Channel 4 hopes to be ‘catalyst’ for creative industries growth following Leeds move, says agency principal Ewan Douglas

National broadcaster Channel 4 hopes to act as a ‘catalyst’ for more jobs in Yorkshire’s creative sector when the organisation moves its headquarters to Leeds next year.

Ewan Douglas, agency principal at Channel 4, told The Yorkshire Post that the broadcaster’s move will be “transformative” for the city.

Mr Douglas, who was speaking at the Visual Media Conference in Leeds, said: “The greatest benefit to Leeds is we hope to act as a catalyst for the creative sector in the city and the broader region and in turn to support more jobs in the production sector.

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“Maybe give people who thought that a career in broadcast was unattainable the idea that it absolutely is attainable and you don’t have to go to London to work for a big broadcaster or to work in the creative sector. You can do it in the North.”

Winning bid: The bid team to bring Channel 4 to Leeds celebrates. Ewan Douglas said the coherent bid was a key factor in broadcasters decision to move to the city. Picture: Simon Hulme

The “coherent” bid put forward by Leeds to house the broadcaster was a major factor in the decision to relocate there, Mr Douglas said.

“I’m delighted that our national HQ is coming to Leeds and we’re all very excited by it,” he added.

One of the biggest challenges of the move for Channel 4 is the upheaval that staff in London are facing, Mr Douglas said.

“While we fundamentally agree that it’s absolutely the right thing to do, there’s a real human element to it on that level,” he said. “The challenge is supporting the fantastic people at Channel 4 through that.”

Ewan Douglas, agency principal at Channel 4, talking at the Visual Media Conference in Leeds.

The broadcaster will begin moving operations into Leeds next year with the new headquarters and studio expected to be fully operational by 2023.

It will shift 200 of its 800 staff to the city.

Channel 4 is expected to move into the site of the former Majestic nightclub. Mr Douglas confirmed that the organisation is at the final stage of negotiations on the site.

The move will provide the broadcaster with a “better balance of geographical diversity”, says Mr Douglas, “and reflecting that in our output is really exciting for us”.

Robert McClements, right, president of CDI, said the Visual Media Conference has international appeal.

Channel 4 is looking to increase the diversity of supply from production companies and production partners.

He said: “We hope that is reflected in stories from this region, which otherwise wouldn’t get told being told.”

In his role, Mr Douglas leads Channel 4’s Nations and Regions commercial business based in Manchester, working with advertisers, agencies and producers across the country.

As well as reflecting the regions better in its editorial output, Mr Douglas believes that it will also bring the broadcaster closer to advertisers in the region.

He said: “We have grown our outside of London advertising business. It’s been the fastest growing part of our advertising business over the past five years.

“Having a national HQ gives us the opportunity and platform to continue to work even more closely with advertisers in this region.

“Having a base here will allow us to welcome people in and allow them to get closer to what we’re doing.”

Moving to Leeds is unlikely to hinder Channel 4’s relationships with global brands, according to Mr Douglas.

“For global brands, whether you’re in London, Leeds, Glasgow or Manchester tends to mean little to them,” he said, “and Leeds has got a great reputation, a growing reputation and it would be great to promote that message to those global brands.”

Despite moving the HQ out of London, the capital still remains the “world centre for TV production and advertising”, says Mr Douglas.

He added that it is still a “hugely important” part of Channel 4.

Visual Media Conference lights up

The Visual Media Conference was organised by Creative Digital Industries (CDI). Robert McClements, president of CDI, said this year’s event was “bigger and better” than ever.

“The excitement in the region around creative and digital industries, which we’ve been leading, now feels like the groundswell is wrapping itself around us,” he added.

Mr McClements said the event, now in its sixth year, attracted international interest with the heads of print and communication federations from eight different countries attending. “Plans for next year are already beginning to be put in place,” he added.