Channel 4’s bold plans for Leeds which will no longer go ahead

Channel 4 only moved to Leeds last year, but its “bold” plans to make the city its new national headquarters are already in jeopardy.

The government announced last month that Channel 4 will be privatized. It comes just months after the publicly-owned broadcaster moved its national headquarters to Leeds in a move which was described as the biggest shake-up in its 39-year history.

During discussions with ministers, Channel 4 submitted bold and ambitious proposals to place Leeds at the forefront of its growth over the next decade. The scheme, titled ‘4: The Next Episode’, would have seen more jobs created in Yorkshire and an even greater emphasis on working with independent creative industries outside London.

Read more: Channel 4 hits out at government privatization plans as broadcaster unveils its own ‘game-changing’ proposals

Speaking about Channel 4’s first year in Leeds, Mahon said: “It’s a joy, because we are changing what has been practically a creative wasteland for television outside of London for decades. It is starting to make a difference.”

In a drastic step, Channel 4 today made its future proposals public. Although the ‘4: The Next Episode’ plans are now unlikely to go ahead due to the government’s decision to privatise the broadcaster, Mahon has published Channel 4’s own alternative vision for Leeds to let viewers know what else was on the table.

More jobs in Leeds



Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon

Channel 4 initially promised to create 200 jobs in Leeds, but there were plans in the pipeline to push that number even higher in the coming years. With new hubs also springing up in Glasgow and Bristol, Channel 4 now currently employs more than 400 members of staff outside London and that number was set to increase further still.

“We have grown rapidly in Leeds and the Majestic,” said Jonathan Allan, Channel 4 chief operating officer. “We’ve got nearly 400 roles outside London now.

“We proposed as part of the new plan to take that to 600. It would mean the majority of Channel 4 roles would have been outside London, so it would have made us a truly national broadcaster.”

£ 100 million investment

Channel 4 says it is committed to “tackling skills shortages across the UK”. One of its major schemes to do so is its 4Skills program, which provides a pathway for disadvantaged youngsters to enter the television industry.

The broadcaster told ministers it wanted to put a further £ 100 million into its 4Skills hub in Leeds to “supercharge” the program.

“These changes could potentially have a major impact on the television landscape,” said Mahon.

‘Dramatic expansion’ in Leeds

While much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the new Channel 4 News studio in Leeds, the digital content team is a far bigger part of the broadcaster’s new team in Leeds. The 4: The Next Episode plans would have seen bosses “dramatically expand” 4Studio to strengthen its relation with younger audiences and target misinformation. This would have created up to 200 jobs in Leeds by 2024.

A boost for Yorkshire independents

Practically all of Channel 4’s content is sourced from independent firms. The move to Leeds was music to the ears of dozens of local creative industries who were desperate to work with the national broadcaster.

Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, was one of the most vocal backers of Channel 4’s alternative plans. She said: “Channel 4’s new national HQ in Leeds sends a hugely important message – that you can make a career from here – and particularly for the more economically deprived parts of Yorkshire, that is game-changing.”

However, experts have warned that privatising Channel 4 will be “a big blow” to the entire industry. Matt Richards, managing director of Leeds-based production company Air TV, said: “There has been a big commitment by Channel 4 to level up in the last few years and that’s now in jeopardy.”

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