Mayor of West Yorkshire launches online film in support of Channel 4

Yorkshire filmmakers share a plea to keep Channel 4 independent

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The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has launched an online film as part of a campaign to stop the privatisation of Channel 4. The Government is currently in public consultation over the future funding of the broadcaster which has its national headquarters in Leeds. As well as releasing the ‘Save The Spark’ film, the Mayor has also signed the Broadcast petition #Not4Sale. 

The film features independent filmmakers and emerging young talent who would be affected by the privatisation of the public service broadcaster which is publicly owned by privately funded by advertising. 

As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4’s budget for the nations and regions goes to independent production companies and the workforce they employ. There are fears that privatising the broadcaster would put its support for independents at risk. 

Among those taking part in the short film are screenwriter Lisa Holdsworth, whose many credits include Ackley Bridge and Call the Midwife, Andrew Sheldon, Founder and Creative Director of Leeds-based independent True North, as well as young filmmakers and Channel 4 production trainees whose careers have already benefitted from Channel 4 having its national headquarters in the North.  

The film has been called ‘Save The Spark’ in recognition of the successful #BeTheSpark campaign to bring Channel 4 to Leeds in 2018. 

The online film focuses on Channel 4’s unique public service remit and on how its move to the north has given a massive boost to the economy via the creative industries. 

“Don’t you think that just the fact that we have something as big, as significant as Channel 4 here in Yorkshire, it feels like a flag in the ground to me.” Nick Ahad, Writer and Broadcaster

“Its commitment is to the programmes and to the people who watch it and to the people who make the programmes for Channel 4.” Sir Rodney Brooke, Public Servant 

Channel 4 represents around 15% of overall UK production spend and many of its commissions drive enormous secondary sales providing vital income generation opportunities for independent production companies.  

The film’s cast list also includes some of West Yorkshire’s brightest creative minds talking about what Channel 4 means to them and shines a light on how the sale of Channel 4 to a privately owned profit-driven media giant jeopardises its unique remit and future ability to represent modern Britain on and off screen. 

West Yorkshire’s public sector has significantly invested in the region’s creative sector since Channel 4 announced it was moving to Leeds, boosting investment and jobs. There are fears that privatisation would erode that investment and set back the economic boost the broadcaster’s HQ has brought to the north’s creative industries. 

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire said: “We can’t shy away from the potential impact on not only the West Yorkshire region, but the entire nations and regions.  They have been fuelled by and begun to develop creative and exciting ecosystems as a result of Channel 4’s out of London presence. Through privatisation, not only do we risk losing the channel’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, but we also risk losing the vast economic benefits that Channel 4 brings to places like West Yorkshire. 

"This is precisely why we must make our voices heard now, before it’s too late, and tell the Government why privatisation cannot happen.” 

Earlier this year, the Mayor championed the LEP’s launch of Indielab West Yorks: The Creative Catalyst Accelerator to help content producers thrive by attracting more high-value commissions.  

This dedication to the creative industries, alongside her pledge to lead a creative new deal, plays its part to ensure regional creative industries are part of the broader recovery strategy post-pandemic. 

The West Yorkshire region has emerged as TV production hotspot since Leeds won the 2018 bid to house the national HQ of Channel 4, which accounts for £492 million of production spend in the UK. Of this, Channel 4 spent £189 million on production in the nations and regions in 2019 and £141 million in 2020 (DCMS analysis).   

In the context of economic recovery, it is more important than ever to support the development of content which reflects a more representative regional narrative and recognises the role that Channel 4 plays in that.  

By the end of 2021 Channel 4 will have around 400 jobs based in the Nations and Regions at their bases in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, including senior commissioning roles from across a range of genres.  

From job creation and bringing high profile investment, to boosting our young people’s career prospects with skilled apprenticeships, Channel 4 makes a difference and champions a more level playing field for all.

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