Leeds Will Soon be ‘Reflected On Screen Very Quickly’, Channel 4 says

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Channel 4 have made the exciting decision to make Leeds the location of its new base, selecting the vibrant city over both Birmingham and Manchester.

Whilst both smaller in size and less notorious for digital production than its contenders, Channel 4’s managing director for nations and regions Sinead Rocks stated that “Leeds took the top spot because it had a very young population and a very diverse population – both things that we want to try to tap into”.

Around 250 jobs will be brought to the area, potentially leading to a host of benefits for local industry, and greater coverage of regional issues. Ms. Rocks commented that “We absolutely want our move out of London to be reflected on screen”, saying  “a daily show will be coming to Leeds from 2020.” 

Channel 4 have made their vow to be more representative of the breadth of the nation remarkably clear, mocking their own London concentrated foundations by plastering a banner reading “Didn’t think Channel 4 knew there was life outside the M25” over their new National Headquarters. 

The broadcasting giant’s new office will be located in the club that inspired The Kaiser Chiefs song ‘I Predict A Riot’ and will be fully operational from 2020. Though this exciting relocation has sparked a bustle of new activity in the city’s TV and film industry, it was far from stagnant to begin with. 

Yorkshire is already the original home of many British TV treasures including Emmerdale, Countdown and Jimmy’s Fat Friends, as Ms Rocks appreciated, stating that “There’s a very healthy digital creativity sector here. There’s also a reasonably strong independent production community here, and one that we think could actually grow further.”

Indeed, earlier this year, Channel 4 held an event to showcase Yorkshire’s creative businesses, pledging to “work more closely with regional organisations, businesses and indies and seek out new, untapped talent.” They have begun selecting from a plethora of applicants to fill their new positions, which vary from social media content creators to cleaners.

Whilst jobs in the media industry have previously been heavily London-centred, this move promises to bring new opportunities to the city of Leeds.

“The very fact that Channel 4 is here means our students don’t necessarily have to leave Leeds to get a job in the media,”

“It’s a growing industry here in Leeds, right on our doorstep. We won’t get that talent drain that we’ve experienced such a lot.”

Kay Mellor

The move was finalised 15 months after the Government told Channel 4 it must move out of London in its 2017 General Election manifesto pledge. It also follows the BBC’s relocation to Manchester, marking a metaphorical devolution of broadcasting opportunities from London to other regions in the UK. 

Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon (pictured centre) as the broadcaster opened its new office in Leeds last week. (Source: Channel 4)

Though many see this as an exciting rejuvenation for Channel 4, not everyone is happy with the move to Leeds.

One report claimed up to 90 per cent of staff were considering resigning instead of moving from London to Yorkshire.

One member of staff told the Radio Times: “Times are tough and it’s a war out there with Netflix and Amazon moving in. And in a war you don’t split your troops up in the face of the enemy.”  The broadcaster has also said that there will be no Channel 4 executives moving to Leeds as part of its relocation.

However, despite the inevitable difficulties caused by the upheaval, the Channel 4 boss looked on the bright side: “The great thing about that is that it makes lots of jobs available.”

It is an exciting time for the media industry in Leeds, with around 250 jobs being brought to the area. Kay Mellor commented that “It’s amazing that these things are happening. We are playing Manchester at their own game, and bigger and better.”

Channel 4’s new National HQ will be ready in 2020. We will have to wait to see whether their new home will influence them as much as it influenced the Kaiser Chiefs’ music.

Amy Ramswell

Main image: The Drum