Channel 4 move to Leeds will ‘unlock doors for young people’

The relocation of Channel 4 to Yorkshire will massively enhance the opportunities for young people to enter the broadcasting industry, its chief of staff has said.

Speaking in Leeds, Lynette Huntley said that the decision to bring the broadcaster’s new headquarters to the city would provide a platform for a whole new generation of talent and that Channel 4 wanted to work in partnership with businesses around the North as part of what she said was the biggest restructure of the business in its history.

Ms Huntley added that parts of the North had been underserved by a broadcasting sector which was too concentrated in the capital and that the move to Leeds would begin to help redress this imbalance.

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“We have always had quite a strong focus on supporting companies in the nations and regions,” she said.

“We have spent over £1.5bn on content outside London in the past five years.

“From Countdown to No Offence and Hollyoaks, many of our biggest and longest running shows have been produced here in the North.

“For too long TV has become too concentrated in London. Once powerful regional broadcasters, like Yorkshire TV, have become part of our cultural history rather than our current ecosystem.

“We know more needs to be done. The EU referendum was a wake-up call for many people in our industry to expose deep divisions and inequality in Britain.

“It is the job of C4 and all public sector broadcasters to tackle these issues head on.

“We need to make sure we are telling the stories of people up and down the country and making sure that people who want to work in our industry do not have to live in London to do it.”

Ms Huntley was speaking at a dinner held following the Great Conference for the North event, which highlighted a number of issues facing businesses across the North, and she said that Channel 4 was ready to become a player in the North’s business ecosystem, particularly with creative industries in the area.

She said: “Going forward to deliver our ambitious plans we will work with our partners here in the North far more than we have to date. As we develop our plans we will be looking at what we can do as C4 but also what we can do in partnership with others. We have developed a really ambitious strategy for the whole of the UK and at the heart of that is a significant uplift in terms of what we are going to spend outside of London.

“We will be increasing that from 35 per cent to 50 per cent of our main channel commissions by 2023, which is worth up to an additional £250m over that period.

“That increase in spend will make sure the whole country benefits from that plan. As a broadcaster we will seek out good ideas wherever they may come from.”

The biggest change Ms Huntley said would be created by Channel 4’s relocation would come in the access it would hand to people from all backgrounds to the broadcasting industries.

“Our creative decision-making will be spread across the country,” she said.

“We will have a new digital creative unit in Leeds, putting our future firmly in the North of England, providing a platform for a whole new generation of talent.

“This is an amazing opportunity to break down barriers. That is incredibly important to us going forward. It is a change we hope will enhance the world leading broadcasting sector across the UK, and not just in London.

“We want a culture where young people can grow up and see people like them and hear stories they relate to.”

She added that Leeds “already feels like Channel 4’s new home”.