Mark Casci: Why Yorkshire is by far the best place for Channel 4

Sheffield, Leeds and Hull are bidding to become the HQ of Channel 4.
Sheffield, Leeds and Hull are bidding to become the HQ of Channel 4.
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Yorkshire has a proud history in many industries, not least of that of the small screen.

The first ever motion picture happened in this county, when in 1888 a film was made of traffic crossing Leeds Bridge.

Will Channel 4 relocate to Leeds City Region?

Will Channel 4 relocate to Leeds City Region?

In the coming decades the likes of Yorkshire Television would become part of everyday life for thousands of British people with its programme making.

More recently, box office smashes such as The King’s Speech, The Full Monty, Atonement, Kes and The Damned United have all been filmed either in full or in part around the region, while great organisations like Screen Yorkshire have allowed television masterpieces such as Victoria to be produced here.

Channel 4 is to become the latest broadcaster to move its operations out of London.

In a move as weighty as it has made in its more than three decades of existence, its national headquarters – along with hundreds of jobs – will leave the capital and seek a new home elsewhere.

An artist's impression of the Channel 4 building in Sheaf Square outside Sheffield train station

An artist's impression of the Channel 4 building in Sheaf Square outside Sheffield train station

Any move to decentralise our ever-increasingly centralised media is worthy of support in my book.

But the Channel 4 relocation poses a historic opportunity for Yorkshire, with three of our cities – Hull, Sheffield and Leeds – all in the running to be selected.

It will come as no surprise to readers to hear that The Yorkshire Post’s business editor thinks that investment into the region of this sort of magnitude is a good idea.

As well as bringing influential and skilled roles into Yorkshire, the knock-on effect of having the broadcaster in our part of the world would be huge for supply chain industries and, more importantly, for its profile.

Decision makers should look at the following factors when making their selection.

Firstly, whether it is Sheffield, Hull or Leeds, the locations of the cities are ideal, being based in the middle of the county. All three have good transport links to London and onwards to Scotland.

Secondly, all have the benefit of offering quality of life benefits and lower overhead costs than most of the other declared suitors. Yorkshire’s countryside, affordable housing and first-class cultural offering are a force to be reckoned with.

Thirdly, the support network in terms of financial and professional services in Yorkshire is on a par with London. All of the big players are here.

Fourthly, Sheffield and Leeds in particular, are extremely digitally advanced cities, well-equipped in terms of their infrastructure and abilities to innovate. Alongside their first class universities, Yorkshire cities can deliver the recruitment needs that Channel 4 will have.

Lastly, Yorkshire perhaps more than anywhere has something which broadcasting and media generally so desperately needs.

The lack of diversity in the industry is one which has been in the spotlight greatly in recent years, with the high preponderance of individuals from white and upper-class background calling the shots highlighted on an ever more frequent basis.

Sheffield, Leeds and Hull can provide a solution to this problem in that their populations are among the most diverse in the country.

Leeds, with its proximity to Bradford – home to one of the nation’s youngest and most ethnically diverse ethnic make-ups – is perhaps best placed to assist with this.

Indeed, planning firm Barton Willmore recently cited Leeds as one of the best equipped places in the country to deliver on the relocation.

Cynics will point towards Manchester already having an advanced broadcasting hub with Media City but to me that looks like a saturated market.

Moreover, Yorkshire has a proven track-record of delivering the goods on the grandest of stages. Hull took the cudgels of City of Culture and produced a programme of events to be proud of. The success of Tour de Yorkshire meanwhile shows that more widely, the region has what it takes to be a major player.

In terms of which of our cities gets it, I am ambivalent. But with the appropriate support Yorkshire could be set for another exciting chapter in its broadcasting history.