Channel 4 chooses Leeds over Salford

TV Broadcaster Channel 4 have announced that their new national headquarters will now be built in Leeds, shunning Salford and Birmingham in the process.

Salford had been expected to be a front runner when Channel 4 announced the plans to build a headquarters outside of London. Even up till today MediaCity was seen as the likely new home to the broadcaster, which hosts hit shows such as The Great British Bake Off, however it was not to be.

The decision was announced just before half 3 today (Wednesday 31st October). The move will be part of the biggest change to the structure of the channel in its 35-year history, even though it will keep its base on Horseferry Road in London.

MediaCity could have been the destination for Channel 4's new headquarters
MediaCity could have been the destination for Channel 4’s new headquarters

Leeds fended off competition from Greater Manchester and Birmingham to host the new base. The move would have seen 300 new jobs created had MediaCityUK been the chosen location. With BBC and ITV among other media giants, already based at MediaCity, it seemed like an easy call. However the broadcaster decided to go with Leeds ability to provide diverse talent across the region.

Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4, said: “We undertook a rigorous process over the last seven months and the high calibre of all the pitches meant those were incredibly difficult decisions to make.

“However, I know that Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow will best deliver our objectives to grow the production sector across the UK, build the pipeline of creative talent outside London and support our increased investment in programming produced across the nations and regions.

“Leeds put forward a compelling and ambitious strategy for how they could work alongside Channel 4 to further build the strong independent production sector in the city and develop new diverse talent from across the region.

“Locating our national HQ in Leeds enables us to capitalise on a strong and fast-growing independent production sector in cities across the North of England – and also has the potential to unlock growth in the North East and East of the country, an area without a major presence from other national broadcasters.

Labour Councillor for Walkden South, Richard Critchley, took to twitter to share his disappointment at the decision, stating that he feels “Salford would have been a great fit” for Channel 4.

Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey had also tweeted her support for Salford, backing the view held by the head of Sony pictures that it is the best option.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley had sparked interest in the idea of Channel 4 moving to Salford over a year ago when she spoke at the Nations and regions media conference held at MediaCityUK. There she announced the broadcasters intention to expand and get away from having the channel centered purely in London. Speaking at the conference she said:

“Channel 4 has around 820 staff and fewer than 30 of them are based outside central London. I have had some initial discussions with Channel 4 on this issue, but we are a long way apart.

“The Salford experience – which we can see for ourselves right now – is highly instructive. There were howls of protest when it was announced that part of the BBC would relocate here.

“But just look around you; look at what has been achieved. This is a thriving, bustling media centre. It has driven a remarkable regeneration of the area, bringing new homes, new cultural institutions, and new transport links. More people now work in Salford Quays than in its heyday as a major seaport.

“London is not a media centre because only London can do media – London is a media centre because media is centred there.

“We want Channel 4 to have a major presence outside London, stimulating creative and economic activity – including jobs – right across the country. In so doing, it can play a leading role in a public service broadcasting system that reflects our United Kingdom.”

Karen Bradley also spoke highly of MediaCity whilst at the conference, sparking excitement that Channel 4’s development may have been destined for Salford.

She said: “With more than 250 companies employing over 7,000 people, the transformation of MediaCity since work started here exactly ten years ago is incredible. With the BBC and ITV at its heart, this has become a world-class media cluster, with a life and energy all of its own.

“Salford demonstrates that the television sector in the UK is not all about London – and that the best broadcasters on Earth can flourish in places other than London.”

The Culture secretaries full speech from the conference can be found online here.

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