Channel 4 moved to Leeds last year, but its “bold” plans to make the city its new national headquarters they are already in danger.
The government announced last month that Channel 4 will be privatized. only a few months later the public station moved its national headquarters to Leeds in a move that was described as the biggest shake-up in its 39-year history.
During discussions with ministers, Channel 4 put forward bold and ambitious proposals to put Leeds at the forefront of its growth over the next decade. The scheme, titled ‘4: The Next Episode’, would have created more jobs in Yorkshire and an even greater emphasis on working with independent creative industries outside of London.
Speaking about Channel 4’s first year in Leeds, Mahon said: “It’s a joy, because we’re changing what has been pretty much a creative wasteland for television outside of London for decades. It’s starting to make a difference.”
In a drastic step, Channel 4 today made public its proposals for the future. Although plans for ‘4: The Next Episode’ are now unlikely to go ahead due to the government’s decision to privatize the station, Mahon has posted Channel 4’s own alternative take on Leeds to let viewers know what else is on. table.
More jobs in Leeds
Channel 4 initially promised to create 200 jobs in Leeds, but plans were in the works to boost that number even further in the coming years. With the opening of new hubs in Glasgow and Bristol, Channel 4 now employs over 400 staff members outside of London and that number is set to grow further.
“We have grown rapidly in Leeds and Majestic,” said Jonathan Allan, chief operating officer of Channel 4. “We have almost 400 roles outside of London now.
“We proposed as part of the new plan to take that to 600. It would mean that most of Channel 4’s roles would have been outside of London, so it would have made us a truly national broadcaster.”
100 million pounds of investment
Channel 4 says it is committed to “addressing skills shortages across the UK”. One of its main schemes to do so is its 4Skills program, which provides a pathway for underprivileged youth to enter the television industry.
The broadcaster told ministers it wanted to invest a further £100m in its 4Skills center in Leeds to “recharge” the programme.
“These changes could have a huge impact on the television landscape,” Mahon said.
‘Dramatic Expansion’ in Leeds
While much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the new Channel 4 News studio in Leeds, the digital content team is a much bigger part of the station’s new team in Leeds. Plans for 4: The Next Episode would have seen bosses “dramatically expand” 4Studio to strengthen its relationship with younger audiences and target misinformation. This would have created up to 200 jobs in Leeds by 2024.
A boost for Yorkshire Independents
Virtually all of Channel 4’s content comes from independent firms. The move to Leeds was music to the ears of dozens of local creative industries who were desperate to work with the national broadcaster.
Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, was one of the strongest supporters of Channel 4’s alternative plans. She said: “Channel 4’s new national headquarters in Leeds sends a very important message – that you can make a career from here, and particularly for the more economically disadvantaged parts of Yorkshire, that’s a game changer.”
However, experts have warned that Canal 4’s privatization will be “a big blow” to the entire industry. Matt Richards, managing director of Leeds-based production company Air TV, said: “There has been a huge commitment from Channel 4 to step it up a notch in recent years and that is now in jeopardy.”