How Leeds won the race to secure Channel 4 and what it means for the city

When the road to bring Channel 4 to Leeds began in April the city was throwing its hat in the ring with the 30 other suitors.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 1st November 2018, 11:49 am
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 5:23 pm

However, following a rigorous selection process Leeds has now been named as the new home for Channel 4, with the added bonus of a new broadcasting hub bringing a televisual presence to the city not seen since the heady days of Yorkshire Television.

The headline figures were celebrated throughout the city. With three hundred new jobs, with many more in the supply chain will be coming to Leeds, there is a clear economic benefit.

But, for some of those behind the bid process, the benefit for Leeds goes far deeper than money.

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Sally Joynson, chief executive, Screen Yorkshire, told the YEP: “There has been a lot of talk about the challenges of having media consistently consolidated on the west side of the UK.

“To not have a significant national broadcasting presence on the east side has not helped growth.

“But now we have got Channel 4 with us and that is just such a catalyst for future growth.

“Now it is about working with Channel 4 and the specifics of the bid to try and deliver on this but fundamentally it is about jobs, economic impact, cultural benefit and representation on screen and opportunities for the fantastic diverse talent that is on offer in Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and across the whole of Yorkshire.”

The bid team celebrate Channel 4 coming to Leeds...31st October 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Andrew Sheldon, creative director with True North, who has worked with Channel 4 as part of his role, said the impact would be keenly felt by future generations.

“A big organisation like Channel 4 makes a massive difference,” he said.

“The television sector is going to benefit but also the city as a whole is going to benefit. Having Channel 4 in your backyard is a great thing. Twenty years ago Harvey Nichols came to Leeds and everybody all overt he country talked about it, that says something about Leeds.

“Channel 4 will have a similar effect in this sense.

30 May 2018...... The city of Leeds shortlisted foir the new HQ for Channel 4. Sally Joynson (Screen Yorkshire) Suman Hanif (film maker), Roger marsh (chair Leeds City Region), Dave-O (musical artist), Andrew Sheldon (True North). Picture Tony Johnson.

“As an industry it is dominated by white middle class people. I think as a result of this in 10, 15 and 20 years there will be kids from Leeds who get a chance to get into the television industry who would not otherwise have had the opportunity.

“Television is an industry that runs on six week contracts. If you are from a working class background and don’t have parents who have support you will no chance of ever getting going in that industry. But having this kind of opportunity and the companies that will sit around that, means that they can build a career in Leeds without having to move to London.”

The first-round pitch process was launched in April, with more than 30 submissions entered.

The second stage process involved Channel 4 visiting each of the 13 shortlisted cities and regions for a presentation and discussion before they were whittled down to the final six.

A general view of Channel 4's current headquarters on Horseferry Road, London. Leeds has been chosen as the location for the channel's new national headquarters, while Bristol and Glasgow will host new creative hubs. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 31, 2018. The move will be part of the biggest change to the structure of the channel in its 35-year history, even though it will keep its base on Horseferry Road in London. See PA story MEDIA Channel4. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

In the end Channel 4’s board backed Leeds unanimously.

When asked why Leeds had been given the nod by the board, Mr Sheldon said: “We had a really clear story from the start.

“Channel 4 is not like any other broadcaster. They are the cool broadcaster in the UK and they don’t just want to add to something that is already there. They want to go somewhere and own the story.

“We always thought they could be transformative to the television sector in this part of the world.”

For Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, the city had laid out a clear case to the broadcaster.

She said: “Leeds offers a home in the heart of the UK and the north, with strong links to screen, and a constantly evolving creative sector with huge ambitions to be even greater in the next few years and beyond.

the bid team celebrate Channel 4 coming to Leeds...31st October 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

“Together with Bradford we have one of the youngest and fastest growing labour markets in the UK, and the news of Channel 4 choosing Leeds will have a very positive impact on these generations, and is a real triumph for the city and wider region.

“With no other major broadcaster in the North East, this news is very welcome and will allow us to shine a light and really cement the world-class work in film and TV that is taking place in Yorkshire and the wider north.”

The focus now turns to next steps.

Channel 4 will begin the process of relocating to Leeds next year with the new headquarters and studio expected to be fully operational by 2023.

It will be joined by creative hubs in both Bristol and Glasgow.

Following the announcement of the new locations, 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.”