I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting today’s debate. It is no coincidence that five hon. Members from the Leeds city region—I say “York and Leeds city region”—are here for the debate. Because of the sheer scale of the creativity, talent and diversity across our region, it is crucial that we speak up for the future of the region, but also for the future of this sector. We must see this as a global opportunity for Channel 4. There are major export opportunities for our economy, but also opportunities for serving the public and enriching our culture at the same time. Media is so powerful in its execution, and this proposal provides a real opportunity to rebalance our economy and to celebrate the diversity of our communities as we move forward.
I will say York’s piece, because colleagues have spoken for their own part of the region. York is a city that is transitioning from the Vikings, steam trains and chocolate that we all think about to one that now stands as the UK’s only UNESCO city of media arts. It is unrivalled in its digital and media offer and is one of 114 global cities within that footprint of UNESCO. It is where the past meets the present and it provides the platform to shape the future. Today, I want to extol the virtues of York as the place for Channel 4 to find its home.
Educationally, we see the city advancing in the creative sector. I am thinking of Manor school and its state-of-the-art studios to develop pupils’ interest in the sector; the investment that the independent-state schools partnership puts into the media industry to draw on the talent of the children of our city and give them the opportunity to experience the sector; and the outstanding York College, which provides a platform for academic and vocational excellence. We have two fantastic universities: York St John University and the University of York, which is now third in the nation for film and television production. Impressive as it is, its reputation is growing; I visited only recently.
York is a desirable place to live. In fact, it comes out consistently as the UK’s No. 1 place to live and to visit, with 7 million visitors each year. With its connectivity, the city is like no other. We have the TransPennine Express—it will be express, particularly under a Labour Government when we get electricity on the line. We have the east coast main line, which means that we are within two hours of London, and again, journey times will be shortened, because High Speed 2 will be arriving at the heart of our city. Seven million people can reach the region within an hour.
We have an opportunity to create and shape the future of that part of the country as we see the creative sector growing. I am thinking of the Mediale festival, a digital media festival at the heart of York. The Castle Gateway project is moving forward; that area will be York’s new cultural hub.
I will focus my final comments on the economic opportunity and cultural opportunity that York offers. Next to the station is a 72-hectare site, the biggest brownfield site in Europe, where Channel 4 can come and shape its future and the future of our city. In its digital connectivity, the city of York is like no other in the UK. It is the first gigabit city in the UK, with its extensive dark fibre network.
As a city, we have grown in the new technologies of the future, and the digital creative sector is at the heart of stretching our economy into new fields. It is certainly the way forward for Channel 4; it will see a skills base on which it can draw. The digital creative labs in York are unparalleled in the research that they are doing. That is driving the sector forward. The studios at Church Fenton have such a reputation; we have heard about the films being made. There is also the gaming industry; we can look at the creative industry on that front. Again, we are at the forefront. York provides a massive opportunity for Channel 4 to find its new home, and it will reach into the whole business community of the city. It will give the perfect offer to Channel 4.