The government could shelve its plans to privatise Channel 4 if the network moves its head offices to Birmingham.
Whitehall sources have told the Sunday Times that a move to the city by the broadcaster would "make sense for regional regeneration," since England's so-called second city has been "losing out to Manchester."
Ministers have reportedly told Channel 4 that Birmingham is the government's preferred choice if the broadcaster wants to remain public, with the move being funded by the sale of the channel's £100m headquarters in central London.
It was first reported that the channel could be moving its offices out of the capital as part of the government's plan to rebalance the British economy back in September, with both Manchester and Birmingham listed as potential new homes.
While no final decisions have been made, reviews about the move are expected to take several months and will involve the likes of culture secretary Karen Bradley, Channel 4’s chairman Charles Gurassa and its chief executive David Abraham and prime minister Theresa May's joint chief of staff Nick Timothy among others.
Channel 4 is not believed to be keen on the idea of moving outside of London, arguing that it already fulfills its remit to support independent television production beyond the capital.
In a statement released this weekend, the company said: "Channel 4 has recently expanded its bases in Glasgow and Manchester and makes a significant contribution to the creative economy across the UK, commissioning over half of its original programming and spending around £150m annually with producers in the nations and regions, well in excess of Ofcom requirements."
Former culture secretary John Whittingdale was the main cabinet supporter for privatisation, with sources telling the Times there is little appetite for a sell-off that would raise less than £2bn.