Speaking today, to Broadcast Now, Andrew Sheldon – True North’s co-founder and Creative Director – on Channel 4’s very own property programme.
So, the search for ‘a location, a location and a location’ is almost over… in a few days we’ll know where Channel 4’s NHQ and their two out-of-London hubs will be going.
It’s clearly only the first chapter of the story – but beyond the M25, the Horseferry Road roadshow has already had a strategic impact, galvanising and connecting indies, producers, and councils in towns and cities across the UK.
As a direct result of engaging with the idea of enticing Channel 4’s campaign, there are now places that are alive to the idea that they can and shouldplay a part in the globally successful British television industry.
More importantly, there are talented producers, directors, DoPs and PMs who have previously had to forge their careers hundreds of milesfrom home who are now looking at a TV career in their own backyard.
Among producers in Yorkshire, there’s a belief that the shift in quotas is the first part of a process that will bring huge benefit to towns and cities across the North. The second part of that process is where the NHQ comes in.
The Leeds City Region have put together a terrific bid that is still in the running – of the three cities left standing, it’s the one that offers Channel 4 the best chance to own the narrative – if they come to Yorkshire, they won’t just be additive, but genuinely transformative.
Clearly, the West of the country already has a well-established TV infrastructure: from Cardiff, through Bristol, Salford/Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast – but has Channel 4 put in all this effort in order to merely double down on existing clusters? Birmingham would be part of the same Western arc, and with HS2 meaning the journey from London is under 50 minutes, surely it would just become another commute?
Yes, there’s a ‘Field of Dreams’element to going somewhere new… ‘build it and they will come’… but that’s surely the point? For example, the process has identified a clear need for more Post facilities in Leeds.
At True North, we’re taking steps to meet that need by adding new facilities, so we’ll have 29 edit suites and two dubs on site. Across the city, a second post house, The Other Planet, who look after shows like Daisybeck’s The Yorkshire Vet, has just invested a further £200K in editing, audio and VFX kit.
The local authority is looking at how they might support this too, though for them the conversation has long since extended beyond the literal ‘how many hours will we make?’ and ‘how many jobs will it mean?’
Alongside Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and the rest, they’ve been so committed to the process because they know that having the nation’s coolest and most innovative broadcaster in their shop window will be a significant coup when competing for business and investment internationally.
At an industry level, there are challenges to come, particularly around skill base. Already, as a direct result of the process, the key indies in the Leeds region – Rollem, Daisybeck, Duck Soup, Air TV, True Vision Yorkshire, Warp and True North – are meeting and speaking with a newly found collective voice.
And Leeds also has established and award-winning Channel 4 producers and directors like Anna Hall, Anna Dickeson and Heenan Bhatti to build around.
In the digital sector, there are companies like Numiko and Brass making the most of a young, digital savvy population. In fact, nearly 20% of the region’s residents are under the age of 15, and they’re being coaxed into the industry with initiatives like Studio 12, which invests in the film making talents of disadvantaged young people.
So, when the decision is announced in the next few days, there will be short term disappointment for some, but the relocation process is already paying dividends, and will impact far beyond where the NHQ and hubs finally land.
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