Channel 4 Announces Plans for New Headquarters in Leeds

Channel 4 have announced plans for a new national headquarters in Leeds, following a board meeting on 31st October.

The city was unexpectedly chosen ahead of ‘front-runners’ Birmingham and Greater Manchester, both of which were on the shortlist.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street recently came under fire for telling constituents that he “was confident that [Birmingham] would win”, but ultimately Leeds triumphed.

By the end of next year, it is estimated that several hundred members of staff will have been transferred to Leeds. The move comes as an attempt to boost the way the channel reflects life outside of London, although Channel 4 will also keep a headquarters in the capital.

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive of Channel 4, said:

“Locating our national HQ in Leeds enables us to capitalise on a strong and fast-growing independent production sector in cities across the north of England – and also has the potential to unlock growth in the north-east and east of the country, an area without a major presence from other national broadcasters.”

Included with this move will be the establishment of a new TV studio and Channel 4 news bureau; this means that the nightly news programme can also be co-anchored from Leeds.

In addition, Bristol and Glasgow have been chosen to host two smaller ‘creative hubs’, with around 50 staff being relocated to each. This will take the total number of staff moving out of the capital to around 300.

These two new sites, as well as Leeds, will house ‘key creative decision-makers’, including programme commissioners who will have responsibility ‘for some of Channel 4’s biggest shows, and who oversee significant spending’.

The motive behind giving Channel 4 a headquarters in Leeds is to increase the amount the channel spends on programmes outside of London.

Channel 4 aims to increase the total expenditure outside of London by £250 million over the next five years, meaning that half of its programme budget will be spent outside of London by 2023.

Chief executive of Leeds City Council, Tom Riordon, said that the announcement of the move was “the best news”, thanking everyone involved.

Leeds has had a strong association with television over the years. It was the home of ‘Countdown’ for 27 years until 2009, Dewsbury-based ‘Educating Yorkshire’ and ITV’s ‘Emmerdale’, which has been filmed at Leeds studios since it began back in 1972.

Screenwriter Kay Mellor also has a production company based in Leeds and said that Channel 4’s move would be a “game changer.”

“We’ll all be there with open arms to welcome them to our wonderful city!”

She commented: “Leeds is the perfect fit in terms of location and talent and we’ll all be there with open arms to welcome them to our wonderful city.”

Initial government proposals suggested that Channel 4’s entire staff should be moved out of the capital, but it was successfully opposed, with the smaller relocation being decided instead.

Nevertheless, the city will most certainly be welcoming Channel 4 when the move officially takes place in 2019.

Amelia Cutting

Image: [BBC]