Channel 4 chooses Leeds as new national headquarters

City beats Manchester and Birmingham to house base outside London

Leeds has unexpectedly been chosen as the new regional base for Channel 4, beating rival bids from Birmingham and Greater Manchester.

The decision follows a fierce competition over the location for the broadcaster’s new outpost. About 200 staff will relocate to the city from the London headquarters by the end of next year. The move will also include the establishment of a new TV studio and Channel 4 News bureau, enabling the nightly news programme to be co-anchored from West Yorkshire.

The decision was made after a meeting of the Channel 4 board on Wednesday, with the competing cities kept in the dark until the announcement was made.

Candidates for Channel 4’s regional base – which the broadcaster is calling its national headquarters – were required to have a population of more than 200,000, a travel time to London of less than three hours and high-quality physical and digital infrastructure.

Birmingham and Greater Manchester had been seen as the frontrunners on the shortlist of three, with the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, repeatedly saying he was confident of winning the contest and Greater Manchester able to point to the growing media industry centred on the BBC and ITV’s presence in Salford Quays.

However, it was the West Yorkshire city that ultimately triumphed. “Leeds put forward a compelling and ambitious strategy for how they could work alongside Channel 4 to further build the strong independent production sector in the city and develop new diverse talent from across the region,” said the Channel 4 chief executive, Alex Mahon.

The broadcaster also announced that Bristol and Glasgow had been chosen to house two smaller creative hubs, with Cardiff missing out. This will take the total number of Channel 4 workers moving out of London to about 300.

The majority of staff, including Mahon, will remain in the capital but the chief executive said she expected to spend a significant proportion of her time in Yorkshire and the other regional bases.

She said the decision to choose Leeds was influenced by the ability to establish a presence close to independent production companies in Yorkshire and the north-east, which were underserved by other broadcasters.

Mahon said: “It’s a vibrant and growing city. It has a really, really strong production sector … they were very strong in terms of their partnerships and they have a diverse community across the Leeds-Bradford region.”

Channel 4’s current headquarters on Horseferry Road, south-west London
Channel 4’s current headquarters on Horseferry Road, south-west London. About 200 staff will relocate to Leeds. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

She accepted that the move would be a big change for staff but said it would allow Channel 4 to live up to its mission of diversity and inclusion.

She said the broadcaster, which does not make its own programmes and instead commissions shows from external production companies, would ultimately benefit from being more in touch with the rest of the UK population and therefore become more creatively and commercially successful.

Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds city council, said: “Together with Bradford, we have one of the youngest and fastest-growing labour markets in the UK. 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.”

The relocation comes after Channel 4 successfully fought against government proposals to privatise it and move its entire staff out of the capital. Although the channel is commercially funded, it is owned by the government, giving it a unique place in the British broadcasting environment.

It faces many of the same issues as other public service broadcasters, including competition from streaming services, although it is celebrating after 7.5 million viewers tuned in for Tuesday night’s final of The Great British Bake Off.

Contributor

Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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