CHANNEL 4 is about to make a decision that its own executives have described as marking the biggest change in its 35-year history.
In the coming months, the broadcaster will choose the location of its new national headquarters, a decision which will bring with it tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits. We are determined to persuade Channel 4 that the Leeds City Region should be that location.
We have just submitted our compelling proposal to Channel 4 in the first stage of the formal bidding process. At its heart is a message of mutual opportunity for the organisation, for the Leeds City Region and for the creative industries.
For Channel 4, the opportunity lies in the huge pool of young, diverse, creative and digitally-savvy talent this region boasts; our position at the heart of the UK with connectivity north, south, east and west.
For our region, the opportunity is access to exciting new career avenues for people in all our communities and to add further momentum to the digital revolution already under way exemplified by the investment of employers such as Sky and Perform Group.
Locating in the Leeds City Region is an opportunity for the creative sector, too – a chance for the broadcaster to address the current imbalance which sees so much of its activity focused in London and the west of the country, and thereby make a significant contribution to the national drive to rebalance the UK economy.
In this spirit of mutual opportunity, we have taken a partnership approach to this process which began last year. In the ensuing months, we have not sought to force a prescriptive vision on Channel 4 based solely on our own requirements, but have instead productively engaged to understand their needs and ambitions and how we could create a partnership which delivers benefits for all.
Publicly, we have mounted our highly successful #4Sparks campaign, showcasing our region’s creative talent and stressing that Channel 4 would be a spark for so much more if they chose to locate here, highlighting our collective enthusiasm to play a pivotal role in developing and supporting Channel 4’s future.
The bid document we have submitted builds on these strong foundations. It is based on months of meticulous work and careful consideration of how the Leeds City Region can exceed Channel 4’s expectations. It makes a clear case in economic, cultural and social terms for locating Channel 4’s new national headquarters in the Leeds City Region and invites the organisation to be the spark of opportunity, to play a pivotal role in delivering the inclusive and creative Northern Powerhouse we wish to build.
This will be a highly competitive process – a large number of cities and regions are in the running. However, I am confident that we are offering a distinctive proposition that broadens the sector’s perspective beyond its traditional horizons and offers the scale which will unlock the full impact of such a significant investment.
Critically, we can also demonstrate to Channel 4 that we have support from across local government, the digital and creative sectors, colleges and universities and the wider business community. Our work to date has exemplified the benefits of working together as a City Region – including cross-party support from our council leaders.
Remaining united behind this bid, leaving Channel 4 in no doubt about our collective desire to make the Leeds City Region its new home and to work with the broadcaster in partnership to deliver on its hopes and ambitions, is the best way to ensure our voice is clearly heard in this process and the outcome we all want to see is achieved.
Further hurdles and hard work lie ahead in the bidding process which will continue over the summer and we do not under-estimate the scale of the challenge. However, we have made a strong start in securing this once-in-a-generation opportunity and the tremendous benefits it can bring to all our communities.
By coming to the Leeds City Region, Channel 4 will not only do something that will have a major social impact for the North as a whole but will also represent the right business decision for the organisation’s future.
Roger Marsh OBE is Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.