Channel 4 pressing ahead with move to Majestic in Leeds but delays are possible

Channel 4 today outlined a number of measures it would be taking to ensure that it can "successfully navigate" the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak - and reiterated its commitment to operations in Yorkshire.

Though publicly-owned and run as a non-profit organisation which invests its available income into commissioning content, Channel 4 is entirely commercially funded, the vast majority of which is from television and digital advertising.

In response to how the virus outbreak will affect future operations in Leeds, a spokesman said: "We're still committed to moving into the Majestic though the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted construction timetables and there may be some delay to our target date for moving in."

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Announced in 2019, the bradcaster was set to move into the former nightclub by City Square later this year while operations are currently handled at West Gate.

Channel 4 is moving into the Majestic in Leeds. Picture: James Hardsity.

The channel's content budget for this year is expected to drop by £150m, meaning show's will be delayed or cancelled.

It is not yet clear how this will affect shows made in Yorkshire, though millions of pounds have been ringfenced for content produced in the 'nations and regions' outside London.

Channel 4 said the "unprecedented impact" of this crisis on the worldwide and UK economy has had a severe effect on the demand for advertising in the UK – with the TV advertising market set to be down in excess of 50 per cent over April and May, and "limited future visibility".

As a consequence, all of its executive and non-executive board members have taken an immediate voluntary 20 per cent pay cut and directors will not receive any bonus pay in 2020.

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However it will aim to support for the creative sector by continuing to commission and develop content for 2020 and 2021 with ringfenced funding for smaller, Black and Minorty Ethnic-led (BAME) and nations and regions independent producers.

Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s CEO said: “Over the last few weeks Channel 4 has demonstrated the importance of its role as we have helped navigate our audience, particularly young and hard to reach viewers, through these challenging times – with record viewing figures for Channel 4 News including over 200 million views to our news content on social media, and our ‘Stay at Home’ on-screengraphic reaching almost two thirds of the UK population.

“However, as a commercially funded business the Covid-19 outbreak has had a severe impact on our advertising revenues and so we are taking action now to manage our costs appropriately and ensure that we both protect our staff and our ongoing ability to serve our audience.

“We know that these are exceptionally challenging times for everyone in the UK, particularly many of the producers, talent and freelancers we work with across the television and creative industries and we are committed to safeguarding our long-term ability to invest in distinctive and challenging content and create jobs and opportunities in the sector across the UK.”

A further £95m of savings will be achieved across the organisation through a full review of planned projects and investments, including a reduction in marketing budgets, said the broadcaster.

There will be a full recruitment freeze for" all but business critical roles" and a review of all third-party costs.

Additionally, it will participate in the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and today will be opening discussions on furloughing with around 10 per cent of Channel 4 staff.

Ian Katz, Channel 4’s director of programmes, said that over £10millon is being spent on shows capturing the impact of the pandemic itself, helping viewers through lockdown and keeping them entertained.

At least 50 per cent of this spend will be committed to small, 'nations and regions'or BAME-led production companies, says the channel.

A Day in a Life of Coronavirus, a chronicle of 24 hours in the UK under lockdown made by Leeds-based Candour Productions - formerly called True Vision Yorkshire - is already streaming on All4 after being commissioned following the outbreak.

To support the independent production sector, the channel will also ringfence £3million of development funding across 2020, and again, at least 50 of this this will be prioritiseded for small, 'nations and regions' and BAME-led producers.

In order to provide "additional liquidity and working capital through this unprecedented economic period", the channel will make use of a ommercial £75m revolving credit facility (RCF) that has been in place since 2018.

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