Channel 4 this year celebrates 36 years on the air and its Chief Executive Alex Mahon has just announced that the Broadcaster will locate a new headquarters in Leeds.
In the latest analysis of a topical issue by a Yorkshire member, Bikatshi Katenga, who stood as Parliamentary Candidate for Huddersfield in the 2017 General Election, explains why her excitement of Channel 4 relocating to Leeds is tinged with pessimism.
“I was really pleased at the news as it quickly spread through social media. What’s in it for Yorkshire? Do we have the reason to be chuffed when the Broadcaster has announced it will move 200 of its 800 jobs to the North?
“Before getting too excited about Channel 4 relocating its headquarters to Leeds, we should remind ourselves why it was created.
“Channel 4 was created to generate more diversity in UK broadcasting. Therefore, moving it to Leeds is a natural step and Channel 4 getting back to its roots in a way – because today one of the main ways in which the UK lacks diversity is in geographical representation.
“Yorkshire is a region with broadcasting in its blood and has been home of programmes such as Educating Yorkshire, the Red Riding trilogy, ITV’s soap Emmerdale and productions companies such as like True North.
“Undisputedly in turn, Leeds itself has broadcasting in its DNA with media students, radio and journalism courses, BBC Look North to name but a few. It’s worth mentioning that Countdown was the first programme ever shown on Channel 4, and has always been made in Leeds.
“While the Conservatives set out the relocation move of Channel 4 in their 2017 General Election manifesto – pushing for a full move – the Government has failed to push for a One Yorkshire devolution deal.
“One way our region would generate more income would be by moving businesses out of London to stimulate and create a more balanced economy and another way would be through devolution.
“Identifying the importance of relocating a TV channel to Yorkshire is one thing but giving Yorkshire its own powers to boost its own economy seems to be another.
“Let’s not be naïve; for far too long London has enjoyed all the good things this country has to offer and this include a centralised media and an overly centralised power. Although the broadcaster will move roughly 200 of its 800 staff to a Yorkshire city it will still keep another headquarters in the capital.
“This relocation move should be a call to the Government to invest in both creative people who live here and also in the infrastructure (including HS3, the high-speed rail link for the North) interconnecting Northern cities as they have a lot to offer.
“Is Channel 4 moving its highest paying jobs to Leeds? If the answer is no, then the bias towards London when spending public money will go on as usual. The Government should equalise all public sector wages to London levels in order to address this geographic discrimination.
“How much power is the London headquarters willing to transfer to Leeds? Or will London retain much of power and decision-making, like the BBC with its Salford centre? This is still unclear to many of us who got excited about the news.
“On the positive side, it will bring new jobs to our county and raise the profile of local companies and communities and educational institutes when Channel 4 News needs talking heads to comment on current affairs.
“Equally, moving a small percentage of their staff to Leeds, including commissioning editors, may increase regional production. This will mean the pitching of radio and television ideas will be done in Leeds rather meaning a trip down to London to sell ideas to commissioning editors.
“It means the grip of London on the country’s media output is slightly loosened. I want to be optimistic that Channel 4’s move can begin the desperately needed rebalancing of not just the country’s media but also the broader economy as a whole. However, until we get our One Yorkshire devolution deal, excuse me for being a little pessimistic.”