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Channel 4

Related subjects Media; Television

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 625 Lines PAL (analogue)
16:9/ 4:3, 576i SDTV (digital),
1080i ( HDTV)
Audience share 7.7% (with S4C)
(0.5% for Channel 4+1)
(November 2007, )
Country United Kingdom
Sister channel(s) E4, More4, Film4
Timeshift service Channel 4+1
Website www.channel4.com
Analogue Normally tuned to 4 (excluding Wales)
Freeview Channel 4
Channel 8 (Wales)
Channel 13 (+1)
Sky Digital Channel 104
Channel 117 (Wales)
Channel 135 (+1)
Channel 135, 136 +1 (ROI)
Sky HD Channel 140
Virgin Media Channel 104
Channel 143 (+1)
Tiscali TV Channel 4
UPC Ireland Channel 111

Channel 4 is a public-service television and radio broadcaster in the United Kingdom, centred around a television channel of the same name which began transmissions on November 2, 1982. Though entirely 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 for this purpose and which came into operation in 1993, following the abolition of the IBA.

The station was established to provide a fourth television service to the UK that would break the duopoly of the BBC's two established television services and the single commercial broadcasting network, ITV, then the only services in the UK. Though having seen new competition through the subsequent availability and growth of cable, satellite and digital terrestrial services, Channel 4 still enjoys almost universal coverage in the UK, coverage in some neighbouring countries and a significant audience share.

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."

The remit also involves an obligation to provide Schools Programming, and a substantial amount of programming produced outside of Greater London,


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

The result was that Channel 4 proper would be replaced by " Sianel Pedwar Cymru" or "Channel 4 Wales". Operated by a specially-created Welsh Forth 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 proper 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 still carries on to this day on S4C analogue.

Since then, carriage on digital cable, satellite and digital terrestrial television means that Channel 4 is now available to over 70% of Welsh viewers. Following the completion of switchover to digital broadcasting in Wales in 2009, Channel 4 should become available to all Welsh TV viewers, alongside S4C. Consequently "S4C Digidol" does not carry Channel 4 programming.

Channel Four Television Corporation

As an organisation, Channel 4 is known as the Channel Four Television Corporation, though this form is more recent than the station itself, having previously been the Channel Four Television Company, a subsidiary of the IBA, between 1982 and 1993.

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 lead 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 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.

In terms of the station's remit and other duties, the creation of the corporation meant little change, however 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).



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 UK 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 somewhat 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 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 15 years later.

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 Lord David Dundas-penned signature tune, Fourscore, 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, produced by Yorkshire Television; it is still running as of 2007 and is contracted until 2009.

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. Its new style of programming often drew critical attention, with some, such as the self-styled public-decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse, claiming the station had overstepped the boundaries of acceptability whilst others argued that the new style of broadcasting had led to a liberalisation of the UK television industry.

Programming such as the Red Triangle series, The Tube, and Network 7 often straddled the boundary between being pioneering and being tasteless.

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. 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 during this time.

In 1992, Channel 4 also faced it's 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 control: 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. It began to show many US programmes in peak viewing time, far more than it had previously done. It premiered such shows as Friends and ER.

Latterly, it began broadcasting various reality formats (including Big Brother) and obtained the rights to broadcast certain popular sporting events such as cricket and horse racing (the contract to broadcast Test Match Cricket ceased with the end of the Summer 2005 Ashes series). 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.

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.

Venturing into radio broadcasting, 2005 saw Channel 4 purchase a 51 per cent of shares in the Oneword radio station with UBC Media holding onto the remaining shares. New programmes such as the weekly, half hour The Morning Report news programme are among some of the new content Channel 4 has provided for the station, with the name 4Radio being used.

On November 2, 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.

The future

Channel 4 has in recent years 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 March 28, 2007, Channel 4 announced plans to launch a music channel as a joint venture with UK media company EMAP which would include carriage on the Freeview platform. Channel 4 has since acquired a 50% stake in EMAP's TV business for a reported £28 million.


Channel 4 was carried from its beginning on analogue terrestrial (except in Wales), which was practically the only means of television broadcast in the UK at the time. It will continue to be broadcast through these means until the UK's analogue television services are closed down over the course of the next decade. Since 1998, it has been universally available on digital terrestrial, and the Sky Digital 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, in contrast with other broadcasters such as ITV.

Channel 4 is also available overseas: Some viewers in the Republic of Ireland and parts of the European mainland, have been able to receive terrestrial transmissions from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and some overseas cable networks, especially in the RoI, have carried the service. From 4 December 2006 Channel 4 was officially available to Sky viewers in the Republic of 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.

From June 2006, Channel 4 allowed Internet users in the United Kingdom to watch Channel 4 live on the Internet. However, for legal reasons all adverts have been removed and some programmes (mostly international imports) are not shown. Channel 4 is also provided by Virgin Mobile's DAB mobile TV service which has the same restrictions as the internet live stream.

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


Channel 4 has never received any public 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.

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.


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 broadcaster in the UK 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).

The requirement to obtain all content externally is stipulated in its licence. 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. 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 (potentially about to expand soon into a full channel in partnership with Emap) 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 2001 4Ventures was created as the parent body of its other activities, which at the time were run as commercial businesses, rather than public-service obligations, with the intent of making profit which would serve to subsidise the main Channel 4. 4Ventures has subsequently been run-down, with its television stations (listed below) moving from a largely subscription based profit-making model, to being widely available free-to-view services, available on most platforms.

However, 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). The last remaining division (and now the only commercial arm of Channel 4), 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 - chief executive (and Channel 4 commercial director) Rob Woodward and managing director Anmar Kawash are now Chief Executive and Director of Strategy of SMG respectively - or transferred to other posts within Channel 4. Most overt references to 4Ventures have since ended and/or been removed. 4Ventures' website still exists, but has not been updated for some time.

In 2007, the expanding, 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. However, it is unclear what future the Consumer Products division will have, ie: remaining part of its new owner, being sold on, or retained by Channel 4 as part of a new, heavily-shrunken 4Rights division.



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.

At The Races

In 2000, Channel 4 launched a dedicated horse racing channel, At the Races. However, for a combination of financial and legal reasons the channel ceased broadcasting in 2003. It was subsequently bought by BSkyB and relaunched in June 2004. Channel 4 has no involvement with the new At The Races, which 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, (including cross-promoting Racing UK's coverage of the day's racing during its broadcasts).


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 premieres 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 premieres 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 Big Brother, E4 plays host to live coverage of the show, subject to a delay. Until 2006, programmes on the channel didn't air until 14.00 GMT, but in February 2006 the widely-advertised E4 Music airs from 06.00 until 14.00 GMT, with various music shows and videos being showcased. This however is rested during Big Brother.

E4 is widely available in the Republic of Ireland in close to 70% of homes. It is carried on the NTL / Chorus cable networks and also on Sky Digital. The channel operates a separate advertising opt-out in the Republic 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 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.

'+1' Channels

Channel 4 runs time-shift variants of its E4, More4 and Film4 services, and from August 20, 2007 has run Channel 4 +1 across all digital platforms. 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 about how it would be indicated on Channel 4+1 as Channel 4 doesn't carry its own on-screen graphic. Eventually, a "+1" symbol in a similar style to the Channel 4 was unveiled. However, it should be noted that neither Film4 or Film4+1 carry on-screen graphics.

Quiz Call

4Ventures previously owned Ostrich Media Limited, a company which ran the participation television station, Quiz Call. In November 2006, Channel 4 confirmed that it had sold Ostrich Media Limited to iTouch. Channel 4 cited the fact that strong competition in the UK participation television market had meant that it was no longer easy to make profits from participation TV as the reason for selling. The space occupied by QuizCall on Freeview wasn't included as part of the sale. Consequently, the channel left Channel 4's space on Freeview on 15 November 2006, and was replaced in the short term by Film4+1. Channel 4 director of television, Kevin Lygo, confirmed the plan to launch a new channel in the longer term. However, he was reported not to be satisfied with the first round of ideas submitted to him (a US acquisitions channel, a comedy channel and a T4 youth brand channel) and is now canvassing further options.

Box Television Ltd

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 7 music TV stations ( The Hits, The Box, Smash Hits, Kerrang!, Q, Kiss and Magic). It is rumoured that, if Channel 4 are successful in buying Emap's share of Box, then The Hits will be replaced by a 4Music-branded channel. Currently, Emap's stake in Box Television Limited is held by Emap Consumer Media's new owners, Bauer Publishing.

Channel 4 HD


On December 10, 2007, Channel 4 launched a high definition television simulcast of Channel 4 on Sky HD. It is planned to roll out on other platforms "in the future".

The channel carries the same schedule as Channel 4, broadcasting programmes in HD when available. Initially this is expected to mostly be American imports (such as Ugly Betty for example) and movies, with the number of hours of original HD programming increasing over time. 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 FreeviewHD experiment in London, including the use of Lost and Desperate Housewives as part of the experiment, as US broadcasters such as ABC already have a HDTV back catalogue.


4 Digital Group

Channel 4 is the leading member of a the 4 Digital Group consortium, which includes EMAP, UTV and SMG as partners (although SMG'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 UK national DAB radio licence after having defeated its only rival, National Grid Wireless, in the three-month bidding process.

The service will operate ten radio stations, including Channel 4 Radio, E4 Radio, Sky News Radio (operated by BSkyB and Global Radio UK) and Radio Disney (in association with Disney). Many of the services, especially Channel 4 Radio and E4 Radio, will attempt to compete directly with national BBC Radio stations. Podcast and text services will also be provided when the stations go on air in 2008.


In June 2006 they launched 4radio, 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 their strategy of becoming a truly multimedia company, there are shows that tie in with their flagship TV hits including Big Brother, Lost, and Channel 4 News. But they are also looking to introduce opportunities for new music, comedy, speech and drama production from independents to invigorate the commercial radio sector and give the BBC some real competition.

The successful multiplex consortium will not be expected to launch until 2008. However a taste of Channel 4 Radio's audio output is already available including a revival of the Channel's The Tube music programme and a very small amount of 4radio branded content can be heard on Oneword.


Oneword is 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 has been suspended while a strategic review takes place on the station.


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.


4oD Logo

Launched in November 2006, 4oD stands for "4 on Demand", a service which allows some internet, Virgin Media, Tiscali and BT Vision users to view programming recently shown on Channel 4, E4 or More4, or from their archives. 4oD also includes a selection of films and content from the National Geographic Channel. The cable version is operated through an appropriate set top box whilst the internet variant requires the installation of a free piece of software, which allows users to download the programmes to a computer for viewing.

The services are limited to UK and Republic of Ireland viewers only, and the internet version is at present further limited to Windows XP and Windows Vista, PC users only. This is due to the proprietary Microsoft DRM system chosen for the service, being only available to that platform at this time. Channel 4 state that this choice of system is at the stipulation of many of the programme copyright holders, thus such a limitation is unavoidable if their programmes are to be made available in this way. At this time there is no widespread, secure multiplatform DRM technology available which is accepted by the major content producers, including the Hollywood studios - although the BBC's rival offering, iPlayer, has a Flash-based streaming option available on several operating systems including Linux and Mac OS.

Image:4od ss.jpg
Screen shot of 4oD Browser

The "Catch-up" service offers content free of charge for both streaming and downloaded versions of a programme for thirty days after its broadcast on Channel 4. Some content is available free of charge, whilst most other programmes and films, including archive programming, is charged for on a per-download basis, typically around 99p per standard programme or £1.99 per film. Video can be viewed multiple times, for up to forty-eight hours after the first time it was played, or for a month until played. The video on the internet service is advertised as being 'DVD quality', and estimates download time to be around twice the programme length on an average broadband connection, though speeds vary dramatically dependent on ISP, connection speed and other factors, and may be less or more than this.

A Download to Own (DTO) or "Buy" feature is also available on selected content, allowing users to purchase a programme and keep it for as long as they wish.

The 4oD internet service uses exactly the same technology ( Kontiki Delivery Manager and Microsoft DRM) as the BBC iPlayer test service that was successfully trailed at the end of 2005. It launched in 2007, with an additional Flash based service launching in December of that year. The BBC service makes no charge for watching recently aired programmes. It is also the same technology used by the Sky Anytime service.



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. 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 4 awarded Teletext Ltd a ten year contract to run the channel's ancillary teletext service, named Teletext on 4. The service is provided on both Channel 4 analogue and digital television services, Channel 4, E4 and More4.

Corporate Structure


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.


  • Edmund Dell (1982–87)
  • Richard Attenborough (1987–92)
  • Michael Bishop (1993–97)
  • Vanni Treves (January 1998 – December 2003)
  • Luke Johnson (January 2004– )

Chief executives

  • Jeremy Isaacs (1981–87)
  • Michael Grade (1988–97)
  • Michael Jackson (1997–2001)
  • Mark Thompson (March 2002 – June 2004)
  • Andy Duncan (July 2004– )

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.


The Channel 4 building
The Channel 4 building

Originally based at 60 Charlotte Street (the same building in which former chief executive Jeremy Isaacs later originally based his Artsworld channel), close to the BT Tower in London's film and media heartland, Channel 4 has occupied since 1994 a distinctive, purpose-designed building at 124 Horseferry Road, Westminster, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership with structural engineering by Ove Arup & Partners. Architecturally it follows on from, but is more restrained than, the Lloyd's building in the City of London, and was constructed between 1991 and 1994. It was built on the former site of a Methodist teacher-training college, which occupied a neo-Gothic campus intermittently from its foundation in 1851 until World War II, when the buildings were badly damaged by an incendiary bomb. The College eventually moved to a purpose-built site in Oxford in 1959 and became Westminster College, Oxford.

Despite commissioning all programmes from independent production companies, the Channel 4 headquarters contains a studio and post production facility, marketed as 124 Facilities. The studio has been used for Channel 4 programmes (such as T4 continuity), and third party programmes (such as the base for Five's football coverage). The studio was closed at the end of October 2007.


Channel 4 has, since its inception, broadcast identical programmes and continuity throughout the UK (excluding Wales where it doesn't operate on analogue transmitters). At launch this made it somewhat 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: The Republic of Ireland has a dedicated variant broadcast on Sky Digital which omits programmes for which broadcast rights are not held in the Republic, whilst some schools' programming (1980s/early 90s) were regionalised due to differences in curricula between different regions of the UK.

Part of Channel 4's remit covers the commissioning of programmes from outside of 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 UK (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. 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. The Republic of Ireland shares its advertising region with Northern Ireland (referred to by Channel 4 as the 'Ulster Macro') with many advertisers selling products for the Republic here. E4 also has an advertising variant for the Republic.

The six regions are also carried on satellite, cable and Digital Terrestrial. Five and GMTV use a similar model to Channel 4 for providing their own advertising regions, despite also having a single national output of programming.

Annual Reports and Financial Statements

Annual Reports and Financial Statements 1983-2004

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