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Channel 4 move makes Leeds the new media city

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Channel 4

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The former Majestic nightclub will be Channel 4’s northern base

Channel 4 has officially opened a new base in Leeds, which it says will make it better able to reflect life across Britain. What difference will it make, and why is West Yorkshire currently the hot place for the TV industry?

Channel 4 will have around 250 of its 850-strong workforce in Leeds by next year, based in the nightclub that inspired The Kaiser Chiefs song I Predict A Riot.

Fifteen years on, the banner hanging from the Majestic’s facade announcing Channel 4’s arrival predicts a media revolution (which doesn’t have the same ring to it, granted).

The broadcaster’s partial relocation will not only give the traditional home of Emmerdale, Countdown, Jimmy’s and Fat Friends more screen time, but has already sparked a flurry of activity in the city’s TV and film industry.

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Countdown, the first programme on Channel 4 in 1982, came from Leeds – although it moved to MediaCity in Salford in 2009

Channel 4 will broadcast a new live daily lunchtime show from Leeds, and C4 News will regularly be co-presented from the city. The channel’s heads of drama and sport, plus other commissioning editors, are based there, as is a new Digital Creative Unit.

Meanwhile, a number of independent production companies have sprung up in the city, and their trade association Pact has opened its only out-of-London office, saying Channel 4’s move made it the “logical” place to be.

There are also plans for a major new film and TV studio, and the National Film and Television School is opening a Leeds branch in January.

Channel 4 is currently in a temporary office until its new “national headquarters” in the Majestic is finished next summer. Smaller “creative hubs” in Bristol and Glasgow, with around 20 staff in each, will officially open in the next two weeks. The remaining 500-odd will stay in London.

‘A broader range of stories’

“Ultimately, we want this to have an impact on screen,” says Sinead Rocks, C4’s managing director of nations and regions. “We want to be as reflective of life in the UK in its entirety as possible.

“If we have commissioners based in different parts of the country, who are rooted in different communities with different life experience, that’s going to give us access to a broader range of stories and different perspectives.”

Channel 4 chose Leeds over Birmingham and Greater Manchester – despite the latter being home of MediaCityUK, to where the BBC moved a number of departments eight years ago.

“Leeds took the top spot because it had a very young population and a very diverse population – both things that we want to try to tap into,” Rocks says. “There’s a very healthy digital creativity sector here. There’s also a reasonably strong independent production community here, and one that we think could actually grow further.”

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Rollem/BBC

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Kay Mellor has set shows like The Syndicate in her home city

Writer Kay Mellor’s production company Rollem has been making shows like Fat Friends and The Syndicate in Leeds for almost two decades. When the company started, it was a “solitary” presence, apart from ITV’s old regional outpost Yorkshire Television, she says.

Her home city has always been “slightly the poor relation” – but Channel 4’s move and developments like the planned studios and a new post-production facility are changing that, she believes. “It’s amazing that these things are happening. We are playing Manchester at their own game, and bigger and better.”

It all means staff are less likely to need to move to London to further their careers. “The very fact that Channel 4 is here means our students don’t necessarily have to leave Leeds to get a job in the media,” Mellor says. “It’s a growing industry here in Leeds, right on our doorstep. We won’t get that talent drain that we’ve experienced such a lot.”

The TV and film industry in Yorkshire had already established solid foundations thanks to people like Mellor and Screen Yorkshire. When a network of subsidised regional screen agencies was abolished in 2011, Screen Yorkshire was among the only survivors. The following year, it used £15m of European Union money to launch a fund to attract productions to the region.

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Yorkshire has been a popular location for major TV and film projects, including Peaky Blinders

The Yorkshire Content Fund has now invested in almost 50 films and TV shows, on the condition that they are at least partly filmed in the region. The first investment was in the first series of Peaky Blinders – meaning it was mostly filmed in Yorkshire rather than the show’s spiritual home of Birmingham.

In fact, after seeing Yorkshire steal a march on his native Birmingham, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight last week announced a new screen agency to lure TV and film producers to the Midlands.

Yorkshire’s film and TV industries grew faster than anywhere else in the UK between 2009-2015, Screen Yorkshire has said. With Channel 4 also planning to increase the proportion of programmes it makes outside London from 35% to 50% – worth £250m a year – Screen Yorkshire chief executive Sally Joynson thinks Leeds is the obvious destination for production companies outside the capital.

The TV and film industries are booming in Britain – in fact, they helped prevent the country from going into recession this summer. “London is very busy, and studios are full,” Joynson says. “And that means that there is a great opportunity to get some of that production coming out of London by opening really great facilities that can compete with the very best in London, and a workforce that can compete with the very best in London.”

Filling ITV’s regional gap

Just after Channel 4’s announcement last year, Lime Pictures, which makes Hollyoaks and The Only Way Is Essex, announced a new Leeds-based non-scripted subsidiary called Wise Owl.

It is run by Mark Robinson, one of the few TV executives to have always been based in the north of England – although he says he has travelled the equivalent of twice around the world to pitch programmes to executives in London over the past two decades.

His office is walking distance from Channel 4’s new HQ. “There’s nothing like just nipping down the road to see somebody in Leeds, if you’re a production company in Leeds,” he says.

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MediaCity opened at Salford Quays in 2011 and is home to a number of BBC and ITV shows

Robinson began his career at a time when ITV’s regional divisions, including Yorkshire TV, Tyne Tees in Newcastle and Granada in Manchester, were their own mini production powerhouses.

“You could do game shows, sports shows, studio entertainment shows, politics shows, you could do the news, and I learned my trade working on all those sort of shows in regional television,” he says. “Now if you’re 24, you haven’t got the option, because the regional ITV stations have been reduced on the whole to news satellites.”

Channel 4 might bring the amount of TV made in Leeds back to the levels of Yorkshire TV’s heyday. Robinson, who is currently making a series about the Tyne and Wear Metro for ITV, also hopes C4 is true to its word when it comes to making more shows in the north-eastern quarter of the country. “It’s a massive area full of stories. It’s often a part of the country that can get underrepresented on TV.”

Channel 4’s move should redress the balance in the age-old Manchester/Leeds rivalry, almost a decade after the opening of MediaCity, he believes.

“As a Leeds person myself through and through – and I loved working in Salford – I could see that the balance of power had very much shifted to west of the Pennines, and there was an awful lot of TV work in Salford and Manchester and less in Leeds.

“That hasn’t always been the case – Yorkshire Television used to be a massive broadcaster. There’s a feeling here for all companies that it’s our turn to shine, it’s our turn to be in the spotlight and to show what we can do.”

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Queen reprise 22-minute Live Aid set at Fire Fight Australia concert

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Brian May of Queen performs during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert in Sydney, Australia, 16 February 2020Image copyright
EPA

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Brian May of Queen performs to thousands at the Fire Fight Australia concert in Sydney

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US singer Adam Lambert has joined Queen to reprise the band’s legendary 1985 Live Aid set for 75,000 people at a huge benefit concert in Sydney.

The 22-minute set was part of a 10-hour fundraising event organised to raise A$10m (£5.15m; $6.71m) for communities devastated by bushfires.

“As Aussies we bear together… because it turns out the people at the top don’t,” the host Celeste Barber said.

Recent fires have killed at least 33 people, destroying thousands of homes.

In New South Wales, the worst-hit state, heavy rains have brought blazes under control. But in the last few months more than 11 million hectares of land – an area comparable to the size of England – has been affected across all of Australia’s states and territories.

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Olivia Newton-John, 71, performed with Australian singer Mitch TamboImage copyright
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Olivia Newton-John, 71, performed with Australian singer Mitch Tambo

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On Sunday, Olivia Newton-John and Alice Cooper joined local stars 5 Seconds of Summer, Tina Arena and Delta Goodrem for the Fire Fight Australia gig.

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Queen and Adam Lambert perform at the Fire Fight Australia, a concert for National Bushfire Relief in Sydney, 16 February 2020Image copyright
Getty Images

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Adam Lambert took the place of the late Freddie Mercury for the 22-minute set

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Joining Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor on stage, Lambert filled in for the late Freddie Mercury as the band performed hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.

  • How much rain did it take to put out the NSW fires?
  • ‘Urgent help’ needed for 113 species after fires

Lambert, a former American Idol contestant who has previously toured with Queen, said it was a “real honour” to perform the band’s full Live Aid set for the victims of Australia’s bushfires.

The set at the 1985 fundraising concert at London’s Wembley Stadium for famine relief is seen as one of the greatest performances by any rock band. It was recreated for the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody.

Australian singer Guy Sebastian performs during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concertImage copyright
EPA

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Australian singer Guy Sebastian was one of dozens of performers supporting the fundraiser

Australia has always had a fire season, with naturally occurring blazes sparked during the dry summer, but this year’s has been unprecedented in the scale and intensity of the fires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has come in for harsh criticism for its response to the disaster.

Australian singer Delta Goodrem performsImage copyright
EPA

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Australian singer Delta Goodrem took to the stage with the Australian National Flag

Host Celeste BarberImage copyright
EPA

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Actor Celeste Barber kicked off a Facebook fundraising campaign in January that has netted more than A$50m

Profits from the event will be passed on to rural fire services, communities affected by bushfires and animal welfare groups.

  • A visual guide to Australia’s bushfire crisis
  • Bushfires bring ‘apocalypse’ to Kangaroo Island

People attend the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concertImage copyright
EPA

Among those attending was Dalene George, a teacher from Bateman’s Bay, who told Reuters news agency: “[I want to be] part of the people who helped to try and bring things back together and bring smiles. Yeah be part of that healing stuff that happens with community.”

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Media captionClimbing trees to save Kangaroo Island’s koalas

Another concert-goer, bank worker Karen Adams, said: “We’re in Sydney so we couldn’t even get down there to help, which was heartbreaking. And I work in a bank and so many families have lost everything so we’re here to support them all.”

Crowds at the concertImage copyright
AFP

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Caroline Flack: Love Island episode taken off air after ex-host’s death

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Flack with Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer on Love IslandImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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Flack with 2018 Love Island winners Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer

ITV have pulled Saturday’s edition of Love Island following the death of the show’s former host Caroline Flack.

An episode of unseen bits from the week in the villa was due to have been aired at 21:00 GMT.

Flack’s death shocked fans on Saturday. It came two months after she was replaced as host of the show after being charged with assault.

An ITV statement said: “Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news.”

It continued: “Caroline was a much loved member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends.”

ITV2’s programme announcer said: “In light of today’s sad news we’re replacing tonight’s episode of Love Island: Unseen Bits with a double bill of You’ve Been Framed.”

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Media captionCaroline Flack won a British Academy Television Award for Love Island in 2018

Love Island’s first winter series, which is being filmed in South Africa, is due to end on Sunday, 23 February.

  • TV presenter Caroline Flack dies at 40
  • Looking back at Caroline Flack’s career

Meanwhile, Channel 4 said its series The Surjury, which was to have been hosted by Flack, will not air.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “We are shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about Caroline Flack. Our deepest sympathies go out to Caroline’s family and friends.

“Under the circumstances, we have decided not to broadcast The Surjury.”

When the show was announced in October, the channel said it would feature a 12-strong jury of the public who would decide if people got the cosmetic surgery they dreamed of.

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Caroline Flack’s career highlights in pictures

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Strictly Come Dancing

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Flack dazzled on the dance floor with Pasha Kovalev when they won Strictly Come Dancing in 2014

TV presenter Caroline Flack, who has died at the age of 40, starred on some of Britain’s biggest television shows.

Here is a selection of photos that capture her career highlights.

TMi

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She got an early break alongside Sam and Mark on BBC children’s show TMi, which launched in 2006

On TMi in 2007

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Flack stayed on the Saturday morning favourite for three series before moving on

Wheels

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She teamed up with professional wheelchair dancer James O’Shea for Dancing on Wheels in 2010, with the pair going on to win the BBC Three contest

With Joe Swash on Let's Dance for... Comic Relief 2011

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She took part in Let’s Dance for… Comic Relief with Joe Swash in 2011. The pair also presented I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here Now!

Caroline Flack and Olly Murs filming The Xtra FactorImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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With singer Olly Murs, Flack hosted The X Factor spin-off show The Xtra Factor from 2011 before the pair were promoted to present the main series in 2015

Love IslandImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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When Love Island began in its current format in 2015, Flack was there to match up the scantily-clad singletons

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PA Media

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She walked the catwalk during the Fashion for Relief charity fashion show, which was hosted by Naomi Campbell for the Ebola crisis in Africa in 2017

Caroline Flack at the Bafta Awards 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

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Flack got her hands on a Bafta Award in 2018 when Love Island was named best reality show

Caroline Flack at the Brit Awards 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

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She was a fixture on other red carpets, such as at the Brit Awards in 2018

Love IslandImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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She helped Love Island become one of the most popular British TV shows of the decade

TRICImage copyright
PA Media

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It won a string of prizes, such as the TRIC Award for best reality programme, which she collected with contestant Amber Davies in 2018

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