This web site examines the role of a national media institution in the production of media texts for a range of media audiences. For those who wish to engage students with institutional case studies, this site and the accompanying television series should provide a range of up-to-date and stimulating material.
'What's this Channel 4?' should be useful to the vast majority of media students who are studying the media industries or television production on a GCSE, GCE, GNVQ, VCE or BTEC National course in England, Standard Grade, National Qualifications (Intermediate, Higher, Advanced Higher), HNC or HND in Scotland.
This section of the site gives information about Channel 4 as an Institution, how it was created and how it has evolved. A good way into this area is by looking at some of the regulatory 'storms' that have surrounded Channel 4 as it has tried to innovate and attract new audiences. Debates around taste in 'Youth' programmes, representations of homosexuality and the ethics of 'Reality TV' can all be investigated through material contained in this section.
After watching the second episode of the TV series, you may also want to examine issues of compliance and regulation. This section contains a useful interactive 'compliance exercise' which can be used to explore the implementation of the Channel 4 programme code. The case study material is based around real dilemmas related to 'Big Brother'.
The Channel 4 compliance code can be downloaded and the questions and answers in the exercise can be printed out. If you do not have access to a PC these printouts can be used to run the exercise as a whole class or small group discussion.
Channel 4 can be used as a useful case study in Media Ownership and Public Service. After using the information on the site you might also want to use copies of 'The Media Guardian' and 'Broadcast' to keep up to date with new developments.
Episode two of 'What's this Channel 4?' is a good introduction to the problems of scheduling for a real television audience in a competitive market. This site contains an interactive scheduling exercise, which can be incorporated into an exploration of scheduling for specific market segments.
Before starting the simulation on a PC, teachers are advised to ask students to read the 'Audience' section of the 'What's this Channel 4?' web site especially the 'scheduling for the Channel 4 audience'. The 'Audience Data' information on the Channel 4 Advertising site and the 'Scheduling' section of the '4Producersí site are also very revealing.
Ask students to try scheduling for each audience segment in turn and get them to print out the chart produced at the end of the exercise. The printouts can form the basis of a fruitful classroom discussion.
For anyone studying the qualitative or quantitative analysis of TV Audiences, this section provides a useful summary. A detailed account of the use of focus groups in 'Big Brother' is also included.
The Ratings Game is a simple and addictive exercise, best played by individuals. Teachers can use the game to open up a discussion of TV Genres and their differing popularity amongst different audience segments. Ask students to print out the finished ratings charts and compare the choices of the different audiences.
Episode one of 'What's this Channel 4?' can be used to introduce the contingencies of newsgathering and the operation of news values. On this site the 'News Simulationí allows students to construct their own news bulletin.
This simulation can be run as a whole class exercise for those with access to a networked PC laptop and data projector or an interactive whiteboard. It can also be run with groups of 2-3 students around a networked desktop PC.
To get the maximum benefit from the exercise you may wish to run the simulation in 'group mode' for at least thirty minutes at the 'difficult' level.
If you have access to a video camera you may wish to choose the 'autocue' option and record each news bulletin 'live'. If you don't have a camera, try and make sure that the whole group gets a chance to watch each bulletin.
The exercise should produce a useful discussion of news values in action.
This section includes useful material about 'cross-promotion' and 'brand identity'.
The Promotion Game allows students to make their own 'interstitial', a 20 second promotional trailer for 'What's This Channel 4?'. Students will enjoy editing their own sequence, however you may find that working in pairs will generate fruitful discussion. You might also ask each group to 'present' their work to the other groups before reviewing the exercise as a whole class. 'Interstitials' can make excellent practical projects if you have access to digital editing facilities.
The commissioning process is covered in episode two of the TV series. Commissioning, as a process, is best examined 'in the round' after looking at 'Audiences' and 'Scheduling'.
For those who are interested in encouraging research into commissioning and how independent production companies operate, companies such as 'Endemol' can be examined in more detail via their own web sites.
For those interested in media careers, this site has video extracts of interviews with a number of the professionals featured in the series. An organizational chart of the Channel 4 management structure is also included.
Communication Studies students may find these glimpses of the Channel 4 building at Horseferry Rd useful as part of a case study of 'The Constructed Environment'.
Links are included for useful sites relating to Channel 4, Media and Education, Regulatory Institutions and Media Education.