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Location, Location, Location: Leeds wins Ch4 commission

Location, Location, Location: Leeds wins Ch4 commission

🕔31.Oct 2018

Leeds will be the location of Channel Four’s new National HQ as Birmingham misses out. Bristol and Glasgow will be the locations of its two new Creative Hubs, reports Kevin Johnson. 

After a spirited campaign, Birmingham comes away from the Channel 4 process empty handed. The Mayor, WMCA and Birmingham city council are already pointing to the positive elements from the last few months and further developments in the creative industries.

The news comes as a big surprise, with Manchester being seen as the safe or obvious choice given the presence of other broadcasters and Birmingham viewed as the more ambitious option. Just about every commentator had written off the hopes of Leeds in the three-way final battle. Overnight, Birmingham Live and many users on Twitter were speculating that it was in the bag for Manchester.

The decision ends, to a degree, the winning streak of Mayor Andy Street who had been part of the successful formula for the Commonwealth Games (Birmingham) and City of Culture (Coventry) contests. The Mayor’s advocacy and presentation skills were seen to be a major factor in the renaissance of region, with these three major bids drawing significantly on his energy and political capital.

It should be noted, however, he chalked up more wins from this week’s Budget as well as the recent 5G pilot competition.

The new National HQ and Creative Hubs will be home to 300 Channel 4 jobs when fully established, including key creative decision makers – responsible for commissioning Channel 4 content and programmes from producers right across the UK. The new bases are at the heart of a new plan ‘4 All the UK’ to ensure that Channel 4 better represents all the UK, on and off-screen – and they will help catalyse the increased Nations and Regions production spend according to the Corporation.

Leeds, they say, was best able to deliver against Channel 4’s vision and objectives for a new National HQ. The Leeds City Region put forward a “comprehensive, compelling and ambitious strategy to partner with Channel 4 and the wider sector to support growth in the production and creative industries, and to nurture new talent from diverse backgrounds – in the region and across the UK.”

The decision to select Leeds as the new National HQ and Bristol and Glasgow as new Creative Hubs follows an extensive pitch process in which shortlisted cities were carefully assessed against Channel 4’s vision and objectives for the National HQ and Creative Hubs, according to the broadcaster. Over 30 pitches from cities and regions across the UK were received, which were shortlisted to 13 – with three cities taken forward for advanced negotiations for the National HQ or Creative Hub option (Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester), and three further cities for the Creative Hubs (Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow).


Following discussions with the shortlisted cities in recent weeks, a recommendation was made by CEO Alex Mahon and the Channel 4 Executive team, which was today approved by the Channel 4 Board.

Channel 4 started broadcasting 36 years ago on Friday. Its first programme – the ever present Countdown – was made in Leeds.

Channel 4 says that all six cities taken forward for consideration as a National HQ or Creative Hub delivered exceptionally high quality pitches and all demonstrated that their cities would be excellent locations for Channel 4 and would be able to offer high levels of innovation, creativity, and support for the corporation and the wider creative industries.

Locating the National HQ in Leeds will enable Channel 4 to capitalise on a strong and fast-growing independent production sector across the North of England – and further unlock the potential for growth in the underserved East and North-East of England. The public service broadcaster says It is extremely well-positioned to be a base for collaboration with producers and creative talent across other cities including Bradford, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Channel 4 says Leeds is home to a thriving digital industry and a strong digital talent pool and this will help support its new Digital Creative Unit, which will be established in the National HQ to grow the Corporation’s impact across digital and social media platforms.

Leeds also demonstrated, it said, a passionate commitment to work with Channel 4 to bring diverse new talent into the industry, working in partnership with other organisations and educational establishments – and through harnessing the diversity of different communities across the wider West Yorkshire region, such as Bradford.

The Channel 4 Executive team and Channel 4 Board believed that Bristol and Glasgow best delivered against the vision and objectives set out for the new Creative Hubs.

Following discussions between Channel 4 and ITN, it has also been decided that a major new Channel 4 News hub will be established in Leeds, following the decision for Channel 4 to be located there in a new building including a studio with the capability to regularly co-anchor the programme.

Alex Mahon, Channel 4 Chief Executive said:

Diversity and inclusion have always been at the heart of Channel 4’s mission and the launch of our 4 All the UK plan is the biggest and most exciting change in the organisation’s 36-year history – as we open up Channel 4 to people from across the UK and supercharge the impact we have in all parts of the country.

We will be spending up to £250m more on programming produced in the Nations and Regions and to catalyse that spend I’m delighted to confirm that we will be establishing a new National HQ in Leeds and new Creative Hubs in Bristol and Glasgow.

The quality of pitches from all the cities involved in the final stage of the process was exceptionally high and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all those involved for the effort and passion they put in – particularly Andy Street for Birmingham, Huw Thomas in Cardiff, and Sir Richard Leese in Greater Manchester. I hope we can continue discussions with all of them about how we can develop new partnerships with each of their cities – particularly since we will be spending up to £250m more in the Nations and Regions over the next five years and want to work with producers and talent in all of these areas.

The West Midlands Mayor and Birmingham council leader are keen to take positives from the campaign, but are clearly disappointed. It is a blow to Mayor Street who had expressed a quiet confidence about Birmingham’s chances.

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

While the news is a huge disappointment, the work that has gone into the bid has not been wasted.

As we progressed through the bid process we saw a growing sense of collaboration and commitment across the region between local authorities, organisations and our creative industries. This has led to a number of developments set to improve the creative landscape regardless of Channel 4’s decision, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

Through our Local Industrial Strategy, we remain committed to ensuring we are home to a pre-eminent national creative & media cluster, and we will respond to high demand for production by investing in the TV and film production capacity of the region by establishing new studio and production facilities.

Finally, I’d like to thank all those who were involved the bid for their hard work, the West Midlands region came together as part of this process and now we look to the future as one, as commit to delivering initiatives and funding that will transform our creative industries.

Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

The decision by Channel 4 to not award the national HQ to the city is a major disappointment to all of those who have worked so hard to bring the broadcaster to Birmingham.

Birmingham would have been an ideal location for Channel 4, with a wealth of knowledge and creativity, talent and energy combined with one of the youngest and most diverse populations in Europe, in a region that is undergoing an economic resurgence.

While we may not have been successful with our bid for Channel 4, we continue to be successful as city reinventing itself for the 21st century. We have the infrastructure, the people and the ambition needed to drive this city forward and I’m confident we will see many more successes in Birmingham in 2019.

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