Channel 4’s relocation to Leeds reinforces the city’s strength as the centre of the North and the heart of the UK, industry experts have said, as they underline the cultural, social and economic benefits that will “ripple across the region” over the next decade.
The public service broadcaster on Wednesday announced it would open a new national headquarters in Leeds, moving about 200 staff out of London, following a high-profile bidding process that saw the city beat off competition from Greater Manchester and Birmingham.
Leeds chosen as Channel 4's new headquarters location bringing 300 jobs
Over the next five years, bosses at Channel 4 aim to boost the amount it spends on programmes outside of the capital by £250m, with fresh emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
“Potentially, the economic benefits are absolutely huge,” said Dr Beth Johnson, associate professor of film and media at the University of Leeds.
“A Government report two years ago said that a move like this would potentially produce an economic impact of more than £1bn over the next decade across the whole region.”
She said she was delighted to see a significant media organisations commit to the “challenges” facing the industry, surrounding diversity and inclusion, and that the impact of the relocation would “ripple across the region” in the coming years.
Dr Johnson, 38, said: “I think the value is not just economic, but in innovation, digital and culture.
“A move like this is going to essentially attract a lot more production businesses and many more companies innovating around digital technology.”
The university is already creating plans to collaborate with the broadcaster in projects involving its students and award-winning research teams.
Channel 4 Leeds headquarters 'a game changer' - All the reaction as Channel 4 moves to Leeds
Alongside the new national HQ in Leeds, two ‘creative hubs’ will also be formed in Glasgow and Bristol.
Leeds led the bid for the HQ on behalf of the Leeds City Region, which spans from Bradford and Wakefield to York and Harrogate.
Paula Dillon, president at Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said: “Channel 4’s decision emphasises the strength of the city and region and the role of Leeds at the centre of the North and the heart of the UK.
“This decision is hugely significant and reinforces Leeds’s presence on the national stage.”
She said that as the importance placed on culture and diversity increases, Channel 4 “”was clear” that access to the region’s diverse talent pool was a big part of its decision.
“This presents fabulous opportunities to harness the creativity located in our region’s towns and cities,” she added.
“We already have a strong, regional track record in the creative arts but bringing the commissioning powers of Channel 4 along with the additional production companies which will want to locate within its orbit will present opportunities.”
How Leeds won the race to secure Channel 4 and what it means for the city
Academics have also predicted that, in a similar vein to the BBC’s Salford move, it could boost indirect employment by making the city a more attractive home for companies.
Professor Mark Rhodes, head of economics, analytics and international business at Leeds Beckett University, said: “We might expect this to bring significant benefits in terms of employment in the creative and support sectors, often skilled and well-paid jobs.
“When the BBC moved part of its operations to Salford, estimates were that the increase in indirect employment was greater than direct hires and, as Channel 4’s move is accompanied by a commitment to greater regional spend on programming, we might expect the relative effect to be even greater for Leeds.
"Leeds is also likely to become more attractive as a destination for other firms, as a deeper pool of talent develops and the benefits of locating in a regional hub become more apparent."