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20-11-2018 7:00:42

Locations the key as Channel 4’s ‘three-point plan’ comes together

Tom Pammenter|Industry

Back in August, we looked at Channel 4’s move away from London, in which it’s shifting hundreds of key jobs beyond the capital and creating various “hubs”.

And now, with the broadcaster’s decision to base its new national headquarters in Leeds, and creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow, we revisit the story and hear what the broadcaster’s CEO had to say about it recently:

 

‘4 All the UK’: a recap

Channel 4’s ‘4 all the UK’ plan launched in March 2018 to “provide a significant boost to investment and jobs in the nations and regions and ensure that we do even more to serve the whole of the UK”.

That led to a tendering process and a shortlist of British cities that were vying to become either the broadcaster’s new HQ or one of two creative hubs.

On the last day of October, the winners were announced:

  • Leeds for the national HQ
  • Bristol and Glasgow were selected for the creative hubs

Before we get into what some of the leading figures said of the broadcaster’s decisions, it’s worth considering what the three cities have in common to help understand why they were chosen:

 

On location

While Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol are diverse cities and offer thriving television production sectors, all three locations are strong geographically, given what Channel 4 is trying to achieve.

Leeds, Alex Mahon, the CEO of Channel 4, said recently on Radio 4’s The Media Show, “gives us reach across the north and the north-east and the north-west”.

Glasgow, stated the Channel 4 news release which announced the result of the process, has strong links to Northern Ireland and obviously the rest of Scotland…
 

 
…Channel 4’s existing London base, which will remain open, covers the south-east and is on the doorstep of the nation’s leading production and post-production base, while…
 
Bristol enables Channel 4…
 

 

Leeds, Channel 4’s new HQ: how the CEO sees it

Alex Mahon, explaining her strategy and Channel 4’s decisions, also said on The Media Show that she’ll be in Leeds “one or two days a week…I’m going to have the same set-up there as I have in London.”
 

Leeds is fantastic, in terms of the growth there is there.
 
It’s a really vibrant place, (there’s) massive growth in digital, (it’s) massively under-served actually, in terms of broadcasting, and gives us reach across the north and the north-east and the north-west.
 
We won’t be moving all of Channel 4 there yet, though. I think what we’re trying to pull off, with moving a few hundred people, is a massive change to the organisation. But if that goes well, let’s see.
 
We’ll have creative decision-makers there and commissioners there.
 
This is a three-point plan.
 
The first point is that we’re spending an extra quarter of a billion (pounds) outside of London between now and 2023. That’s voluntary. To do that, we need to change the way we make decisions, we need to change the way we commission, and we need to change the places we commission from, and that money’s to be spread all across the UK.
 
(The) second thing is moving the people (to the) national HQ in Leeds and creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow.
 
And the third thing is co-locating the news with us and the news being presented, multiple nights a week, from outside of London. That’s totally new, on national news. Those are the big changes.
 
To achieve that, and to achieve a difference in representation of people from across the UK on air, and in how we make decisions, you have to move creative decision-makers, otherwise you won’t get a change to that, and we want to end up with shows on air that represent values and communities and accents and conjunctures from elsewhere in the UK, not just London.

 
Channel 4 highlighted the “thriving digital industry and strong digital talent pool” in Leeds. The city will be the home of Channel 4’s new headquarters and ‘Digital Creative Unit’, which will work to grow Channel 4’s profile online.

Glasgow

Glasgow had pitched to host the new HQ but lost out at the final stage of the process.

The city’s campaign, which had been led by Stuart Cosgrove, the broadcaster, writer and former Channel 4 executive, had been based on “Glasgow’s amazing creative industries”, according to Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council.

 

Bristol

Like Glasgow, Bristol also missed out on selection to host the new HQ but the city’s mayor  expressed delight at its selection as a creative hub:

Bristol is a city that pushes boundaries, questions the norm and actively nurtures a strong culture of creative and digital innovation – we know Channel 4 will feel at home here. – Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees

 

What happens now?

Channel 4 will now work to identify “locations and property” within each of the selected cities, with staff expected to begin to move from London in the second half of next year.

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