Alex gives his take on Channel 4’s relocation to Leeds
After months of speculation, Channel 4 has finally announced which UK city will be the home of its new HQ. Channel 4 staff had better get used to Yorkshire puddings and flatcaps, as Leeds was revealed as the city of choice.
As a PR agency based up north, we’re always delighted to hear about cities outside of London getting more visibility in the media. In a time when the decline of local newspapers is a talking point, it’s refreshing to hear about places other than the capital hosting national media institutions. Given that over the next five years Channel 4 plans to increase spending on programmes outside London by £250m, Leeds will be among the places that will help the media company become more diverse.
But there’s no denying that the move from London will be a risk for Channel 4. The capital still hosts more media outlets, particularly TV networks, than any other city in the UK. Particularly at first, Channel 4 will be dealing with a different job market. The Leeds City Region Employment and Skills Plan 2016-18 highlighted that the city suffers a few skills gaps, and digital talent was one of them found to be lacking. It could be a challenge for Channel 4 to find people with the skills to innovate the media company as traditional TV viewing behaviour continues to decline and newer TV services provided by the likes of Amazon and Netflix grow in popularity.
That said, Leeds is already the home of many smaller media businesses, with seven of Prolific North’s latest Top Independent Production Companies being based in the city. Channel 4’s relocation and the 200 employees it brings with it is one move of many that will expand the city’s media scene and help it compete with the capital, just like the BBC did with its move to Salford’s MediaCityUK. And given that Leeds has four universities, media businesses stand in good stead to attract graduates and reap the benefits of fresh talent.
Over the years, Channel 4 has made some bold moves, not only bringing us controversial TV shows like Big Brother and Brookside, but broadcasting live recreational drug trials. Its move to Leeds could be the latest in a set of changes to push media boundaries and expand what British TV exposes us to.
Alex Brown enjoys being one of the Skout blog’s most regular contributors.