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It is the job of Channel Four to reflect the contemporary world to British television audiences, and one of the most important ways we do this is through our substantial and multi-award winning documentary output. We commission more than 200 hours of documentaries every year, ranging from major multi-part series like 24 Hours In A & E to shorter series and single films.

It is given that we always look for warmth and humour in the ideas that we take forward with independent companies, but other things we look for in programme proposals and discuss at length with independent companies include:

1. Authenticity. Do the ideas reflect the real world in a way that feels genuine and authentic? (Educating Yorkshire/The East End)
2. Freshness. Is there something in the proposal that is genuinely new and tells a story that has not been told before? (The Paedophile Hunter)
3. Innovation. Is there something about the editorial approach or the use of technology that is breaking new ground? (Blackout, The Tribe, Dogging Tales)
4. Compelling storytelling. Are we likely to be gripped by the narratives that unfold in the programme? (Murder Trial)
5. Extraordinary access that feels like a privilege to the Channel 4 viewer (Bedlam, The Romanians Are Coming)
6. Boldness of editorial proposition – (Benefits Street, 24 Hours In Custody)

Not every idea ticks all these boxes, but we do expect a Channel 4 Documentaries commission to be distinctive and eye-catching.

Most of our ideas are present tense observational documentaries – whether they are made with self-shooting directors or 100-camera rigged shoots. We are, however, always ready to experiment with more formatted programmes (First Dates, Hunted) or factual drama (Cyberbully) or maverick and hybrid ideas (An Immigrant’s Guide, UKIP: The First Hundred Days) if there is something in the idea that expresses a documentary curiosity about the world.



We broadcast a significant number of major rig series, which are usually commissioned for 9pm in runs of eight or more episodes – One Born Every Minute, Educating, 24 Hours In A & E. Traditionally these series were made entirely on the rig, and were produced by a small number of specialist companies with creative expertise in this technology. The big changes in the last two or three years are that an increasing number of programmes are mixing rig and single camera material - Royal Marines, 24 Hours In Custody, and that new companies are embracing the rig technology and taking it into different worlds or spaces. Neither First Dates nor The Tribe are made by companies with a tradition of rig expertise. If the idea is strong enough and appropriate for a rig or part-rig, the team at Channel 4 will support a production company venturing into what is for them new territory.

9pm Short Series

For 9pm we also commission a wide range of shorter two to four part series. These include more classically observed series made with privileged access to institutions – Bedlam (The South London and Maudsley Hospital Trust) , Meet The Taxman (HMRC Tax Inspectorate) as well as immersive series in which filmmakers spend a long period of time with a particular community – Skint, The Romanians Are Coming, Benefits Street.

8pm series

One notable development this year is that the documentary team have started commissioning more 8pm series on scale. The Hotel is stalwart in this slot, but now Posh Pawn, The Auction House and Supervet are established in the schedule and we are keen to develop other ideas. These sometimes (but not always) use a rig. More importantly, they always seek to offer audiences reliable narrative beats in a world that is engaging and relatable for a broad audience.

10pm series

We also commission a number of two or three part series for 10 pm. These are quite likely to be targeted at younger audiences, include edgier or more adult content (than our 9 pm output), and contain scenes that get audiences talking or tweeting. Past series include My Tattoo Addiction, Kid Criminals, Up All Night and Sex Clinic. There is also an opportunity for us to be a bit more experimental with form – An Immigrant’s Guide, and to grow or commission longer running series like First Dates for 10pm.


In addition we are keen to receive fresh, surprising format ideas that feel they are served by a documentary approach to filmmaking. We are the unit that developed some of the most long-running C4 formats like Wife Swap and Secret Millionaire, and commissioning a new generation of these series is a serious ambition for the Department. First Dates is now in its third series, and Hunted, a new formatted series, is in production, but we are keen to expand this output.


CUTTING EDGE, our 9pm home for Britain's most talented documentary directors, is always looking for films that reflect contemporary Britain in a compelling and often entertaining way. Recent successes in this space include Meet the Police Commissioner, Murder Workers and Chicken Shop. What characterises this strand is extraordinary access, a strong instinct for the current stories that will bring a popular audience, and directorial vision.

At 10pm our documentary output includes popular documentaries with tabloid themes – Megabrothel, My Granny The Escort, Sex Party Secrets, and a small number of international stories in the TRUE STORIES strand – Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, America’s Youngest Killer, - but it is also established as a place where Britain’s top documentary directors can take on adult themes and subjects. The Paedophile Hunter and Dogging Tales are multi-award winning and nominated films, and they express the ambition we can have with commissions for this slot.

First Cut

In addition, FIRST CUT exists to launch the careers of new factual directors with this career-changing strand. It is open to anyone who has not directed a 60 minute film for broadcast on a terrestrial channel or BBC Three. It is the aim of this strand to develop the next generation of C4 documentary directors. In commissioning these programmes, we look for up and coming directors we feel have the potential to make prime time programmes for the Channel, and subjects which give them an appropriate opportunity to show their flair and vision. Pitches should be sent to Rita Daniels, and you can read the full brief HERE.

In addition, we are always open for other arresting and entertaining single films, for fast turnaround commissions that can bring a documentary perspective to a fiercely topical subject – Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia, - for singles which can serve as pilot programmes for potential series, and for innovative use of the documentary form – Blackout, UKIP: The First 100 Days. And we are keen to develop more onscreen C4 talent who could become documentary faces of the Channel.

Who to contact

For 2100 series - Amy Flanagan
For Cutting Edge films, and 2200 series – Rita Daniels
For 2000 series and 2200 singles – Anna Miralis
For First Cut – Rita Daniels