting a more positive response.
A Whitehall source told HuffPost UK: “It is just very well-paid TV people who seem to be horrified at the idea of living anywhere apart from London. If they don’t come round to it, we will look at changing the law.”
With little Parliamentary time for new legislation, ministers are understood to have identified a private members bill being taken through parliament by Tory MP Jack Brereton which could be used as a vehicle to force the law change through.
Brereton told the Commons earlier this year: “Channel 4 could have a significant transformative impact on a new location, with the potential to anchor wider regeneration and deliver jobs over and above those which move out of the capital.”
His private members’ bill is due to have its second reading in October 2018.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We are proud of our leadership on diversity and the substantial contribution we make to the Nations and Regions and we want to grow this further and give even greater support to creative talent across the UK.
“We are working closely with Government to ensure we support the important principles of regional representation and deliver our remit.”
Sources at the broadcaster said that meetings had been taking place at the highest level between it and Whitehall to find a solution acceptable to both.