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Channel 4 impact in the north will take time, head of on-screen talent tells Journalism and Media Week

Sallie Leak (left) from True North, Emma Hardy (centre) who is head of on-screen talent at Channel 4 and Glyn Middleton (right), senior lecturer at Leeds Trinity University

By George Arkley

The head of on-screen talent at Channel 4 today warned that it will take time for the move to Leeds to start to have an impact on the industry in the north.

Emma Hardy and Sallie Leak – talent executive at True North independent production company – launched Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week this year with a session entitled Breaking the Mould: Channel 4 in Leeds.

Hardy said Channel 4 had chosen Leeds as its regional headquarters because of its diverse base, its strong digital community but also a strong, established independent production sector.

They hoped to tap into the ability to reflect different regional voices, ideas and talent – but this wouldn’t happen overnight.

“There is a lot of pressure for us to make an immediate impact,” she said. “But first, we need to figure out how to make that difference.”

Hardy added: “Channel 4 seeks to push barriers, be controversial and speak to the audience in ways other platforms do not.”

She pointed to programmes like Leaving Neverland, The Circle and Scarlett Moffatt’s The Tribe Next Door, and said that while these shows had been controversial, they had also been well received by the public.

Hardy said: “Channel 4 says things you wouldn’t hear elsewhere and reaches an audience you wouldn’t reach elsewhere.

“We have to say things others won’t.”

As Channel 4 settles into Leeds, the broadcasting hub intends to commission more editors in Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol and other northern areas.

She added: “For the younger generation, it won’t be a necessity to move to London because there is a growing production base in the North.”

Channel 4’s mission to recruit regional voices will increase the competitiveness of the industry as the talent pool grows.

Sallie Leak, talent executive at True North, agreed that it will take a few years to attract and acquire regional talent.

She said there is a skills shortage in production and post-production – with production companies desperate to find editors.

Leak said: “Channel 4’s move to Leeds is a big deal for us. It gives regional broadcasters the chance to build relationships with the national media.”

She added: “It is a wasted opportunity to only use Londoners when the talent pool is growing in the north of England.”

Leak’s advice to students wanting to get into television was above all to consume lots of the medium – but she also said that soft skills like communication skills were important.

Leak said: “Passion is the way into media. Think beyond academia and get some life skills as well.”


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