Channelling New Opportunities: Channel 4 to Open Headquarters in Leeds

The Great British North-South divide is an oft discussed topic in the UK media. Northern folk are (on average) more likely to die early, be fat, and perform less well in education than their southern counterparts. Understandably, this has left many Yorkshire residents pretty upset at this state of affairs – and a sizeable population of activists and politicians has been harassing the government to get things changed.

With initiatives such as the Tory’s much publicised Northern powerhouse scheme yet to deliver on many promises, as we move into 2019 the onus may be falling on private interests and companies to diversify their operations. And by that, we mean heading up North.

One such company willing to bet on the Yorkshire area is national broadcaster Channel 4. They announced last week that they would be moving 200 of their 800 headquarters staff into a brand-new office in the centre of Leeds. The growing West Yorkshire city beat off competition from the likes of Birmingham and Manchester to win the bid.

The move comes as Channel 4 is attempting to diversify its programme range for audiences outside of London – although sources suggest the government may have had an influence here. Currently, over 65% of 4’s programming budget each year is spent in London. With plans like this in the works, the broadcaster expects that a 50-50% share of programmes will be made inside and outside of London by the end of 2019. That amounts to nearly £250 million worth of investment!

The Yorkshire area has some history with Channel 4 too, making it the logical choice. Way back in 1982, the first presenter to take an hour slot during the channel’s debut week was none other than Yorkshiremen Richard Whiteley. The show itself, Countdown, was then based in Yorkshire for another 29 years – before moving to London in 2009. Educating Yorkshire is also one of the channel’s most successful productions and was filmed in nearby Dewsbury.

Hopefully this new investment will bring similarly top-tier programming into the region.

Sally Johnson, chief executive of investment body and research unit Screen Yorkshire, agrees. ‘Today’s decision will be transformational to the screen industries in the Leeds City Region – and indeed across the North of England,” she said in a press release following announcement of the move.

Channel 4 themselves said Yorkshire local governments, and Leeds Council in particular, had crafted an ‘ambitious strategy’ for the area’s future. On their part they are aiming to “to nurture new talent from diverse backgrounds – in the region and across the UK”.

The new national HQ will host board meetings, a news studio and “key creative decision makers” for the channel. The broadcaster also plans to open creative hubs in Glasgow and Bristol, with around 50 personnel in each. The Leeds base though, will be their biggest centre of operations outside of London. Leeds is a student-heavy city, with a thriving cultural and entertainment sector – so we’re excited to see where developments might head in the future. Things are looking up, up North.