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Channel 4 timeline

1982

Key moments

Channel 4 went on air for the first time at 4.45 p.m. on Tuesday 2 November 1982. The first programme on Channel 4 was Countdown. The first face to appear on Channel 4 belonged to Richard Whitely.

Storms

The IBA (forerunner of the ITC) demanded a 12 minute cut to The Animal Film. The film featured interviews with Animal Rights activists and appeared to incite people to take (illegal) direct action.

Changes

Channel 4 News- The remit didn't require it, conventional wisdom said it was too long, but ITN provided what was to become the Channel 4 'flagship'.

1983

Key moments

The Tube brought the first real innovation in pop music programming since TOTP. Presenters: Jools Holland, Paula Yates and Muriel Gray also rewrote the book on how (or how not) to present.

Storms

Minipops a musical entertainment programme featuring pre-pubescent 'wannabes', was attacked in the broadsheets for its "disturbingly explicit sexuality".

Changes

Film on Four started its ground-breaking career. Over the next twenty years it was to have a major impact on the British Film Industry.

1984

Key moments

Who Dares Wins-was to become a hotbed of new 'laddish' comedy talent with Rory McGrath and Jimmy Mulville..

Storms

1984 was the year of the Miner's Strike. Storms occurred in the Channel 4 News studio when Miner's leader Arthur Scargill met Ian MacGregor, head of the Coal Board.

Changes

From 15 October Channel 4's output increased by 25%; weekday schedules now began at 2.30pm instead of around 5pm, and weekends opened at 1pm rather than 2pm.

1985

Key moments

Saturday Night Live began, showcasing the talent of the new stand up comedy boom including anti Thatcher ranter, Ben Elton.

Storms

"15 hours and 20 minutes of degradation redeemed by art." - Time magazine on Berlin Alexanderplatz. Controversially the title sequence of Werner Fassbinder's film contained a brief shot of an erect 'male member'.

Changes

My Beautiful Launderette became Film Four's first International hit.

1986

Key moments

The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross was piloted. The Chat show format was to be reinvented.

Storms

1986 was the year that Channel 4 introduced 'the red triangle' for late night films 'for which special discretion may be required'. The first movie shown was Thermroc. Mary Whitehouse complained. "It's not good enough to slap on a warning symbol and then indulge in sadistic madness of this kind."

Changes

The Peacock report recommends that Channel 4 be allowed to to sell its own airtime instead of being subsidised by ITV.

1987

Key moments

Groundbreaking 'Yoof-TV' programme, Network 7 reinvented the language of live broadcasting, with hand held cameras and a mix of current affairs and entertainment items.

Storms

On late night, open ended and live chat show, After Dark, Oliver Reed answered the question "Do Men Have To Be Violent?" by attempting to grope fellow guest, Kate Millet.

Changes

Sir Richard Attenborough succeeded Edmund Dell as Channel 4 Chairman.

1988

Key moments

'Friday Night Live' made Comedian Harry Enfield a star. His character, 'Loadsamoney' came to define the 'Thatcherite' 80's.

Storms

White actress Amy Irving was 'blacked up' to play an Indian Princess in The Far Pavilions. Understandably criticism followed, notably from Michael Grade.

Changes

Michael Grade assumed his role as Chief Executive on January 1.Grade had previously been Director of Programmes for the BBC.

1989

Key moments

Out on Tuesday openly explored gay and lesbian issues and culture in a weekly magazine programme. Arguably the series began an attitude change both in broadcasting and public opinion.

Storms

"Club X ... a cacophonous mishmash of pop world phonies, vacuous presenters and fringe music...the ineptitude of the on-screen personae was insultingly genuine."

Changes

Transmission of programmes in NICAM digital stereo began.

1990

Key moments

Nick Park's Oscar winning animation, Creature Comforts was screened.

Storms

An episode of The Word which featured a man having a colostomy bag emptied over his his head "caused serious concern" at the ITC.

Changes

The 1990 Broadcasting Act preserved Channel 4's public ownership. The Act also set in place a funding formula. This formula meant that Channel 4 would be able to sell its own advertising from 1993 onwards, but with the agreement that ITV would fund Channel 4 if its revenue fell below 14% of the total TV advertising income.

1991

Key moments

Alan Bleasdale's GBH, starring Robert Lindsay, provided superbly comic political drama, based on real events in Liverpool.

Storms

Channel 4's three-week Banned season in April 1991 was investigated by the Obscene Publications Squad and referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. 'Banned' had been conceived as a statement about the censorship of broadcasting in the 1990s, so it was not surprising that it caused so much controversy. Scum, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Sebastiane were all transmitted. Jo Menell's explicit film Dick, which consisted entirely of close up shots of male genitalia, was not.

Changes

In October it was announced that Michael Grade had been persuaded to stay at Channel 4 for the next five years by a 'golden hand-cuffs' payment of half a million pounds.

1992

Key moments

The Big Breakfast replaced 'Channel 4 Daily' as Channel 4's new breakfast service. Produced by Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, it was an instant hit. Many of the show's presenters, such as Chris Evans, Mark Lamarr, Gaby Roslin and Lisa Tarbuck, became household names.

Storms

Jani Allan claimed in Channel 4's first libel trial, that Nick Broomfield's documentary The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife depicted her as a "woman of easy virtue". Channel 4 won the case.

Changes

Channel 4 broke an important barrier when it achieved a 10% audience share for the first time. Sir Michael Bishop became new Channel 4 chairman, replacing Sir Richard Attenborough

1993

Key moments

Dennis Potter's Suez Crisis Drama Lipstick On Your Collar began.

Storms

Channel 4's Christmas offerings included; Camp Christmas, an all gay party, RuPaul's Christmas Ball and The Alternative Queen's Speech given by 'Stately Homo', Quentin Crisp.

Changes

Channel 4 began to sell its own airtime. Previously this had been the job of the ITV, but now the broadcaster was self-financing.

1994

Key moments

Time Team began its run. Mark Thompson was later to say that: "The defining archaeology series for Channel 4 (is) not a traditional stiff documentary, but the informal, energised Time Team."

Storms

Chris Evans opened an Easter Saturday edition of Don't Forget Your Toothbrush with the words: "It's that time of the year again when we remembered Jesus was crucified - and it's that time of the week when we remember that Spurs probably have been too." The Broadcasting Standards Council upheld a complaint against the show..

Changes

Channel 4 moved into a Richard Rogers' designed Headquarters at 124 Horseferry Road.

1995

Key moments

Father Ted also joined the Friday night schedule. Mark Thompson was later to say that: "The defining comedy (of Channel 4) is not a polished piece of Oxbridge humour, but Father Ted."

Storms

Beth Jordache's (played by Anna Friel) gave the first Lesbian Kiss to be screened on prime time TV.

Changes

Regular widescreen broadcasts began.

1996

Key moments

In The Dying Rooms, documentary makers Brian Woods and Kate Blewett had uncovered the systematic neglect of abandoned babies in Chinese state-run orphanages. The Documentary Return to the Dying Rooms returned to look at the (unimproved) situation one year on.

Storms

The ITC issued a warning after Shaun Ryder used the 'F-word' 13 times whilst singing 'Pretty Vacant' on a live edition of 'TFI Friday'.

Changes

Channel 4 changed its logo. The multicolored '4' became plain white.

1997

Key moments

The live debate following coverage of 'The Turner Prize', was enlivened when 'tired and emotional' prize winner Tracey Emin, walked out.

Storms

Against Nature, a three part 'Equinox' programme, criticised the 'Green lobby' and consequently attracted a huge volume of complaints from enraged environmentalists.

Changes

Michael Grade left his post as Chief Executive on 31 May 1997. Former BBC1 and BBC2 controller Michael Jackson took over.

1998

Key moments

So Graham Norton became part of the Friday night schedule.

Storms

Cutting Edge documentary "Daddy's Girl" was dropped when it was discovered that one of the 'father and daughter' pairs featured, were really boyfriend and girlfriend.

Changes

Film Four became the first Channel 4 subsidiary channel. The first night, simulcast on Channel 4 included the premiere of The Usual Suspects.

1999

Key moments

Molly Dineen's documentary Geri followed Geri Halliwell in the 3 months after her departure from the Spice Girls providing a: 'portrait of the predicament of the modern celebrity'.

Storms

Queer As Folk prompted 160 complaints to the Independent Television Commission. Despite the controversy, the ITC cleared the show of breaching programme codes.

Changes

The Channel 4 Interactive division was launched.

2000

Key moments

Big Brother invited viewers to take part in the new reality TV show, 38 million watched and 10 million voted. The show also made the first full scale successful use of interactive TV.

Storms

Private Parts, a series about sexual organs, got the word 'clitoris' into the Radio Times.

Changes

Channel 4 News became a 7 days a week service.

2001

Key moments

Teachers became Channel 4's most successful drama series. Real teachers across the country were gratified when their students began to assume that they secretly led interesting lives.

Storms

Brass Eye's 'Paedophile Episode' generated complaints from politicians including Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. The public made over 7000 complaints. The ITC ruled that the pre-programme warning had been inadequate, though it found the content of the programme to be acceptable. Channel 4 was obliged to broadcast an apology.

Changes

Michael Jackson left the channel in November. to work for USA Networks.

2002

Key moments

Channel 4's latest high-profile MTV import, The Osbournes started . Mark Thompson described the series as a 'bold, genre-busting commission'.

Storms

Big Brother contestant Jade Goody was suspected of performing a sexual act live on E4. She also appeared naked after a drinking game.

Changes

The Channel 4 audience share again rose above 10%. Channel 4 also won the highest peak time audience in it's history (9.7%). The channel reported a loss of �28m in 2001, mainly arising from heavy investment in '4Ventures'. Around 200 jobs were cut and the 10 businesses that made up '4Ventures' were 'folded back' into Channel 4.

2003

Key moments

The end of of Channel 4's original Soap, Brookside was announced. Channel 4 will finally kill off Brookside in November, a year after the long-running soap was relegated to a daytime slot. Chief executive Mark Thompson said that . " Television has changed radically since Brookside's inception and it is no longer an environment in which we believe it can exist and thrive."

Storms

The ITC accused Channel 4 of showing a "lack of respect for human dignity" in broadcasting footage of a Chinese artist eating a dead baby. The ITC ruled that the documentary Beijing Swings had broken its guidelines on taste and decency and upheld 42 complaints.

Changes

Kevin Lygo moved from C5 to replace Tim Gardam as the director of television. The Channel returned to profitability with programmes such as 'Wife Swap' and 'How clean is your house?' proving to be suprise ratings winners.

2004

Key moments

Paul Abbot's 'Shameless' gained critical acclaim and signalled a return to form for C4 Drama.

The FilmFour funded Mountain Climbing documentary "Touching the Void' was a huge box-office hit in the cinema before being shown on C4.

US hit series 'Sex in the City' and 'Friends' both came to the end of their runs.

Storms

C4 faced hostility from the US media when it made ' The Hamburg Cell', a documentary drama about the 9/11 terrorists.

The Channel announced it would be 'breaking the last taboo' by making 'Dust to Dust', a documentary featuring a decomposing human body.

Changes

Luke Johnson was appointed as Chairman by the newly formed OFCOM.

Andy Duncan replaced Mark Thompson as C4 Chief Executive when Thompson left to become Director General of the BBC.