Channel 4 programming: Wikis


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In common with the other main British stations broadcast on analogue, Channel 4 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]

The station holds 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. 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."[2][3]

The remit also involves an obligations to provide Schools Programming,[4] and a substantial amount of programming produced outside of Greater London,[5]

Channel 4 was also 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.[4] 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. 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.



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 less famous animation through a season called 4 Mation.

Breakfast, News and Current Affairs

Channel 4's first attempt at dedicated breakfast television was Channel 4 Daily, 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. It was replaced in 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.


Some children's programmes aired on Channel 4 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:


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:


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.


Channel 4 has often enjoyed a good reputation for its comedy programming.

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 '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.

Other notable comedies include:

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.

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, they acquired the rights to the updated version of 90210. Channel 4 started airing True Blood after it's global success, it aired on FX in the United Kingdom originally and was broadcast on Channel 4 Wednesday nights at 10:00 due to popular request. It was confirmed that Glee will air on E4 would air on Tuesday 15th December as a sneak peek at 9:00 and the full series launch on January 11th 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.[4]

ITV Schools on Channel 4

Since 1957 ITV had produced schools programming which became an obligation.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

In 2000, the service was renamed 4Learning and as of 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: 4Learning site.


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.


Some Music programmes and strands include:


Sports and sporting events carried by Channel 4 over the years include:

Observational / Documentary

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

Other programmes

Some programmes not mentioned above include:

Channel 4 Presents... 3-D Week

From November 16th 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, organized 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[11] There were 246 complaints to Ofcom as of April 25, 2007,[12] including the complaints that the programme falsified data.[13] 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 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.

Other Files

See the List of British television channels for the channels:


  1. ^ Russ J Graham (2005-09-11). "Yes it's no". seefour by Electromusications from Transdiffusion. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  2. ^ "Channel 4 Overview". Channel 4. 
  3. ^ "Channel 4 Licence". Ofcom. 
  4. ^ a b c "Channel 4 Broadcasting Licence" (PDF). Ofcom. 2006-10-04. pp. Appendix 2, part 10 (Page 13). 
  5. ^ "Channel 4 Broadcasting Licence" (PDF). Ofcom. 2006-10-04. pp. Appendix 2, part 8 (Page 12). 
  6. ^ " - ITV for SCHOOLS & COLLEGES - HISTORY". Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  7. ^ History of ITV Schools on Channel 4. Retrieved at the Internet Archive on 16 Feb 2008
  8. ^ " - CHANNEL 4 SCHOOLS: 1993-1997 HISTORY". Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  9. ^ Jessica Hodgson (2001). "ITV pays £5m for Tour de France". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Houghton, John. "The Great Global Warming Swindle". The John Ray Initiative. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  12. ^ "'Move to block emissions 'swindle' DVD". 2007-04-25.,,2064925,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  13. ^ "C4 accused of falsifying data in documentary on climate change - Independent Online Edition > Media". Retrieved 2007-05-20. 

Further reading

External links

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