Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4's logo is now cut out from a white background, and is shown in moving distortions that reveal programme-specific graphics underneath
Launched 2 November 1982
Owned by Channel Four Television Corporation
Picture format 576i (SDTV 16:9)
1080i (HDTV)
Audience share 5.3%
1.0% (+1)
(, BARB)
Country United Kingdom
Sister channel(s) Film4,
E4,
More4,
4Music,
Kerrang!,
Kiss,
Magic,
Q,
Smash Hits!,
The Box
Timeshift service Channel 4+1
Website channel4.com
Availability
Terrestrial
Analogue Normally tuned to 4
(excluding Wales) (To be phased out nationwide by 2012)
Freeview Channel 4
Channel 8 (Wales)
Channel 13 (+1)
Channel 52 (HD, excluding Wales)
(Currently being rolled out)
Satellite
Freesat Channel 104
Channel 120 (Wales)
Channel 121 (+1)
Channel 126 (HD)
Sky Channel 104
Channel 117 (Wales)
Channel 135 (+1)
Channel 135, 136 +1 (IRL)
Channel 140 (HD)
Astra 2D 10714H 22000 5/6
10729V 22000 5/6
Astra 2A 12480V 27500 2/3
Astra 1N 11127V 22000 2/3 8PSK (HD Test)
Cable
Virgin Media Channel 104
Channel 143 (+1)
Channel 142 (HD)
UPC Ireland Channel 111
Cablecom (Switzerland) Channel 163 (CH-D)
Smallworld Cable Channel 104
Channel 138 (+1)
Channel 108 (HD)
IPTV
TalkTalk TV Channel 4
Internet television
4oD Main online service of Channel 4

Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by the Channel Four Television Corporation, a public body established in 1990, coming into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter in Wales to digital on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became an entirely UK-wide TV channel for the first time.

The channel was established to provide a fourth television service to the United Kingdom in addition to the television licence-funded BBC's two services and the single commercial broadcasting network, ITV.

Contents

Public service remit

Channel 4 was established with, and continues to hold, a remit of public service obligations which it must fulfil. The remit changes periodically, as dictated by various broadcasting and communications acts, and is regulated by the various authorities Channel 4 has been answerable to; originally the IBA, then the ITC and now Ofcom.

The preamble of the remit as per the Communications Act 2003 states that:

"The public service remit for Channel 4 is the provision of a broad range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular:

  • demonstrates innovation, experiment and creativity in the form and content of programmes;
  • appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society;
  • makes a significant contribution to meeting the need for the licensed public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature and other programmes of educative value; and
  • exhibits a distinctive character."[1][2]

The remit also involves an obligation to provide programming for schools,[3] and a substantial amount of programming produced outside of Greater London.[4]

Channel Four Television Corporation

Channel Four Television Corporation
Type Statuatory corporation
Industry Broadcasting
Area served United Kingdom
Products Television and digital media
Website www.channel4.com

As an organisation, Channel 4 is known as the Channel Four Television Corporation (sometimes abbreviated to C4C), a statutory corporation,[5] though this form is more recent than the station itself, having previously been the Channel Four Television Company Limited, a subsidiary of the IBA, between 1982 and 1993.[6][7]

Towards the end of the 1980s, the government began a radical process of re-organisation of the commercial broadcasting industry,[8] which was written onto the statute books by means of the Broadcasting Act 1990.[9] Significantly, this meant the abolition of the IBA, and hence the Channel Four Television Company. The result led to the creation of a corporation to own and operate the channel, which would have a greater deal of autonomy and would eventually go on to establish its other operations. The new corporation, which became operational in 1993, remained publicly owned and was regulated by the new Independent Television Commission (ITC), created under the same act. The ITC and its duties were later replaced by Ofcom, which like its predecessor is responsible for appointing the Corporation's board, in agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.[1]

In terms of the station's remit and other duties, the creation of the corporation meant little change; the new corporation would have to manage its own advertising, rather than this being carried out on its behalf by the local ITV contractors (see Funding).

History

Wales

At the time the fourth service was being considered, a movement in Wales lobbied for the creation of dedicated service that would air Welsh-language programmes, then only catered for at 'off peak' times on BBC Wales and HTV. The campaign was taken so seriously by Gwynfor Evans, former president of Plaid Cymru, that he threatened the government with a hunger strike were it not to honour the plans.[10]

The result was that Channel 4 as seen by the rest of the United Kingdom would be replaced in Wales by Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C) (English: Channel Four Wales). Operated by a specially created Welsh Fourth Channel Authority, S4C would air programmes in Welsh as made by HTV, the BBC, or from independent companies. Initially limited frequency space meant that Channel 4 could not be broadcast alongside S4C, though some English Channel 4 programmes would be aired at less popular times on the Welsh variant, a practice that carried on up until the closure of S4C's analogue transmissions in 2010.

Since then, carriage on digital cable, satellite and digital terrestrial has introduced Channel 4 to Welsh homes where it is now universally available.

Conception

Before Channel 4 and S4C, Britain had three terrestrial television services: BBC1, BBC2, and ITV. The Broadcasting Act 1980 began the process of adding a fourth, and Channel 4, along with its Welsh counterpart, was formally created by an Act of Parliament in 1982. After some months of test broadcasts, it began scheduled transmissions on 2 November 1982.

The notion of a second commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom had been around since the inception of ITV in 1954 and its subsequent launch in 1955; the idea of an 'ITV2' was long expected and pushed for. Indeed television sets sold throughout the 1970s and early 1980s had a spare channel called 'ITV/IBA 2'. Throughout ITV's history and until Channel 4 finally became a reality, a perennial dialogue existed between the GPO, the government, the ITV companies and other interested parties, concerning the form such an expansion of commercial broadcasting would take. It was most likely politics which had the biggest impact in leading to a delay of almost three decades before the second commercial channel became a reality.[7] With what can crudely be summed up as a clash of ideologies between an expansion of ITV's commercial ethos and a public service approach more akin to the BBC, it was ultimately something of a compromise that eventually led to the formation of Channel 4 as launched in 1982.

One clear benefit of the 'late arrival' of the channel was that its frequency allocations at each transmitter had already been arranged in the early 1960s, when the launch of an ITV2 was highly anticipated.[7] This led to very good coverage across most of the country and few problems of interference with other UK-based transmissions; a stark contrast to the problems associated with Channel 5's launch 14 and a half years later.

Launch and IBA control: 1982–1993

The first voice ever heard on Channel 4's opening day of Tuesday 2 November 1982 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", written by Lord David Dundas, 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, at 16.45 produced by Yorkshire Television; it is still running as of 2011. The first person to be seen on Channel 4 was Richard Whiteley with Carol Vorderman being the second and the first female on the channel. Whiteley opened the show with the words "As the countdown to a brand new channel ends, a brand new countdown begins." On its first day, Channel 4 also broadcast controversial soap opera Brookside, which ran for 21 years.

Upon its launch, Channel 4 committed itself to providing an alternative to the existing channels, an agenda in part set out by its remit which required the provision of programming to minority groups.

In step with its remit, the channel became well received both by minority groups and the arts and cultural worlds during this period, especially under Isaacs, where the channel gained a reputation for programmes on the contemporary arts. Channel 4 co-commissioned Robert Ashley's ground-breaking television opera 'Perfect Lives',[11] which it premiered over several episodes in 1984. The channel often did not receive mass audiences for much of this period, however, as might be expected for a station focusing on minority interest.

Channel 4 also began the funding of independent films, such as the Merchant-Ivory docudrama The Courtesans of Bombay, during this time.

In 1992, Channel 4 also faced its first libel case by Jani Allan, a South African journalist, who objected to her representation in the documentary The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife.[12]

Channel Four Television Corporation: 1993 onwards

After control of the station passed from the Channel Four Television Company to the Channel Four Television Corporation in 1993 (see above), a shift in broadcasting style took place. Instead of aiming for the fringes of society, it began to focus on the edges of the mainstream, and the centre of the mass market itself[citation needed]. It began to show many US programmes in peak viewing time, far more than it had previously done. It premièred such shows as Friends and ER.

In the early 2000s, Channel Four began broadcasting reality formats such as Big Brother and obtained the rights to broadcast mass appeal sporting events like cricket and horse racing. This new direction increased ratings and revenues.

In addition, the channel launched a number of new television channels through its new 4Ventures off-shoot, including Film4, At The Races, E4 and More4 (see Other services).

Partially in reaction to its new 'populist' direction, the Communications Act 2003 directed the channel to demonstrate innovation, experimentation and creativity, appeal to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society and to include programmes of an educational nature which exhibit a distinctive character.[1]

Under the leadership of Freeview founder Andy Duncan, 2005 saw a change of direction for Channel 4's digital channels. Channel 4 made E4 'free to air' on Digital Terrestrial, and launched a new 'free to air' digital channel called More4. By October, Channel 4 had joined the Freeview consortium.[13] By July 2006, Film4 had also become a 'free to air' and re-started broadcasting on Digital Terrestrial.[14]

In December 31, 2004, Channel 4 launched a new look and new idents in which the logo is disguised as different objects and the 4 can be seen in an angle.

Venturing into radio broadcasting, 2005 saw Channel 4 purchase 51 per cent of shares in the now defunct Oneword radio station with UBC Media holding on to the remaining shares. New programmes such as the weekly, half-hour The Morning Report news programme were among some of the new content Channel 4 provided for the station, with the name 4Radio being used. As of early 2009, however, Channel 4's future involvement in radio remained uncertain.

On 2 November 2007, the station celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday. It showed the first episode of Countdown, an anniversary Countdown special, as well as a special edition of The Big Fat Quiz and using the original multicoloured 1982-1996 blocks logo on presentation and idents using the Fourscore jingle throughout the day.

In November 2009, Channel 4 launched a week of 3D television, broadcasting selected programmes each night using stereoscopic ColorCode technology. The accompanying 3D glasses were distributed through Sainsbury's supermarkets.[15]

The future

Channel 4 has raised concerns over how it might finance its public service obligations after digital switch-over. However, some certainty lies in the announcement in April 2006 that Channel 4's digital switch-over costs would be paid for by licence fee revenues.[16]

On 28 March 2007, Channel 4 announced plans to launch a music channel "4Music" as a joint venture with British media company EMAP which would include carriage on the Freeview platform. On 15 August 2008, 4Music was launched across the UK.[17] Recently, Channel 4 have announced interest in launching a high-definition version of Film4 on Freeview, to coincide with the launch of Channel 4 HD,[18][19] however the fourth HD slot was given to Channel 5 instead.[20] Channel 4 has since acquired a 50% stake in EMAP's TV business for a reported £28 million.[21]

Carriage

Channel 4 was carried from its beginning on analogue terrestrial, which was practically the only means of television broadcast in the United Kingdom at the time. It will continue to be broadcast through these means until the changeover to digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom is complete. Since 1998, it has been universally available on digital terrestrial, and the Sky platform (encrypted, though free of charge) as well as having been available from various times in various areas, on analogue and digital cable networks.

Due to its special status as a public service broadcaster with a specific remit, it is afforded free carriage on the terrestrial platforms,[22] in contrast with other broadcasters such as ITV.[23]

Channel 4 is also available overseas: parts of the European mainland have been able to receive terrestrial transmissions from the United Kingdom, and some overseas cable networks have carried the service.[citation needed]

Channel 4 Ulster has been available in large parts of Ireland, especially border counties which have been able to receive terrestrial transmissions from Northern Ireland. Channel 4 Ulster has been carried on Irish cable networks since the station went on the air in 1982. S4C has been available as a terrestrial transmission from Wales in southern counties such as Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

From 4 December 2006 Channel 4 was officially available to Sky viewers in Ireland; some programmes, mainly imports, are not aired on this channel variant, due to Channel 4 not owning the relevant broadcast rights within the country.

Channel 4 allowed Internet users in the United Kingdom to watch Channel 4 live on the Internet[citation needed]. However some programmes (mostly international imports) were not shown and this service no longer exists. Channel 4 is also provided by Virgin Mobile's DAB mobile TV service which has the same restrictions as the Internet live stream had.

Channel 4 also makes some of its programming available "on demand" via cable and the Internet (see 4oD).

Funding

During the station's formative years, funding came from the ITV companies in return for their right to sell advertisements in their region on the fourth channel.

Nowadays it pays for itself in much the same way as most privately run commercial stations, i.e. through the sale of on-air advertising, programme sponsorship, and the sale of any programme content and merchandising rights it owns, such as overseas sales and video sales. It also has the ability to subsidise the main network through any profits made on the corporation's other endeavours, which have in the past included subscription fees from stations such as E4 and Film4 (now no longer subscription services) and its 'video-on-demand' sales. In practice, however, these other activities are loss-making, and are subsidised by the main network. According to Channel 4's last published accounts, for 2005, the extent of this cross-subsidy was some £30 million.[24]

The change in funding method came about by the Broadcasting Act 1990 when the new corporation was afforded the ability to fund itself. Originally this arrangement left a 'safety net' guaranteed minimum income should the revenue fall too low, funded by large insurance payments made to the ITV companies. Such a subsidy was never required, however, and these premiums were phased out by government in 1998. After the link with ITV was cut, the cross-promotion which had existed between ITV and Channel 4 also ended.

In 2007 due to severe funding difficulties, the channel sought government help and was granted a payment of £14 million over a six-year period. The money would have come from the television licence fee and would have been the first time that money from the licence fee had been given to any broadcaster other than the BBC.[25] The plan was scrapped by The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, ahead of "broader decisions about the future framework of public service broadcasting".[26] The broadcasting regulator Ofcom released their review in January 2009 in which they suggested that Channel 4 would preferably be funded by "partnerships, joint ventures or mergers".[27]

Programming

Channel 4 share of viewing 1992-2007 BARB figures. Peaks from mid-2000 coincide with broadcast of Endemol's Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother

Channel 4 is a "publisher-broadcaster", meaning that it commissions or "buys" all of its programming from companies independent of itself, and was the first broadcaster in the United Kingdom to do so on any significant scale. This had the consequence of starting an industry of production companies that did not have to rely on owning an ITV licence in order to see their programmes air, though since Channel 4, external commissioning has become regular practise on the numerous stations that have launched since, as well as on the BBC and in ITV (where a quota of 25% minimum of total output has been imposed since the 1990 Broadcasting Act came into force). Ironically, having been the first British broadcaster to completely commission its core product from third parties, and after 25 years in-house, Channel 4 will now become the last terrestrial broadcaster to outsource its transmission and playout operations (to Red Bee Media).[28]

The requirement to obtain all content externally is stipulated in its licence.[2] Additionally, Channel 4 also began a trend of owning the copyright and distribution rights of the programmes it aired, in a manner that is similar to the major Hollywood studios' ownership of television programs that they did not directly produce[citation needed]. Thus, although Channel 4 does not produce programmes, many are seen as belonging to it.

Channel 4 also pioneered the concept of stranded programming, where seasons of programmes following a common theme would be aired and promoted together. Some would be very specific, and run for a fixed period of time; the 4 Mation season, for example, showed innovative animation. Other, less specific strands, were (and still are) run regularly, such as T4, a strand of programming aimed at teenagers, on weekend mornings (and weekdays during school/college holidays); Friday Night Comedy, a slot where the channel would pioneer its style of comedy commissions, 4Music (now a separate channel) and 4Later, an eclectic collection of offbeat programmes transmitted to a cult audience in the early hours of the morning.

In its earlier years, Red Triangle was the name given to the airing of certain risqué art-house films due to the use of a red triangle DOG in the upper right of the screen, dubbed as being pornographic by many of Channel 4's critics, whilst general broadcasting of films on the station for many years came under the banner of Film on Four prior to the launch of the FilmFour brand and station in the late 1990s.

Its critically acclaimed news service, Channel 4 News, is supplied by ITN whilst its long-standing investigative documentary, Dispatches, causes perennial media attention.

Other services

November 1998 saw Channel 4 expand beyond its remit of providing the 'fourth service' in a significant way, with the launch of FilmFour. Since then the corporation has been involved in a range of other activities, all in some way associated with the main channel, and mainly using the '4' brand.

In March 2010 these additional services were reviewed by the government's Culture, Media and Sport select committee. The channel and its Chief Executive were criticised for breaking service commitments, a lack of transparency in accounting for digital channels, poor governance and failed investments[29]

4Ventures/4Rights

In 2001 4Ventures[dead link] was created as the parent body of Channel 4 related commercial activities, rather than public-service obligations, with the intent of making profit which would serve to subsidise the main Channel 4.

Following the sale of Quiz Call (a gaming channel operated by the then-owned subsidiary Ostrich Media) in 2006, a restructure of 4Ventures saw many of its activities re-integrated back into the main channel's operations (including day-to-day running of E4, Film4 and More4).

4Rights, was formed from an amalgamation of Channel 4 International and Channel 4 Consumer Products. As part of the restructure, much of the 4Ventures management team either left the company - former chief executive (and Channel 4 commercial director) Rob Woodward, and managing director Anmar Kawash took similar posts at STV Group plc - or transferred to other posts within Channel 4.

In 2007, the UK-based independent distribution group Digital Rights Group (DRG) announced an intention to buy Channel 4 International (adding it to Zeal and ID Distribution among its other companies), following a review by Channel 4 of its commercial division. The deal was completed in November of the same year. The Consumer Products division has been retained by Channel 4 as part of a new, restructured, 4Rights division.

Television

Channel 4 digital channels viewing figures 1998-2008

Film4

Channel 4 has had a long record of success in funding the production of films through Channel Four Films, renamed FilmFour in 1998 to coincide with the launch of its digital channel of the same name. Notable successes include The Madness of King George, The Crying Game and Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, this dedicated film-making wing was scaled back 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 was available on digital satellite television and digital cable. 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 FilmFour Weekly. FilmFour Weekly closed in July 2006, when the main, newly named Film4 channel went free-to-view and became available on Digital Terrestrial. The switchover to digital terrestrial was heavily advertised. The adverts featured Lucy Liu, Christian Slater, Ewan McGregor, Judi Dench, Gael García Bernal, Willem Dafoe, Mackenzie Crook, Rhys Ifans and Ray Winstone declaring "Film4 is now free" in various situations across London. It remains the only film channel available free on digital terrestrial television.

In 2002, Channel 4's film financing division (Film4 Productions) was seriously scaled back, due to massive losses, although total closure was averted. It had however had various successes, most notably Four Weddings and a Funeral and Trainspotting. In 1994, BAFTA/LA (the Los Angeles branch of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts) presented a full-length film festival in Los Angeles in conjunction with the American Cinematheque (the US equivalent of Britain's National Film Theatre) that saluted the considerable contributions to British film of Channel 4's film division since its inception. The festival presented many of the most celebrated Channel 4 films, and also featured panel discussions about Channel 4's role between Channel 4 chief executive Michael Grade and US TV producer Norman Lear.

When Channel 4 had the rights to broadcast test match cricket in England, the downtime of the FilmFour channel was often used to broadcast uninterrupted coverage of a match when the main channel was committed elsewhere, usually to racing. At these times FilmFour was available unencrypted and free-to-air.

E4

E4, a digital entertainment channel previously available on the Internet, with a target age-range of 16-34, was launched in January 2001. It features premières of US imports and supplementary footage for programmes on its main channel (most notably extended Big Brother coverage).

In 2005 it launched on Digital Terrestrial. E4 now has as much coverage as other services available on Cable, Satellite and Digital Terrestrial like ITV2 and BBC Three. It is a very successful channel with a first look or sneak peek, with the next episode of some series, such as Hollyoaks and Desperate Housewives appearing on E4 immediately after the show on Channel 4 has finished. Also they have "Second Chance Sunday" which allows you to see programmes you have missed during the week on a Sunday. New show Skins was a massive success for E4, peaking at the 2 million mark - one of the most viewed premières in digital TV history. There has, however, been some criticism that E4 (like many other digital channels), relies on seemingly endless repeats of a small selection of shows (notably Friends), with further suggestion that it is often the same season of a particular show that is endlessly repeated.[citation needed]

During Big Brother, E4 plays host to live coverage of the show, subject to a delay. Until 2005, programmes on the channel did not air until 14.00 GMT, but on 12 August 2005 the widely-advertised E4 Music airs from 06.00 until 10.00 GMT, with various music shows and videos being showcased. This however is rested during Big Brother. Transmission of E4 Music has since declined and has been replaced with repeats of popular E4 shows. It has been declared that E4 Music has been moved permanently to the new 4Music channel. Since 2008, live coverage of Big Brother has been shortened during the day, until coming to a close in 2010.

E4 is widely available in Ireland in close to 70% of homes. It is carried on the NTL / Chorus cable networks and also on Sky. The channel operates a separate advertising opt-out in Ireland allowing advertisers to directly target Irish audiences. This has been a highly successful commercial operation and all airtime sales are handled on the channels behalf by Medialink in Dublin.

More4

More4 is a channel aimed at those aged 35–60. Launched on 10 October 2005, it channel carries news and nightly discussion programmes, such as More4 News, an extension of Channel 4 News that attempts to look "beyond the headlines", giving in-depth analysis. Advertising before the launch of the channel flaunted such HBO shows as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos, as well as NBC's The West Wing. Its conception has met conflicting responses; many people believe the programmes shown to be of great quality, while others see it as an excuse to free up more room for a deluge of property programmes or less respectable programmes (see Fat Pets) in all other free slots on Channel 4.[citation needed]

4Music

Over recent years 4Music has risen, showing new single releases, as well as other music shows frequently broadcast across T4, Channel 4 and E4. 2007 saw its own logo being devised and since then has had many themed weekends dedicated to a current band or performer.

On Sundays, Channel 4's 4Music strand aired between 17:00 and midnight on The Hits. The first 'episode' was presented by the most successful female act of the century Sugababes, however 4Music Sundays were meant to feature live acts and also The Shockwaves Album Chart Show.

On 20 February 2008, it was announced that The Hits was to be rebranded as 4Music later in the year, and on 15 August 2008, Channel 4 replaced The Hits with 4Music. 4Music is available on Sky 360, Virgin 330 and Freeview 18.[30] (See Box Television)

4Music also has its own monthly music magazine show, The Crush. Which is hosted by Rick Edwards.

'+1' Channels

Channel 4 "+ 1" logo.

Channel 4 runs timeshift variants of all its services (excluding 4Music and Channel 4 HD), including Channel 4 +1 since 20 August 2007.[31] across all digital platforms. Channel 4 was the first terrestrial broadcaster in the United Kingdom to offer a time-shift variant of its main channel. In common with many other broadcasters, these channels output exactly the same programmes and continuity as was broadcast an hour previously, and are titled with the station name followed by a "+1" suffix.

Channel 4 +1, E4 +1 and More4 +1 all carry a "+1" indication onscreen. There was some concern[who?] about how it would be indicated on Channel 4 +1[citation needed] as Channel 4 does not carry its own on-screen graphic. Eventually, a "+1" symbol that is derived from the Channel 4 logo was unveiled. Neither Film4 nor Film4 +1 carry on-screen graphics.

Box Television

In July 2007 Channel 4 bought 50% of Box Television Ltd for £28 m from Emap plc. It has since emerged that, as a result of Emap's decision to sell off its divisions in a break-up sale of the group, Channel 4 may be interested in acquiring the remaining half of the business. Box TV operates seven music TV stations (4Music, The Box, Smash Hits, Kerrang!, Q, Kiss and Magic). Emap's stake in Box Television Limited was transferred to new owners, Bauer Consumer Media, following Bauer's acquisition of Emap's publishing and radio businesses.

Channel 4 HD

Channel 4HD Logo.svg

On 10 December 2007, Channel 4 launched a high definition television simulcast of Channel 4 on Sky+ HD, after British Sky Broadcasting agreed to contribute toward the channel’s satellite distribution costs.[32] On 31 July 2009, Virgin Media added Channel 4 HD on channel 146 as a part of the M pack.[33] On 25 March 2010 Channel 4 HD appeared on Freeview channel 52 with a placeholding caption, ahead of a commercial launch on 30 March 2010, coinciding with the commercial launch of Freeview HD.[34][35] On 19 April 2011, Channel 4 HD was added to Freesat on channel 126.[36] As a consequence, the channel moved from being free-to-view to free-to-air on satellite during March 2011.

The channel carries the same schedule as Channel 4, broadcasting programmes in HD when available. Initially this has been mostly American imports (such as Ugly Betty for example) and movies, however, original programming such as Hollyoaks and Skins have been broadcast in HD. Although the intention is to increase the amount of "home grown" material being broadcast in HD. It has been announced as the UK's first full-time high definition channel from a terrestrial broadcaster.

Previously, in the summer of 2006, Channel 4 ran a six month closed trial of HDTV, as part of the wider Freeview HD experiment via the Crystal Palace transmitter to London and parts of the home counties,[37] including the use of Lost and Desperate Housewives as part of the experiment, as US broadcasters such as ABC already have an HDTV back catalogue.

Previous channels

At the Races

In 2000, Channel 4 launched a dedicated horse racing channel, At the Races, in conjunction with British Sky Broadcasting and Arena Leisure plc, owner of 28 of Britain's racecourses. The channel ceased broadcasting in 2003 owing to financial problems, but was subsequently restructured and re-launched (without Channel 4's involvement) in June 2004 and it is branded with almost identical livery as Sky Sports. Channel 4's racing coverage, re-named to incorporate "At The Races" in the title, returned to its original name of Channel 4 Racing when the channel left involvement with At The Races. Channel 4 racing programmes now feature close co-operation with rival digital racing channel Racing UK, who sub-licence the live rights and share the same production company. Channel 4 cross-promote Racing UK's coverage of the day's racing during its broadcasts.

Radio

4 Digital Group

Channel 4 was the leading member of the 4 Digital Group consortium, which includes EMAP, UTV and STV Group plc as partners (although STV's involvement will cease when Virgin Radio is floated as a separate company). In July 2007 The group was awarded the 12 year licence to operate the second national DAB radio licence after having defeated its only rival, National Grid Wireless, in the three-month bidding process.[38]

The service would have operated ten radio stations, including Channel 4 Radio, E4 Radio, Sky News Radio (operated by BSkyB and Global Radio) and Radio Disney (in association with Disney). Many of the services, especially Channel 4 Radio and E4 Radio would have competed directly with national BBC Radio stations. Podcast and text services were also to have been provided.[39] In October 2008 Channel 4 announced that it was abandoning its plans for digital radio stations.[40]

4radio

4Radio.svg

In June 2006 Channel 4 tried to launch 4radio,[41] offering audio programmes in the shape of podcasts aimed at introducing new public service radio services informed by C4's values of creativity and innovation. Coupled with its strategy of becoming a truly multimedia company, 4radio hosts shows that tie in with its flagship TV hits including Big Brother, Lost, and Channel 4 News.

The successful multiplex consortium was expected to launch in 2008 with a taste of Channel 4 Radio's audio output made available earlier,[41] including a revival of the channel's The Tube[42] music programme, and a very small amount of 4radio-branded content was heard on Oneword until its closure in January 2008.

Channel 4, as part of its review of public serving spending in 2008 decided to focus its expenditure on TV content and decided to stop its radio plans, resulting in the closure of 4 Digital Group.

Oneword

Oneword was a digital radio station featuring the spoken word. In early 2005 Channel 4 purchased a minority stake in it, later that year buying a majority one worth £1,000,000. On 4 January 2007 it was announced that had Channel 4 sold its 51% stake back to UBC Media for £1. Its normal programming was suspended while a strategic review took place on the station.[43] The station ceased broadcasting on 11 January 2008.

Internet

Channel4.com

The station's website is channel4.com. The site offers detailed programme information, highlights, and chats with actors and presenters of all Channel 4 channels. It also has in-depth sections including news, film, homes, sport, and more. Its learning sections are often used by many for educational needs.

4mations

In January 2008, Channel 4 joined with Aardman Animations and Lupus Films to create 4mations, a user-generated content animation portal, similar to aniBOOM or MyToons.

4oD / Catch-up

4oD is a video on demand service from Channel 4. Launched in November 2006, 4oD stands for "4 on Demand". The service offers a variety of programmes recently shown on Channel 4, E4, More4 or from their archives. However some programmes and movies are not available due to rights issues.

Intranet

Channel 4's intranet was awarded The British Interactive Media Award Group Winner in the B2B Technology and Innovation category. Their intranet was designed and built by digital agency Clock ltd.

Teletext

4-Tel/FourText

Channel 4 originally licensed an ancillary teletext service to provide schedules, programme information and features. The original service was called 4-Tel and was provided in collaboration with Oracle.[44] In 1993, with Oracle losing its franchise to Teletext Ltd, the running of 4-Tel was taken over by Intelfax,[44] and in 2002 was renamed FourText.

Teletext on 4

In 2003, Channel 4 awarded Teletext Ltd a ten year contract to run the channel's ancillary teletext service, named Teletext on 4.[45] The service is provided on both Channel 4 analogue and digital television services, Channel 4, E4 and More4. This has now been ceased and Teletext is no longer available on Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5.

Corporate structure

Management

Channel 4 is run by a chief executive, whose role can be compared 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.

Chairmen

Deputy Chairmen

Chief Executives

Financial information

Channel 4's total revenue for the year to 31 December 2005 was £894.3 million, of which £735.2 million was generated by its main channel, and the remainder by its subsidiaries channels, sales of programming rights to other broadcasters, Film Four and "new media". Operating profits for the year to 31 December 2006 fell 70% to £14.5 million from £56.9 million in 2005.[46]

Headquarters

The Channel 4 building
The Channel 4 building with El Anatsui's Big 4 outside

Channel 4 was originally based at 60 Charlotte Street in the West End of London. Since 1994 the channel has occupied distinctive, purpose-built headquarters at 124 Horseferry Road, Westminster. Designed by Richard Rogers Partnership with structural engineering by Ove Arup & Partners, its 15,000 square metres architecture follows on from - but is more restrained than - the Lloyd's building in the City of London, and was constructed between 1990 and 1994.[47] Twin four-storey office blocks arranged in an L shape are connected by a curved front with a dramatic concave glazed wall.[48]

The Big 4 is a 50-foot-tall statue of the Channel 4 logo which was constructed outside the building. The structure replicates the Channel's current on-screen identity, which the metal frames form the logo only when viewed in a particular angle.[49][50] Also, the Big 4 is adapted into masterpieces created by artists such as British photographer Nick Knight and fashion designer Hannah Gourlay.[51]

Despite nearly all Channel 4 programmes being commissioned from independent production companies, the Channel 4 headquarters originally contained a studio and post-production facility, marketed as 124 Facilities. The studio was used for Channel 4 programmes (such as T4 continuity), and other channels' programmes such as Channel 5's football coverage. The studio was closed at the end of October 2007 and only the post-production operation remains, though it is now managed by Red Bee Media.

Regions

Channel 4 has, since its inception, broadcast identical programmes and continuity throughout the United Kingdom (excluding Wales where it did not operate on analogue transmitters). At launch this made it unique, as both the BBC and ITV had long established traditions of providing regional variations in their programming and announcements between transmitters in different areas of the country (although in the case of BBC2, variations have by and large tended to be limited to national idents as opposed to regional ones). In ITV's case, this was a consequence of its inherent federal structure (see ITV companies). Since the launch of subsequent British television channels, Channel 4 has become typical in its lack of variations of this nature.

A few exceptions exist to this rule for programming and continuity: Ireland has a dedicated variant broadcast on Sky Ireland which omits programmes for which broadcast rights are not held in Ireland. For example, the series Glee is not available on Channel 4 on Sky in Ireland.

Some of Channel 4's schools' programming (1980s/early '90s) were regionalised due to differences in curricula between different regions.[52]

Part of Channel 4's remit covers the commissioning of programmes from outside London. Channel 4 has a dedicated director of nations and regions, Stuart Cosgrove, who is based in a regional office in Glasgow. As his job title suggests, it is his responsibility to foster relations with independent producers based in areas of the United Kingdom (including Wales) outside of London.

Advertising on Channel 4 does contain regular variation: prior to 1993, when ITV was responsible for selling Channel 4's advertising, each regional ITV company would provide the content of advertising breaks, covering the same transmitter area as themselves, and these breaks were often unique to that area. After Channel 4 became responsible for its own advertising, it continued to offer advertisers the ability to target particular audiences and divided its coverage area into six parts coining the term 'LEMNUS' standing for "London, The East [and South] of England, The Midlands, The North of England, Ulster and Scotland.[53]

At present, Wales does not have its own advertising region, instead its viewers receive the southern region on digital platforms intentionally broadcast to the area, or the neighbouring region where analogue transmissions spill over into Wales. Ireland (the Republic) shares its advertising region with Northern Ireland (referred to by Channel 4 as the 'Ulster Macro') with many advertisers selling products for Ireland here.[54] E4 has an advertising variant for Ireland, although Northern Ireland receives the UK version of E4.[54] The six regions are also carried on satellite, cable and Digital Terrestrial.

Channel 5 and GMTV use a similar model to Channel 4 for providing their own advertising regions, despite also having a single national output of programming.

Future possibility of regional news

With ITV plc pushing for much looser requirements on the amount of regional news and other programming it is obliged to broadcast in its ITV regions, the idea of Channel 4 taking on a regional news commitment has been considered, with the corporation in talks with Ofcom and ITV over the matter.[55] Channel 4 believe that a scaling-back of such operations on ITV's part would be detrimental to Channel 4's national news operation, which shares much of its resources with ITV through their shared news contractor ITN. At the same time, Channel 4 also believe that such an additional public service commitment would bode well in on-going negotiations with Ofcom in securing additional funding for its other public service commitments.[55]

Annual Reports and Financial Statements

Annual Reports and Financial Statements 1983-Present

See also

References

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