40 years ago this year, UK tv welcomed a fourth channel to join BBC1, BBC2 and ITV.
Originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, after establishment the station went on to be owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which it is to this day.
Channel Four had a bumpy start as it started to find its audience. But what was different in the channel was the desire to provide something different to the other three tv options . Its public service remit included commitments to inclusion, innovation and diversity to reflect the UK population.
Hang on, hang on, is this really a subject for a theatre blog, you may say. Well, Yes it is. From the very beginning, the channel looked for new and interesting work which was happening across the UK, and gave production money and airtime to theatre companies such as the hugely popular National Theatre of Brent (at that time comprised of Patrick Barlow and Jim Broadbent), with their wildly silly but ultimately touching version of THE MESSIAH being a notable early success. This then spawned a series from the same company. Edinburgh shows were given airtime, new innovative production companies sprung up, and many more theatre actors were given work by these small companies, commissioned by Channel Four, than ever before.
Then we must also remember the hugely successful production company Film Four which they established, giving opportunities to countless actors, writers, behind the scenes and technical personnel, creating a whole new generation of established film and tv creatives, and creating many successful and memorable movies along the way.
Ever leading the field in innovation, Channel Four was the first to offer a public streaming service – from which other broadcasters learned valuable insights about how to model and run their own. Public ownership (not funding) allowed it to take risks that commercial operators would never have dared to consider.
Channel Four fulfils an important public service remit which includes innovation and diversity.
Channel Four is funded solely by advertising time that it sells, just like private broadcasters. Channel Four actually makes money for the UK, while all the time not costing the taxpayer a penny.
The incompetent cultural ignoramus that is Nadine Dorries (the most recent mouthy Muppet in a long line of useless and stupid Culture Secretaries) only found out how Channel Four was funded back in November last year, and then she had to be educated by a colleague, Damien Green. See her arrogant blustering performance here.
And now this idiot- who just this week stated that “food doesn’t grow on trees” – wants to sell off Channel Four.
Dumb Dorries says government ownership is “holding Channel Four back”. How? It’s making money. What more could one ask?
Dumb Dorries also says that selling off Channel Four will “allow it to compete with the streamers globally”. What benefit would there be in that? It’s not Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any of the others. And thank goodness for that. We need more diversity, not more vacuous American-style retreads of mindless failing formats, thank you. Just the figures speak for themselves – the only service to be in profit is Channel Four!
Channel Four stimulates a huge range of independent production companies across the UK by bringing in their series to air. None of Channel Four’s output is in-house. Can you imagine how damaging the sell-off of the channel, with a resulting decimation of independent commissions, will be to a creative industry still reeling from the disruption of two years of Covid. This makes sense to no-one in their right mind.
Diversity is important and TV can change minds. Channel Four has been at the forefront of this many times. Let’s look at just one example – in 2012 just 14% of people in the UK said they were looking forward to the Paralympic Games. After Channel Four’s marketing campaign was seen by 86% of the UK, 40 million of us (66% of the population) tuned in to the games, with 25% of us watching every day. And when they tuned in, Channel Four had also scouted, recruited and supported a wide range of disabled presenters to front the coverage in a pioneering approach which changed UK attitudes. (You can read more in Channel Four’s own document here)
83% of viewers later agreed that Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics improved society’s attitude towards people with an impairment, while 64% of viewers felt more positive towards people with a disability. That’s what public service broadcasting is for. And what the Tories don’t want, because they can make a fast buck for their mates out of selling it off, and get a few nice fat backhanders in the process.
That’s not the only reason. Like the BBC, (which the government have been demonising until doing an abrupt about-face over the admirable Ukraine coverage from the century old broadcaster), the Tories are getting pretty sick and tired of being challenged and called out by news teams on their endless lies and scams. They don’t like having to tell the truth about their devastating lack of competence that have caused countless deaths of innocent people from Covid, hardship and worry for millions due to runaway inflation, endless company closures and job losses that scar our country’s future.
Like all the great things still in public ownership, the Tories know, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. They are shamelessly strip-mining the UK, hellbent on selling off anything that isn’t nailed down, to their Russian, US, Chinese and Arab pals, sticking two fingers up to democracy, accountability, public morality, the wellbeing of the poor and sick, laughing all the way to the bank as they trample over those they see no profit in caring about. We need to stop them.