Last Wednesday it was announced that Channel 4 will be moving their headquarters out of London to Leeds. The Yorkshire city was chosen over Manchester and Birmingham to host a new central creativity hub. One of the most daring and varied channels has, at least partially, abandoned the world of overpriced pints and Pret A Mangers for the homeland of Cluedo and Marks & Spencers – not to mention one of the most up-and-coming creative industry cities in the UK.
Channel 4 said their decision was based on the aim of bringing greater diversity into the off-screen roles that underpin their operations. Diversity behind the scenes has been identified as a key aspect of encouraging broader, more reflective representations of different people on national television. On that basis the move is certainly a welcome one. The home of the UK’s Paralympics coverage, Channel 4 has always championed diversity and this move will at the very least solidify this status. How much Channel 4 will actually change very much depends on how much power is shifted away from its current London base – which, despite the changes, will continue to house the majority of the organisation’s staff.
It sets a precedent for the potential of other UK cities to become centres of media organisations. Leeds has hardly dragged its heels when it comes to television – the city hosted Countdown for 27 years and was recently the scene of the documentary Educating Yorkshire. However, it does not have the established central status of London or the close-knitted television community seen in Salford’s Media City, just outside Manchester. The fact that Leeds and other cities – smaller offices are also being opened throughout the country, including in Glasgow – signifies a significant change in priorities.
What could this mean for Edinburgh? With the annual Festival Fringe the Scottish capital is a hotbed for performing arts. It’s yearly film festival keeps the city’s reputation in the world of movies high, as does the recent filming of Avengers: Infinity War in the city. With TV however, Edinburgh seems a bit behind
Part of this is simply Edinburgh’s size. This is a busy but small city. Leeds by contrast is significantly smaller than London but is still up there with the biggest cities in the UK. Glasgow is considerably more populated than Edinburgh, and already has the lion’s share of television bases to boast. BBC Scotland has a massive headquarters of operation on the River Clyde. Here, they have a small office near the Scottish Parliament, sharing a building with Edinburgh University Press among others.
However, there is much potential for TV in Edinburgh. For a start, although smaller right now, The Scotsman reported that Edinburgh’s population is booming and will overtake Glasgow within 20 years. While a slight change is unable to sway most organisations already based in Glasgow, sheer numbers may attract future TV company presence in Edinburgh, be it production, commissioning or anything else. Edinburgh has already proven itself able to withstand the filming of one of the biggest movies in cinema history, so being the home of cutting edge television could come naturally.
Shows are filmed in Edinburgh. Clique first aired on BBC Three last year and a new season is on the way this month. Several other shows have either been set or filmed in Edinburgh over the years, such as Pramface (also BBC Three) and ITV’s Rebus, based off Ian Rankin’s novels, between 2000 and 2007. While not the ‘heavy hitters’ of light entertainment, the city nonetheless has a history of housing new TV within its midsts.
Channel 4’s move to Leeds should fill smaller cities with hope. Edinburgh may add ‘bustling television’ centre to its already illustrious list of perks in the future.
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