Channel 4 programming

Channel 4 programming

Channel 4, in common with the other main British stations broadcast on analogue, airs a highly comprehensive range of programming. It was established in 1982 with a specific intention of providing programming to groups of minority interests, not catered for by its competitors, which at the time amounted to only the BBC and ITV.[1]

Channel 4 was one of the first "publisher-broadcaster" stations in the world. All of its programming is produced by other companies; it exists only to fund, broadcast and distribute its programmes — a stipulation which is included in its licence to broadcast.[2] It was also one of the first broadcasters to put its name on the introduction or end credits of programmes that it did not produce, a practice that is now widespread. More significantly, it 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; the 4 Mation season, for example, showed innovative animation.


Public service

The station holds a remit of public service obligations which it must fulfill. 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. 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.

The remit also involves an obligations to provide Schools Programming,[2] and a substantial amount of programming produced outside of Greater London,[5]


The channel has established a tradition of broadcasting the animated film of Raymond Briggs's picture book The Snowman, which in 1982 was the new channel's first major animated commission, every Christmas. From 2002, the film was controversially cropped from its original 4:3 picture format to the current widescreen standard of 16:9. The Channel also commissioned early work by Nick Park and Aardman Animation.

Other notable animations include:

And imported animations:

Channel 4 have also promoted animation by independent film makers through a season called 4 Mation. After 4Mation ended a new series called "Dope Sheet", followed the tradition of screening animation by less well known animators as well as classic animation from around the world.


Prior to April 1989, programming on Channel 4 did not start until 10am on weekdays, although in 1984 a segment called 'Early Morning' aired on Saturday and Sundays between 6:00am and 9:00am each weekend. Channel 4's first serious attempt at dedicated breakfast television was in April 1989 when The Channel Four Daily was launched. It was a mix of news and current affairs, more serious in its nature than its then sister service, TV-am, and Channel 4 News, operators of the ITV Breakfast franchise at the time. The programme was initially branded as a television equivalent of a newspaper. After failing to gain enough viewers, it was replaced in September 1992 by The Big Breakfast, a notable magazine format containing light entertainment, interviews and features with news and weather. It enjoyed periods of notable popularity during its near ten-year run. It was replaced by RI:SE in 2002, which failed to gain the same popularity and was axed after just one year. Since the end of RI:SE, Channel 4 has had no overall Breakfast programme so the music programmes like B4 and Freshly Squeezed both replaced RI:SE. Now Freshley Squeezed is on from 7am until 7.30am and the rest of the morning cconsists of repeats of Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Location Location Location and Supernanny.

Children's and Youth

Childrens programmes had been featured between 7:00am and 9:00am on the weekend segment Early Morning from 1986. However, in April 1989, in an attempt to emulate the success of BBC1's popular Going Live! and ITV's cult favourite Wide Awake Club, a children's magazine-style series called Early Bird was launched, and broadcast on Saturday mornings between 7:00am and 9:30am. Hosted by Don Austen, who played the "title character" (Earl E. Bird), this series became best-remembered for its competition to find a team of six children to compete in the The Crystal Maze Christmas special aired on 01 January 1991. This Christmas special proved so popular that the competition was repeated the following year; however, overall the series' viewing figures regularly fell well short of Going Live! and Wide Awake Club, and in September 1992, Early Bird was dropped to make way for a Saturday morning spin-off of The Big Breakfast.

Children's programming

Some children's programmes aired on the 4 Junior block include:


T4 is a separately identified strand carried on Channel 4 (and briefly on E4 until 2002). It consists of programming in the mornings seven days a week for an age range of around 16–25.

Some programmes include:


During the station's early days screenings of innovative short one-off comedy films produced by a rotating line-up of alternative comedians went under the title of The Comic Strip Presents. Artists involved included Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Cook, Peter Richardson, and Alexei Sayle. The Tube and Friday Night Live also launched the careers of a number of a number of up and coming comedians and writers. Channel 4 broadcast a number of popular American imports including: Roseanne, Friends, Sex and the City, South Park and Will & Grace. The popularity of this time-slot lead to the brand Channel 4 Friday Comedy often being promoted.

Other significant US acquisitions include The Simpsons, for which the station was reported to have paid £700,000 per episode for the terrestrial television rights.

In April 2010, Channel 4 became the first UK broadcaster to adapt the American comedy institution of roasting to British television, with A Comedy Roast.[6][7]

Other notable comedies include:

Comedy Gala

In 2010, Channel 4 organised Channel 4's Comedy Gala, a stand-up comedy benefit show in aid of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. With over 25 comedians appearing, it billed it as "the biggest live stand up show in United Kingdom history". Filmed live on 30 March in front of 14,000 at The O2 Arena in London, it was broadcast on 5 April.[8]

Factual and Current Affairs

Channel 4 also has a strong reputation for history programmes and real-life documentaries. It has also courted controversy, for example by broadcasting live the first public autopsy to be carried out in the UK for 170 years, carried out by Gunther von Hagens in 2002, or the 2003 one-off stunt Derren Brown Plays Russian Roulette Live.

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

Other notable factual programmes include:


Television chef Jamie Oliver has created a number of documentaries such as Jamie's Kitchen, Jamie's School Dinners (broadcast to coincide with his campaign to improve the quality of school dinners) and Jamie's Great Escape.

Other food related programmes include:

Observational / Documentary

Observational and Documentary carried by Channel 4 over the years include:


FourDocs is an online documentary site provided by Channel 4. It allows viewers to upload their own documentaries to the site for other people to view. It focuses on documentaries of between 3 and 5 minutes. The website also includes an archive of classic documentaries, interviews with documentary film makers and short educational guides to documentary-making. The also includes a strand for documentaries of under 59 seconds called 'Microdocs'.


Channel 4 pioneered the concept of 'after the pub' television, with series such as Who Dares Wins, Tonight with Jonathan Ross, Friday Night Live and The Word broadcast in the 10–11pm slot. Channel 4 is also noted for the screening of Big Brother. Based on the original Dutch format, the UK version has attracted massive press attention as well as various degrees of criticism for each of its series from 2000 to date.

In October 2005, Channel 4 began broadcasting the UK version of Endemol's worldwide smash game show Deal or No Deal. Despite being broadcast at a relatively slow time slot — 4.15pm weekdays and originally 4.25pm Saturdays — the show, presented by Noel Edmonds, on some occasions has been the most-watched show on the channel. The Saturday edition of the show has had a spell in a prime-time slot, and in June 2006 the show's popularity led to "Double Deal Week" where a second show at 8pm was broadcast each day for a week.

The highest audience ever attained by Channel 4 was 13.8 million for the final part of the mini-series A Woman of Substance, broadcast on 4 January 1985.

Since then, and excluding films, the channel's highest rating was 10 million viewers for the final of the third series of Big Brother on 27 July 2002. The channel's daily share of viewing on that date was 22.8%, then the highest recorded by the station. This record was beaten on Monday 12 September 2005, the final day of the 2005 Ashes, when the channel's daily share of viewing in UK homes was recorded as 23.2%. This was also the first time that Channel 4 had been the highest-rating UK television station across a 24-hour period.

Light Entertainment


On 4 November 2003, Channel 4 screened its final episode of Brookside, a soap opera which had run for the 21 years since the channel started. Channel 4 currently runs a soap opera called Hollyoaks, which sharing the same creator as Brookside, aims at a younger audience. An imported French soap, Chateauvallon was shown on the station for a time, dubbed into English.

American drama is a key part of Channel 4's portfolio, initially with NYPD Blue and ER. These were followed by Without a Trace, The Sopranos, The West Wing and Six Feet Under.

Popular US teen series Dawson's Creek which starred James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams and Joshua Jackson began airing on channel 4 in 1998. It got channel 4 a huge uk audience on its prime time slot and the show lasted for an impressive six years.

In August 2005, Channel 4 started showing the US TV show Lost after a lengthy advertising campaign that included a 60-second commercial shot by David LaChapelle, that featured the cast and cost over £1 million becoming the most expensive advertisement produced in the UK. This gamble seems to have paid off, however; the pilot episode was watched by over 6 million viewers, placing it second in the overall ratings for the channel for that year, Big Brother securing the top spot. However, in October 2006 Channel 4 suffered a blow when BSkyB acquired the rights to the third and fourth seasons of Lost.

Also in 2008, after a lengthy bidding war with Five, ITV2 and Living, Channel 4 acquired the rights to the updated version of 90210. It started airing True Blood after its global success, having originally aired on FX in the United Kingdom. It was confirmed that Glee will air on E4 would air on Tuesday 15 December as a sneak peek at 9:00 and the full series launch on January 11, 2009 replacing One Tree Hill's time slot. Other notable dramas include:

Schools Programming

Channel 4 is obliged to carry schools programming as part of its remit and licence.[2]

ITV Schools on Channel 4

Since 1957 ITV had produced schools programming which became an obligation.[9] In 1987, five years after the new minority station was launched, the IBA afforded ITV free carriage of these programmes during Channel 4's, then largely unused, daytime hours. This arrangement allowed the ITV companies to fulfil their obligation to provide schools programming, whilst being able to use ITV proper to air more popular programming, which unlike schools programmes would provide advertising revenue. During the times in which schools programmes were aired, Channel 4 was effectively operated by ITV, with Central Television providing most of the continuity, and play-out originating from Birmingham.[10] Thus ITV Schools on Channel 4 was effectively a separate station broadcasting on Channel 4's frequencies. Even some regional schools programming was aired, in contrast with Channel 4's lack of any regional variations to its programming.

Channel 4 Schools / 4Learning

After the re-structuring of the station in 1993, ITV's obligations to provide such programming on Channel 4's airtime passed to Channel 4 itself, and the new service became Channel 4 Schools, with the new corporation administering the service and commissioning its programmes, some still from ITV, others from independent producers.[11]

In 2000, the service was renamed 4Learning, and in April 2007, the commercial arm and rights exploitation of its programmes and support materials was sold to Espresso Education and the business re-named Channel 4 Learning. Today, the service has diversified into pre-school and adult programmes, with much of its content also available in text and video form via the Internet, or through DVD sales. Its programming runs to around 400 hours per annum. One of its well known programmes is The Hoobs.

In March 2008, the 4Leaning interactive new media commission was launched. The Slabplayer online media player showing TV shows for teenagers was launched on 26 May 2008.

See also: Channel 4 Learning site.

The schools programming has always had elements different to its normal presentational package. In 1993, the Channel 4 Schools idents featured famous people in one category, with light shining on them in from of an industrial looking setting supplemented by instrumental calming music. This changed in 1996 with the circles look to numerous children touching the screen, forming circles of information then picked up by other children. The last child would produce the channel 4 logo in the form of three vertical circles, with another in the middle and to the left containing the Channel 4 logo.

A present feature of presentation was a countdown sequence featuring, in 1993 a slide with the programme name, and afterwards an extended sequence matching the channel branding. In 1996, this was an extended ident with timer in top left corner, and in 1999 following the adoption of the squares look, featured a square with timer slowly make its way across the right of the screen with people learning and having fun while doing so passing across the screen. It finished with the Channel 4 logo box on the right of the screen and the name 'Channel 4 Schools' being shown. This was adapted in 2000 when the services name was changed to '4Learning'. In 2001, this was altered to various scenes from classrooms around the world and different parts of school life. The countdown now flips over from the top, right, bottom and left with each second, and ends with four coloured squares, three of which are aligned vertically to the left of the Channel 4 logo, with is contained inside the fourth box. The tag 'Learning' is located directly beneath the logo. The final countdown sequence lasted between 2004 and 2005 and featured a background video of current controversial issues, overlaid with upcoming programming information. the video features people in the style of graffiti enacting the overuse of CCTV cameras, fox hunting, computer viruses and pirate videos, relationships, pollution of the seas and violent lifestyles. Following 2005, no branded section has been used for school programmes.


Channel 4 has a long history of screening and supporting British and international feature films. In addition to supporting the production of movies through its production unit (now branded Film4 Productions), Channel 4 and its subsidiary channels also screen a range of acquired features, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to small independent productions. In addition to films from the UK and USA, Channel 4 has also been a key broadcaster of films from overseas, and its schedule has at various times included various European, Australian, Canadian, and Bollywood productions, amongst others. Numerous genres of film-making - such as drama, comedy, documentary, adventure/action, romance and horror/thriller - are represented in the channel's schedule. From the launch of Channel 4 until 1998, film presentations on C4 would often be broadcast under the "Film On Four" banner.

In March 2005, Channel 4 screened uncut Lars von Trier film The Idiots that includes unsimulated sexual intercourse, making it the first UK terrestrial channel to do so. The Channel had screened before other films with similar material but censored and with warnings. The broadcast after midnight only raised one complaint and has been taken as an indication of how far audience values have changed since the Channel began.

Since 1 November 1998, Channel 4 has had a digital subsidiary channel dedicated to the screening of films. This channel launched as a paid subscription channel under the name FilmFour, and was relaunched in July 2006 as a free-to-air channel under the current name of Film4. The Film4 channel carries a wide range of film productions, including acquired and Film4-produced projects. Channel 4's general entertainment channels E4 and More4 also screen feature films at certain points in the schedule as part of their content mix.


Some Music programmes and strands include:

Channel 4 also operates a music and entertainment digital channel, 4Music, as part of its Box Television subsidiary.


Current Sporting events on Channel 4; (Most shown overnight and in early morning - Only horseracing, Paralympics and athletics shown in peaktime)

  • 2012 Summer Paralympics - Channel 4 will provide coverage of the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, with 150 hours of television coverage
  • World Athletics Championships - 2011 and 2013 (Live coverage and Highlights)
  • That Paralympics Show - Saturday afternoon magazine show about Paralympic Sports with Rick Edwards
  • American Football - the channel covered both the NFL from 1982 until 1998, and the World League of American Football in its inaugural 1991 season. Hosts included The Vicious Boys, former NFL player Mick Luckhurst and Gary Imlach. Channel 4 is widely considered to have pioneered the sport to the wider UK public. Channel 4 regained coverage of the NFL showing Sunday Night Football from 2010-present after it was dropped by Five. NFL on Channel 4 is currently hosted by Danny Kelly and analysed by Mike Carlson.
  • Channel 4 Racing - (Live on Saturday Afternoons and big meetings during the week) 1982-present
  • The Morning Line - Live on Saturday Mornings
  • UK Indoor Athletics
  • IAAF Indoor Athetics Championships
  • Freesports on 4 (Extreme sports magazine show)on Weekend Mornings
  • KOTV Boxing Weekly - Shown throught the night and is a Boxing Magazine show
  • Beach Volleyball
  • GT on 4
  • World Cup Skiing
  • World Cup Snowboard
  • World Superbike Highlights

Former Sporting Events on Channel 4

  • Football Italia with James Richardson 1992-2002 (Moved to Eurosport from 2002-2007, On channel 5 from 2007-2008 and now on ESPN UK from 2009-present)
  • Live Home Test Match Cricket and Highlights of Home One-Day Internationals plus Semi-Finals and Final of C&G Trophy 1999-2005 (Now on Sky Sports from 2005)
  • The Cricket Roadshow/Cricket Show 1999-2005
  • Red Bull Air Race 2005-2006 (Moved to Channel 5 in 2007) 2008-2009 (Moved to ITV4 in 2010 but series now cancelled)
  • French Football (Moved to Channel 5 but not shown anymore on UK TV)
  • FT on 4
  • Channel 4 Tennis - 1990, 2010
  • Sumo Wrestling - 1990, 2005
  • Tour de France - Until 2001, now on ITV4[12][13]
  • Transworld Sport Until 2009 - Now on Sky Sports
  • World Wrestling Entertainment Heat (import) - 2000-2001 (Moved to Sky Sports but now finished)

Other programmes

Some programmes not mentioned above include:

Channel 4 Presents... 3-D Week

From November 16, 2009 for one week only showing programmes such as...

The glasses are classic amber/blue colour and featured a chequered theme, the glasses were available at Sainsburys in the UK, Channel 4 also asked for viewers to create a film and then use software to make it 3D and will be shown online. However there was a massive demand for 3D specs and they were not met and Channel 4 received a number of complaints that viewers could not enjoy 3D quality as the colours were amber/blue unlike the red/blue glasses received in DVD releases of 3D movies.


Channel 4 and its associated channels do not cut programmes or movies for commercial timing purposes, however some imported shows have been known to be edited. Channel 4's broadcasts of animated comedy The Simpsons are heavily edited in comparison to those on rival channel Sky1.[citation needed]

Wank Week

A season of television programmes about masturbation, called Wank Week, was to be broadcast in the United Kingdom by Channel 4 in March 2007. The first show was about a Masturbate-a-thon, a public mass masturbation event, organised to raise money for the sexual health charity Marie Stopes International. Another film would have focused on compulsive male masturbators and a third was to feature the sex educator Dr Betty Dodson.

The series came under public attack from senior television figures, and was pulled amid claims of declining editorial standards and controversy over the channel's public service broadcasting credentials. However, the films it was meant to showcase may yet be broadcast by the channel at a later date.

Global Warming

On March 8, 2007 Channel 4 screened the highly controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. The programme states that global warming is "a lie" and "the biggest scam of modern times".[citation needed] The programme's accuracy has been disputed on multiple points and several commentators have criticised it for being one-sided, noting that the mainstream position on global warming is supported by the scientific academies of the major industrialized nations[14] There were 246 complaints to Ofcom as of April 25, 2007,[15] including the complaints that the programme falsified data.[16] The programme has been criticised by scientists and scientific organizations and various scientists which participated in the documentary claimed their views had been distorted.

Against Nature: An earlier controversial Channel 4 programme made by Martin Durkin which was also critical of the environmental movement and was charged by the Independent Television Commission of the UK for misrepresenting and distorting the views of interviewees by selective editing.

The Greenhouse Conspiracy: An earlier Channel 4 documentary broadcast on 12 August 1990, as part of the Equinox series, in which similar claims were made. Three of the people interviewed (Lindzen, Michaels and Spencer) were also interviewed in The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Ahmadinejad's Christmas speech

In the Christmas address of 2008, a Channel 4 tradition since 1993, Mr Ahmadinejad made a thinly veiled attack on the United States by claiming that Christ would have been against “bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers”.

A spokeswoman for the FCO said: “President Ahmadinejad has, during his time in office, made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements. The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offence and bemusement not just at home but among friendly countries abroad.”

Notable Failures

Channel 4 has for a long time struggled in the breakfast slot. In 1989 the Channel launched a breakfast television slot produced by Mentorn Films, called the Channel 4 Daily. In 1992 this was replaced by The Big Breakfast, which briefly outrated the ITV breakfast broadcast, GMTV, after the closure of TV-am. The Big Breakfast was axed in March 2002. It was replaced by RI:SE, which rated poorly. With the demise of RI:SE, Channel 4 withdrew from original programming in the breakfast TV slot. Now T4 runs the early morning slots on weekdays showing repeats of popular shows such as Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Just Shoot Me. (This was temporarily interrupted in early 2006 with the show Morning Glory, designed to keep the audience following the early morning transmission of Big Brother's Little Breakfast).


4Talent is an editorial branch of Channel 4's commissioning wing, which co-ordinates Channel 4's various talent development schemes for film, television, radio, new media and other platforms and provides a showcasing platform for new talent.

There are bases in London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast, serving editorial hubs known respectively as 4Talent National, 4Talent Central England, 4Talent Scotland and 4Talent Northern Ireland. These four sites include features, profiles and interviews in text, audio and video formats, divided into five zones: TV, Film, Radio, New Media and Extras, which covers other arts such as theatre, music and design. 4Talent also collates networking, showcasing and professional development opportunities, and runs workshops, masterclasses, seminars and showcasing events across the UK.

4Talent has an active presence on social networking site Facebook.

See also 4Talent.

4Talent Magazine

4Talent magazine is the creative industries magazine from 4Talent, which launched in 2005 (originally titled TEN4 magazine) under the editorship of Dan Jones. 4Talent Magazine is currently edited by Nick Carson. Other staff include deputy editor Catherine Bray and production editor Helen Byrne. The magazine covers rising and established figures of interest in the creative industries, a remit including film, radio, TV, comedy, music, new media and design.

Subjects are usually UK-based, with contributing editors based in Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Birmingham, but the publication has been known to source international content from Australia, America, continental Europe and the Middle East. The magazine is frequently organised around a theme for the issue, for instance giving half of November 2007's pages over to profiling winners of the annual 4Talent Awards.

An unusual feature of the magazine's credits is the equal prominence given to the names of writers, photographers, designers and illustrators, contradicting standard industry practice of more prominent writer bylines. It is also recognisable for its 'wraparound' covers, which use the front and back as a continuous canvas - often produced by guest artists.

Although 4Talent Magazine is technically a newsstand title, a significant proportion of its readers are subscribers. It started life as a quarterly 100-page title, but has since doubled in size and is now published bi-annually.

See also


  1. ^ Russ J Graham (2005-09-11). "Yes it's no". seefour by Electromusications from Transdiffusion. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "Channel 4 Broadcasting Licence" (PDF). Ofcom. 2006-10-04. pp. Appendix 2, part 10 (Page 13). 
  3. ^ "Channel 4 Overview". Channel 4. 
  4. ^ "Channel 4 Licence". Ofcom. 
  5. ^ "Channel 4 Broadcasting Licence" (PDF). Ofcom. 2006-10-04. pp. Appendix 2, part 8 (Page 12). 
  6. ^ Armstrong, Stephen (5 April 2010). "Channel 4 launches comedy roast shows". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "A Comedy Roast - Series & Episodes". Channel 4. undated. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Comedy Royalty unite for Channel 4's Comedy Gala". Channel 4. 11 February 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  9. ^ " - ITV for SCHOOLS & COLLEGES - HISTORY". Archived from the original on 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  10. ^ History of ITV Schools on Channel 4. Retrieved at the Internet Archive on 16 Feb 2008
  11. ^ " - CHANNEL 4 SCHOOLS: 1993-1997 HISTORY". Archived from the original on 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  12. ^ Jessica Hodgson (2001-07-30). "ITV pays £5m for Tour de France". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Houghton, John. "The Great Global Warming Swindle". The John Ray Initiative. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  15. ^ Adam, David (2007-04-25). "'Move to block emissions 'swindle' DVD". The Guardian (London).,,2064925,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  16. ^ Connor, Steve (2007-05-08). "C4 accused of falsifying data in documentary on climate change - Independent Online Edition > Media". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2007-05-20. 

External links

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