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Channel 4 chooses Leeds for new HQ

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Channel 4 logo and Leeds Corn Exchange

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Peter Chan/Alamy Stock Photo

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Channel 4 said Leeds put forward an “ambitious strategy”

Channel 4 will set up a new national HQ in Leeds in an attempt to boost the way it reflects life outside London.

The broadcaster will keep another headquarters in the capital, but will move roughly 200 of its 800 staff to the West Yorkshire city.

Leeds was chosen above Birmingham and Greater Manchester, which were also on the shortlist.

The channel has also announced it will open “creative hubs” in Bristol and Glasgow, with around 50 staff in each.

It’s all part of a plan to increase the amount Channel 4 spends on programmes outside London by £250m over the next five years.

That means half of its programme budget will be spent outside the capital by 2023, up from 35% currently.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said it was “the best news”.

All three new sites 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 spend”.

The new national HQ will regularly host executive and board meetings, and will be home to a “digital creative unit” to make material for online platforms and social media.

Channel 4 News will also open three new bureaux outside London, including one in Leeds.

Leeds on the small screen

  • The city was the home of Channel 4’s Countdown for 27 years until 2009
  • Other C4 shows made in the region include Educating Yorkshire (in nearby Dewsbury) and the Red Riding trilogy
  • Over on ITV, the city has been home to Emmerdale since the soap began in 1972
  • Screenwriter Kay Mellor’s production company is based there, and she has set dramas including Fat Friends, The Syndicate and Love, Lies and Records in her home city

Mellor said the move was a “game changer” that would put the city “firmly on the media map”.

She said: “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.

Channel 4 said Leeds put forward an “ambitious strategy” to support growth in the creative industries and “to nurture new talent from diverse backgrounds – in the region and across the UK”.

‘Transformational’

Chief executive Alex Mahon 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.”

Annie Lydford, from the Creative Industries Federation, told BBC News that Leeds was already full of “incredible” creative organisations and that this move would build on that.

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Mellor said Leeds was “the perfect fit” for Channel 4

“The move of Channel 4 outside London to Leeds is a really exciting opportunity for the area and is likely to have a really positive impact on the creative industries in that area, but also on the region more generally as well,” she said.

Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, said the move would be “transformational” for the TV industry in the city and the north of England.

Government pressure

The move has come about after pressure from the government to boost the publicly-owned broadcaster’s presence outside London.

The Conservative Party put a relocation in its 2017 general election manifesto, and pushed for a full move.

But Channel 4 chairman Charles Gurassa warned that a full or substantial relocation would cause “significant difficulties and problems”.

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The broadcaster will keep its London HQ on Horseferry Road

It has now settled on a compromise that will send almost 40% of jobs out of the capital.

After Wednesday’s announcement, culture secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The government made clear that Channel 4 needed to do more to increase its presence in the regions to help better reflect and provide for UK audiences outside of London.

“Congratulations to Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow, and I look forward to Channel 4 taking further steps to increase its impact around the UK in the years ahead.”

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