Channel Four Television Corporation
|Founded||2 November 1982|
Charles Gurassa (Chairman)|
David Abraham (CEO)
Alex Mahon (CEO-designate)
|Revenue||£935.2 million (2010)|
|£49.3 million (2010)|
|£38.6 million (2010)|
|Total assets||£458.3 million (2010)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Department for Culture, Media and Sport|
Channel Four Television Corporation (informally Channel 4) is a publicly owned media company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. Its original and principal activity is the British national television network Channel 4.
The company was founded in 1982 as Channel Four Television Company Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the IBA, and became an independent statutory corporation in 1993. November 1998 saw Channel Four 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.
Towards the end of the 1980s, the government began a radical process of re-organisation of the commercial broadcasting industry, which was written onto the statute books by means of the Broadcasting Act 1990. 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 greater autonomy and would eventually go on to establish its other operations. The new corporation, which became operational in 1993, was the Channel Four Television Corporation, and was created to replace the former broadcasting operations of the Channel Four Television Company. It 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.
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).
In March 2010, Channel Four Television Corporation and its Chief Executive were criticised by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee for breaking service commitments, a lack of transparency in accounting for digital channels, poor governance and failed investments.
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.
Channel 4 is largely commercially self-funded. 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.
Channel Four launched a subscription film channel, FilmFour, on 1 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.
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, a digital entertainment channel previously available on the Internet, with a target age-range of 16-34, was launched on 18 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.
During the time Channel 4 held the rights to Big Brother, E4 played host to live coverage from the house, subject to a delay. Until 2005, programmes on the channel did not air until 14:00, but on 12 August 2005 the widely advertised E4 Music aired from 06:00 until 10:00, with various music shows and videos being showcased. This however was rested during Big Brother. Transmission of E4 Music since declined and was replaced with repeats of popular E4 shows. It had been declared that E4 Music had been moved permanently to the new 4Music channel. Since 2008, live coverage of Big Brother had 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 Virgin Media Ireland cable network 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 is a channel aimed at those aged 35–60. Launched on 10 October 2005, it 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.
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. (See Box Television)
"4Music" also has its own monthly music magazine show "The Crush".
Channel Four launched 4seven on 4 July 2012. The new service was under working title 'Shuffle Project', though it was announced on 8 March 2012, that the name would be '4seven'. The channel offers audiences the chance to catch-up on the top rated programming from Channel Four's boutique of channels over a week. The channel is available on Freesat, Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.
Channel Four runs timeshift variants of all its services (excluding 4Music and 4seven), including Channel 4 +1 since 20 August 2007. 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.
The Box Plus Network
In July 2007, Channel Four bought 50% of Box Television Ltd for £28 million 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 (The Box, Box Upfront, Box Hits, 4Music, Kiss, Magic and Kerrang!). 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. In 2015, Box Television was renamed to The Box Plus Network with a new look and logo.
Channel Four 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.
In 2002, Channel Four'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.
The channel4.com web site offers detailed programme information, highlights, and chats with actors and presenters of all Channel Four 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.
All 4 is a video on demand service from Channel Four. Launched on 16 November 2006 as 4oD, 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.
In 2001 4Ventures 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.
At the Races
In 2000, Channel Four 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, renamed 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.
4 Digital Group
Channel Four was the leading member of the 4 Digital Group consortium, which included Bauer Radio, BSkyB and UTV as partners. In July 2007 the group was awarded a 12-year licence to operate the second national DAB radio multiplex after having defeated its only rival, National Grid Wireless, in the three-month bidding process.
The service would have operated ten radio stations, including Channel 4 Radio, E4 Radio, Sky News Radio and Radio Disney (in association with Disney). Some 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. In October 2008, Channel 4 announced that it was abandoning its plans for digital radio stations.
Oneword was a digital radio station featuring the spoken word, launched in 2000 by UBC. In early 2005 Channel Four purchased a minority stake, and later that year paid £1 million to increase its stake to 51%. On 4 January 2007 it was announced that Channel Four had sold its shares back to UBC for £1. The station ceased broadcasting on 11 January 2008.
Channel Four 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. In 1993, with Oracle losing its franchise to Teletext Ltd, the running of 4-Tel was taken over by Intelfax, and in 2002 was renamed FourText.
Teletext on 4
In 2003, Channel Four awarded Teletext Ltd a 10-year contract to run an ancillary teletext service, named Teletext on 4, on a number of its channels. The service was 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.
Channel Four 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.
- Jeremy Isaacs (1981–1987)
- Michael Grade (1988–1997)
- Michael Jackson (1997–2002)
- Mark Thompson (March 2002 – June 2004)
- Andy Duncan (July 2004 – November 2009)
- Anne Bulford (Interim) (November 2009 – January 2010)
- David Abraham (January 2010 – October or November 2017)
- Alex Mahon (October or November 2017-)
Channel Four'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. More recent financial statements are available in the company's 2014 annual report.
Channel Four was originally based at 60 Charlotte Street in the West End of London. Since 1994 the company has occupied distinctive, purpose-built headquarters at 124 Horseferry Road, Westminster. Designed by the 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. Twin four-storey office blocks arranged in an L shape are connected by a curved front with a dramatic concave glazed wall.
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 Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services.
The Big 4 is a 50-foot-tall statue of the Channel 4 logo which was constructed outside the building. The Big 4 is designed by FreeState The structure replicates the channel's 2004–2015 idents, in which the "4" logo is formed only when viewed from a particular angle. Also, the Big 4 is adapted into masterpieces created by artists such as British photographer Nick Knight, installation artist Stephanie Imbeau, fashion designer Hannah Gourlay, and most recently disabled artist Tony Heaton.
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