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Channel 4 (1982)

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  Summary  

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 , 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.

  Biography  

 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.

The result was that Channel 4 as seen by the rest of the United Kingdom would be replaced in Wales by Sianel Pedwar Cymru . 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. 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. 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 fourteen 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.

On 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', 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.

 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 , 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. 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 .

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.

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. By July 2006, Film4 had also become a 'free to air' and re-started broadcasting on Digital Terrestrial.

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.

  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.

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. 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, however the fourth HD slot was given to Channel 5 instead. Channel 4 has since acquired a 50% stake in EMAP's TV business for a reported £28 million.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Channel 4", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.