How Channel 4 coming to Leeds is already proving a game changer for the region - Mark Casci

Alex Mahon and Sinead Rocks outside of Channel 4's new home
Alex Mahon and Sinead Rocks outside of Channel 4's new home
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It is difficult to believe that it is almost an entire year since Leeds was picked to be the new home of Channel 4.

The landmark decision that the broadcaster would relocate its headquarters to Leeds represented a major win for the region as a whole.

Celebrating the winning bid

Celebrating the winning bid

Channel 4 officially began relocating its staff to Leeds last week and more than 100 people are expected to be working at its temporary home in West Gate by the end of the year.

At the launch event last week I allowed myself a rueful smile of vindication at the comments of Leeds City Council leader, Judith Blake.

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Without betraying confidences Judith was relating the story of how representatives from rival bid cities had informed her in no uncertain terms that Channel 4 would in all likelihood not be picking her city for its new home.

Well, in the words of the great Gore Vidal, the most satisfying phrase in the English language is “I told you so”.

Still from one of the BIG pitch videos

Still from one of the BIG pitch videos

Around 250 Channel 4 jobs will be based in the city ahead of a move to the Majestic building in 2020 Already we had learned the news that it will also be co-anchoring its Channel 4 news programme from Leeds but that is not all.

A new daily show fronted by Steph McGovern will be broadcast live from Leeds, shining an ever brightening spotlight on the city.
The knock-on effect though comes not only from Leeds being on the television more often.

It is already a major player in business, cultural and sporting terms.

To say “this will put Leeds on the map” would neglect to understand that the city is already well and truly on there.

The Leeds team behind the bid

The Leeds team behind the bid

The real benefit will be to the cultural soul of both Leeds and Channel 4.

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The Majestic will house a range of creative, digital and technology departments and will be the home to programme commissioners across a range of genres including comedy, daytime, entertainment, E4, popular factual and sport including Head of Drama, Caroline Hollick and Head of Sport, Pete Andrews.

Its Digital Creative Unit, a new in-house digital agency commissioning and producing content for social and digital platforms, will also be based in Leeds.

They will be joined by staff from the creative diversity teams, the Indie Growth Fund, the pictures team and members of teams supporting All 4, finance, business affairs, press and corporate relations, audience research and insight, human resources, data science, information and archives and workspace.

Channel 4's new home

Channel 4's new home

By 2023, the broadcaster wants to have 50 per cent of its commissioning money to be spent outside of the capital. Leeds will be absolutely at the heart of this and it will ripple out throughout the wider economy.

And then there is the social benefit, and this is the area that really matters for us all.

Up until recently, if you wished to get into the world of broadcasting you almost certainly had to be based in London. That is not to say there were not opportunities in the North, that would be a disservice to the work that the BBC’s operations at Media City has afforded, as it would be to the likes of superb production firms such as True North.

Now the chance to produce great quality film and programming exists in our region.

Young people from Doncaster, Scarborough or Cleckheaton can grasp these far closer to home.

And with that comes a range of voices, life experiences and accents which do not always get the exposure via broadcast media.

The world of media is now a potentially massive growth area for Yorkshire.

Since the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime came along good quality programming has access to a worldwide audience in the millions.

The creative talent and output will be supported by a wider economy of advisers, lawyers and financial experts, all of which we have in spades in the region.

We may be just starting to see Channel 4 work in Leeds but, one year on from the announcement, the potential benefits seem to grow with each passing day.

Game changer is an overused cliché but in this case, it is entirely apt.