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Channel 4
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Channel 4

Channel 4 is a television broadcaster in the United Kingdom (see British television), launched on November 2, 1982. Like the BBC, it has a public service remit and is operated by a non-profit corporation, Channel 4 Television Corporation. Unlike the BBC, it is funded by advertising rather than a licence fee. It is thus a hybrid of public and commercial broadcasting. It also has a remit to provide educational content for schools.

Channel 4 nominally broadcasts only in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland; in Wales, its equivalent is S4C. However many television viewers in Wales receive Channel 4 due to being tuned into broadcasts from the nearest English transmitter, either for reasons of reception or so as to access Channel 4. In recent years the introduction of digital television has also allowed Channel 4 to be broadcast alongside S4C.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Management
3 Channels
4 Programming
5 Building
6 See also
7 External links


In 1980 Britain had three television channels: BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. The 1980 Broadcasting Act began the process of adding a fourth, and Channel 4 was formally created by an Act of Parliament in 1982. After some weeks of test broadcasts it began scheduled transmissions on November 2, 1982.

From the start, the channel set out to provide an alternative to the existing channels. In doing so it sometimes, in the eyes of its critics (including the public decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse), overstepped the boundaries of acceptability, but it has arguably led to a liberalisation of the UK television industry.

Initially, the station was managed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority through subscription from the ITV franchise holders. In return, advertising on the channel (and advertising revenue) was handled by the ITV regions, thus overcoming any problems a public service broadcaster might have in attracting commercial advertisers.

In 1990, a new Thatcherite broadcasting act altered the organisation of Channel 4, transforming it into a public corporation with a board partly appointed by the new Independent Television Commission. While its original remit was preserved, the channel now had to manage its own advertising (a potential disaster for a public service broadcaster), with a 'safety net' guaranteed minimum income should the revenue fall too low (which it so far has not). This safety net was funded by large insurance payments which the company had to make to the ITV companies. These premiums were phased out by the government in 1998.


Channel 4 is run by a chief executive, whose role is similar to that of the Director-General of the BBC. The chief executive is appointed by the chairman, which is a part-time position appointed by Ofcom.


Chief executives

Andy Duncan was appointed on July 1, 2004. He was previously the Director of Marketing, Communications and Audiences at the BBC.


Channel 4 has had a long record of success in funding the production of films through Channel Four Films, later renamed FilmFour in 1998 to coincide with the launch of its digital channels. Among its biggest successes are The Madness of King George, The Crying Game, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, this dedicated film-making wing was effectively closed in 2002 as a cost-cutting measure in the face of substantial losses.

Channel 4 launched a subscription film channel, FilmFour, in November 1998. It is available on analogue and digital satellite television. Companion services, such as FilmFour +1, FilmFour World and FilmFour Extreme were also available on some digital services. In 2003 Extreme and World were discontinued, and replaced with Film Four Weekly.

Channel 4 launched a dedicated horse racing channel, attheraces, in 2000, however for a combination of financial and legal reasons the channel ceased broadcasting in 2003. It was subsequently bought by BSkyB and relaunched in June 2004, but Channel 4 no longer have any involvement with it.

E4, a digital entertainment channel previously available on the Internet, was launched in January 2001.

Rumours suggest that later in 2004, Channel 4 will introduce a new digital channel under the working title of 'More4' which will cater for older audiences, by accessing Channel 4's vast archive of documentary and history programmes.

On 27 February 2004 it was reported that Channel 4 and Five were discussing a possible merger. It should be noted that because of the special nature of Channel 4, any such merger would require an Act of Parliament.


One of the channel's strengths is its comedy. In the early days they screened The Comic Strip Presents, a highly innovative series of hour-long one-off comedies produced by a rotating line-up of alternative comedians such as Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Cook, Peter Richardson, and Alexei Sayle. Latterly they have aired cutting-edge comedy shows such as Brass Eye, The Mark Thomas Product, Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, Drop the Dead Donkey, Desmond's and arguably its best-ever output Father Ted.

The first voice ever heard on Channel 4 was that of continuity announcer Paul Coia, who intoned, "Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be able to say to you: Welcome to Channel Four", before heading into a montage of clips from its programmes set to the station's signature tune, "Fourscore", which would form the basis of the station's jingles for its first decade. The first programme to air on the channel was the teatime game show Countdown, produced by Yorkshire Television and fronted by Richard Whiteley; it is still running as of 2004.

In contrast to the other terrestrial TV channels, Channel 4 makes few of the programmes it broadcasts, partly as a result of the terms under which it was founded. Its critically acclaimed news service, Channel 4 News, is supplied by ITN, and the channel commissions many of its programmes from independent producers.

The channel has established a tradition of broadcasting Raymond Briggs's animated film The Snowman every Christmas.

On November 4, 2003, Channel 4 screened its final episode of Brookside, a soap opera which had run for 21 years, since the channel started.

For years, Channel 4 has broadcast episodes of the most popular sitcoms from the United States on Friday nights. In early 2004, Friday-night sitcoms on Channel 4 included Friends, Sex and the City and Will & Grace;.

Channel 4 is also noted for the screening of Big Brother, recognised as the first reality television programme. Since it started in 2000, it has had five series, each one broadcast every summer, and has been exported to the USA.

It may be worth noting that Channel 4 and its associated channels do not cut programmes or movies for commercial timing purposes.


Channel 4 occupies a distinctive, purpose-designed building on Horseferry Road, Westminster, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership with structural engineering by Ove Arup & Partners;. It follows on from, but is more restrained than, the Lloyd's building in the City of London, and was constructed from 1991-94.

See also

External links