News & Current Affairs

Introduction 

Channel 4 is the home of challenging investigative journalism which holds power to account.

We are looking for noisy and impactful journalism. Programmes that could only be made for Channel 4. Programmes that cause trouble or raise eyebrows. Programmes that get talked about AND lead to real change. Programmes that will generate headlines, create fierce debate, and will bring viewers to the Channel as well as win awards. The more ambitious the better.

What are we looking for?

 

Our flagship current affairs programme is Dispatches. For this strand we want game-changing and truly agenda-setting major domestic and international investigations. We want stories that can make a frontpage splash, look amazing or different, surprise and shock our audience, and generate real impact on transmission and beyond. We want journalistic revelation and impact and to bring the widest possible audience to current affairs.

We want to focus on the biggest brands, institutions, and people in positions of power. Nothing is off limits. We want films and investigations that are brave, punchy and take risks that no one else will.

Russell Brand: In Plain Sight is a perfect example of the very best of what we do. It was based on outstanding original journalism, a superbly crafted piece of television, that drove the news cycle for days after broadcast prompting internal inquiries by the BBC and Channel 4, and a police investigation.

Across the board we want stories that will match not only that film, but also the brilliant Undercover Ambulance: NHS Chaos, Royals for Hire and Cadbury’s Exposed, Starbucks & Nespresso: The Truth About Your Coffee – and the change-making and award-winning current affairs films such as Children of the Taliban, Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings, Leaving Neverland, Hunted, and Myanmar: the Forgotten Revolution.

We are looking for those game changing, appointment-to- view films to commission for next year and beyond. We need films that are based on the biggest brands, institutions and issues that will bring a significant audience, those that will rate but are also founded on some excellent journalism and will make compelling television.

We're focused on funding hours, so we need bold and stand out pitches for 2024 and beyond. Nothing should be off limits. We will have a short run of half hour films too, running at 8pm and an opportunity to fill this more popular space with films that will rate and feel relatable to as many people as possible.

We also want to continue to be as creative as possible. The journalism has to be at the heart of every film, but we want to commission films that look amazing. We also want to use tools like undercover filming to create water cooler moments on tv and social media.

Unique access with strong current affairs purpose is important to us. Raw, honest, and character-driven pieces which at their heart have a simple and bold journalistic premise that create impact.

We can be accurate, impartial and fair while also thinking creatively about how we bring the evidence and stories to life and get the answers our audience want. When pitching please do think about whether there are stunts, format points or sequences that we can aim for that will make films feel bolder and more satisfying for the viewers.

Dispatches should never feel like an extended news piece. But we do want to be covering the biggest stories of the moment. Just think about why now, and what can we reveal that people do not already know?  We will always invest and support you with investigations that can take months (or years!) but are also always in the market for faster turnaround ideas on knock out stories.

We have no set rules on tone and format, but it is essential that thought is given – at the pitching stage – to the look and feel of a film. Too many current affairs films feel predictable and clichéd.

We also want to make sure viewers are really immersed and emotionally connected to our stories. This also goes for investigations and undercover, as well as access pieces. How do we draw the viewers in? We don’t want reporters doing pieces to camera telling us something at one remove. We want them authentically embedded in the story, reacting in the moment, and taking viewers on a journey.

Stories can be reporter-led, or not. But if you are suggesting talent please think carefully about how they will be truly immersed in the story. Or, if they have a profile already, what they are really bringing to the project.

We now have an in-house investigations unit (more below) but are also really keen to partner with other organisations and journalists to enable more long-term investigations and are very open to suggestions on this sort of thing from you.

Diversity is also hugely important for us on and off screen.

 

 

New Investigations Unit

Public service, remit-defining and ambitious journalism is an absolute priority for Channel 4. As part of our commitment to current affairs we have created the Dispatches Investigations Unit – a team of four in-house investigative journalists working to the Dispatches Commissioning Editor, who will work up in depth stories. As and when these stories are ready to go into commission and production, the projects will be handed over to independent production companies to make the films.

The majority of stories will be developed by the Unit and then handed on to indies. However, we are also keen to collaborate with production companies, freelancers and others in the development phase.

We will be focussing on long term and ambitious investigations of all kinds – undercover projects, open source and data led stories, and those based on exclusive interviews, sources and partnerships.

The Unit has been established to enable us to produce more risk-taking, agenda-setting and original journalism. We will still absolutely take on developments and commissions with indies as we have always done, but the Unit will enable us to generate more headline-generating stories and provide more opportunities for all of the brilliant companies and producers working in the current affairs space.

Any questions about the Unit, or if you have a story that might work as a collaboration with them, please contact Dispatches Commissioning Editor Joanna Potts (details below)

 

Youth Strand: UNTOLD

At the end of 2022 we launched an exciting current affairs strand aimed at 16-34-year-olds with digital first/Channel 4 streaming in mind. With millions of views and exceptional digital reach, Untold has already proved itself to be the home for remit-defining, noisy and bold journalism for our young audience.

At the heart of the Untold strand are diverse and authentic voices from across the UK: intelligent, brave, impactful, and entertaining documentaries that holds power to account, reveals what is going on behind closed doors, and reflects the lives of 16–34-year-olds.

Our ongoing priority is to tell ambitious investigative news and current affairs stories that are vital for the strand. In season one, Inside the Shein Machine showed how real investigative journalism can have global impact, especially when it’s about something close to the audience’s hearts. 

We’re looking for more of these types of revealing content, as well as Untold films with extraordinary access to hard-to-reach groups like that found in The Secret World of Incels. Where scripts should feel informal, conversational, and directly relevant to our audience.

We want films that will work effectively as digital-first propositions and think creatively about form as well as content. These films must be rooted in truth, thought provoking and pacey. Although there is a place for things like raw undercover footage and contributor-shot content, overall, these films will be slick and beautifully made, as seen in Konan: Trapped in Trauma.

Our Untold films must have a level of investigation, revelation, and discovery of something new for the audience, even if it’s related to familiar topics. The subject can also be inspirational, entrepreneurial, amazing, and fun, as long as the film is revelatory as in Life After Love Island. Think about what news headline would be written about it even though the final film is likely to be delivered in a non-newsy way!

These 30-minute, and handful of 60-minute films will be contributor-led: dominated by the voices of the audience and involve actuality scenes as opposed to talking heads. Contributors must reflect the range and diversity of young people in the UK.

Untold has built up a reputation for tapping into that elusive youth market which plays a key role for us today. We welcome creative, non-conventional ways of storytelling though that should never overshadow the telling of the story. The films must flow and must speak to and challenge the audience simply and clearly without being patronising.

 

Foreign Films

Channel 4 has a rich tradition of making impactful, revelatory and game changing foreign documentary films.  We are looking for strong characters and moving storylines - films that tell stories from across the world, and which break with the usual narratives.

The BAFTA winning Children of the Taliban was a simple film that told the story of life under the Taliban through the eyes of four children.  It’s magic lay in the amazing children that the director followed – their resilience and vulnerability endearing audiences. The Oscar nominated feature documentary For Sama was a news and current affairs commission. The film, produced and directed by Waad Al-Kateab, challenged the way we told stories about war – for so many years dominated by male directors and told solely from a male perspective.  

Other recent commissions include the Ukraine: Life Under Attack, a film narrated by actor Cate Blanchett, and which focused on the civilians living in Kharkiv as the city endured a ferocious attack from Russian forces.  The film won a Peabody and a British Journalism award.  Nazanin was another of our standout films this year – this time telling the story of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was seized in Iran and held there for five years, separated from her young daughter. The film followed the efforts of her husband Richard to free her and had exclusive material from Nazanin herself when she was under house arrest in Iran.  

Unreported World, our award-winning foreign affairs series, focuses on remarkable and inspiring stories from across the world. It is produced by ITN/Channel 4 News so we are not looking for pitches.

 

Consumer Programmes

Our consumer programming offers expertise and fresh insight. The focus should be exposing pricing tricks, uncovering sophisticated scams, finding good quality for less, saving money, and sharing insider knowledge. For us, they should have an added twist of being unpredictable, approaching the topic in a way that the other channels possibly wouldn’t do. We’re looking for pitches with a sense of fun and mischief that also have a topical and investigative edge.

Our priority right now is on commissioning films that are of the moment, talking points and have a populist edge. Films like John Lewis: Trouble at the Tills, Truth About Amazon and elsewhere within C4 there have been Secrets of the Middle Aisle and Air Fryers: Are They Worth It? Those that can sit at 8pm, rate and generate noise across all digital platforms.

Investigating brands is also important - establishing the truth against what may have been pledged. Like we’ve done previously with Cadbury’s, Shein, Amazon, Starbucks, Nike, Adidas and Facebook. Plus to continue investigating services we rely on – in the past year Airport Chaos Undercover and Undercover Ambulance which were good journalistic examples of lifting the lid and exposing systematic failures.

We also want for next year or into 2025 ideas for a fresh, insightful and irreverent consumer series. Fun at its beating heart. It could be in the vein of how do they do that? Is it worth it? The tricks of the trade – with a mischievous spirit.  Denise Van Outen’s recent expeditions have done well. So there is still room for consumer at 8pm. 

This could also be via an access to a key brand. On Channel 4 in recent times we have access to KFC, Hotel Chocolat, Aldi and Waitrose. Who hasn’t yet opened their doors to the cameras? If the name is big enough with universal appeal it could have series potential.  Please pitch at any time and have an initial conversation with the brand to gauge interest.

 

Ensuring Impact

In terms of subject areas, nothing is off limits if the journalism is significant, and it has the potential to make a lot of noise.

Having great case studies or access can be brilliant, but nine times out of ten it is not enough. What is the journalism at the heart of the story?

Once you have that revelation, consider what impact it will have. What are the news lines it will bring? Will those news lines create noise? If not, is the subject or the way in which you treat it unique enough to make the programme punch through in a crowded schedule?

 

To make sure we are inclusive and accessible to all, please let us know if you require any adjustments or assistance for meetings and communications with you.

Get in touch 

Head of News & Current Affairs and Sport and Speciialist Factual: Louisa Compton

Based in London

Contact: lcompton@channel4.co.uk

Assistant: Cibele Porto

Commissioning Editor: Adam Vandermark

Based at Leeds HQ with oversight of Glasgow – oversees our consumer journalism

Contact: avandermark@channel4.co.uk

Assistant: Cibele Porto

Commissioning Editor: Joanna Potts

Based in London - Oversees Dispatches

Contact: jpotts@channel4.co.uk

Assistant: Cibele Porto

Commissioning Editor: Nevine Mabro

Based in London

Contact: nmabro@channel4.co.uk

Assistant: Cibele Porto

Commissioning Editor: Janine Thomas

Based in London - oversees the Current Affairs Youth Strand, Untold

Contact: jthomas@channel4.co.uk

Assistant: Janice Tiffany

 

Programme Coordinator: Jutalla Coulibaly-Willis

Based in London

Contact: JCoulibaly-Willis@channel4.co.uk

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

Based in London

Contact: cporto@channel4.co.uk

020 7306 8773

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