News & Current Affairs

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 that will generate headlines, create fierce debate, and will bring viewers to the Channel as well as win awards. The more ambitious the better.

 

Dispatches

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, and surprise our audience.

We are also now focusing on funding hours rather than half hours, but we need the bold and stand out pitches from you to make this happen. Nothing should be off limits.

We want to be making domestic and foreign undercover and other long term investigations that are brave, punchy and revelatory. Films that will match in impact not only Royals for Hire, Cadbury’s Exposed, Starbucks & Nespresso: The Truth About Your Coffee and Torn Apart – but also change-making current affairs investigations such as Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, Leaving Neverland, Hunted, Children on the Frontline and Myanmar: the Forgotten Revolution.

soldier with gun in undergrowth next to heart graffiti on wall
Myanmar: the Forgotten Revolution

 

We’re keen for some of our investigations to have a real mischief-making feel about them - like Celebs for Sale did – whilst also making headlines.

Unique access with strong current affairs purpose is important to us. Rape: Who’s on Trial? is one example – it was raw, honest, and character-driven, but at its heart had a simple and bold journalistic premise that created impact. We would also be interested in films around a single interview or point of access that is exclusive and punches through, something that enables us to genuinely add to a wider story that is already making waves.

Everything we do should be rich in humanity. Viewers should feel our films are compelling and surprising in content and visuals or speak to them and their experiences. We want films that hold truth to power, exposing hypocrisy and wrongdoing be it with brands, companies, institutions, or individuals. Many stories with real impact are those hiding in plain sight – but where no one has yet proven it beyond doubt.    

male and female detective mid shot police cars in background
Rape: Who’s on Trial?

 

We’re also looking for strong counter-cultural programmes that challenge the current way of thinking - programmes that show true diversity of thought. Are there subjects or reporters who will bring a fresh take on a subject everyone is talking about, or get us in to places or reveal things viewers have not seen? With robust and exclusive journalism can we challenge our viewers’ perceptions on important or controversial subjects? We want films that examine a subject that is bold or unexpected, via access, reporter, or exclusive and robust evidence.

We want to invest in projects that require a long view. It’s crucial that Dispatches never feels like an extended news piece, but we do want to be covering the biggest stories of the moment. Please think about whether there is a film that can reveal or expose something about a big story that is in the news but can also drive the news cycle.  This was done really well in Cops On Trial.

Stories that examine hidden worlds, take on subjects that look at underserved audiences or communities, are also vital.

We also want to be commissioning films that don’t just rate well on linear, but that drive viewers to All4. Programmes that have done really well for us on digital include Ben Zand’s Confessions of a Serial Killer, Jeremy Kyle: TV on Trial, The Truth about Traveller Crime and The Prince and the Paedophile. Think about programmes in territories such as crime, big name investigations, and access led pieces that have a prime documentary feel and will generate an audience on All4. This is a real priority for us.

Many stories with real impact are those hiding in plain sight – but where no one has yet proven it beyond doubt.  We’d love to get your ideas for these kinds of stories.

We’re particularly keen to hear about your ambitious ideas around climate change, British politics, corruption and criminality, the fallout and impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, the treatment of women and underrepresented groups, the fallout from Brexit and Covid, and institutional racism.

Are there also stories we can be telling that are global in scale but genuinely touch many viewers in the UK? Is there an ambitious format, access point or lens through which we can do these? 

What makes Dispatches distinctive and unique is the journalism. It is what underpins every film. Think very carefully about why any film should be made now, and what will be revealed that we do not already know. How will it drive the news cycle, create genuine impact and be relatable and relevant to the widest possible audience?

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 want our films to feel modern and fresh with a documentary feel.

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.

close-up of soldier looking into camera
Ukraine: Life Under Attack

 

We don’t want you to feel constrained by what many might see as the conventions of current affairs. Our journalism is the key ingredient to any film. But we should be making films that from a creative point of view – and that of the viewers – are visually compelling documentaries. They need to be filmed with real creativity, with diversity on screen and off.

We want to ensure our films are stylishly made. We don’t want to see experts hunched over a laptop, or to have a film that is simply sit-down interviews with no movement or thought given to the sequences and visual journey of the film. Some films might be best with a ‘premium’ feel – but others might be filmed in a completely different way. The key is consistency. The style of a film is crucial to do justice to the content.

Diversity is hugely important, as is our commitment to 50/50 female and male PDs across Dispatches.

 

New Youth Strand: Untold

At the beginning of Q4 2022 we are launching an exciting current affairs strand aimed at 16-34-year-olds. The strand, Untold, will launch with digital first/All 4 in mind, although there will also be linear slots too.

Untold will have the remit-defining, noisy and bold journalism for which Dispatches has won headlines and major awards, but its absolute focus will be to produce films for younger viewers, on the subjects they care about. The strand will have diverse and authentic voices from across the UK at its heart: intelligent, brave, informative, and entertaining documentary making that holds power to account, reveals what is going on behind closed doors, reflects the lives of 16-34-year-olds and, crucially, ask what the solutions are to everything from inequality to climate change. 

We want films that will work effectively as digital-first propositions and think creatively about form as well as content. These films must be authentic, 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.

We want scripts to feel informal, conversational, and directly relevant to our audience.

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. 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 films will be contributor-led: dominated by the voices of the audience as opposed to talking heads. These contributors must reflect the range and diversity of young people in the UK.

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 the audience simply and clearly without being patronising or dad-dancing!

We’re interested in singles – 30s/60s and some potential mini-series on the right topic.

 

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 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.  

Recent commissions include Ukraine: Life Under Attack, narrated by actor Cate Blanchett, a moving character-based documentary that focused on the civilians living in Kharkiv and how many chose to stay despite the ferocious attack on their city. On the eve of the Winter Olympics, China: The Search for the Missing, revealed new allegations of mass surveillance, detention and forced labour in China’s north-west. Undercover: Africa’s Secret State was a five-year investigation into Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive and abusive regimes.

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.

women holding up pictures of loved ones with soldiers in the background
China: The Search for the Missing

 

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.

These can be mini-series’ such as strong journalistic examinations of major brands – a good example was The Truth About Amazon series. There are also opportunities for populist ideas for singles such as Inside John Lewis: Trouble at the Tills, My Second Hand Home, Cryptocurrency: Has the Bubble Burst?  and Christmas Luxury For Less.

Steph Mcgovern in front of John Lewis shop mid-shot
John Lewis: Trouble at the Tills

 

Healthy living is also a focus for us and that could build on the success of Michael Mosley’s Lose a Stone in 21 Days series.  We are always keen to see ambitious ideas in this area that will have a broad appeal – another investigative example was the recent series Michael Mosley: Who Made Britain Fat?

 

Ensuring Impact

In terms of subject areas, no subject 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.

 

Head of News and Current Affairs and Specialist Factual and Sport: Louisa Compton

Based in London

Genre Assistant: Aimee Lowrie

lcompton@channel4.co.uk

 

 

Commissioning Editor: Adam Vandermark

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

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

avandermark@channel4.co.uk

 

Commissioning Editor: Nevine Mabro

Based in London

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

nmabro@channel4.co.uk

 

Commissioning Editor: Joanna Potts

Based in London - oversees Dispatches

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

jpotts@channel4.co.uk

Commissioning Editor: Debbie Ramsay

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

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

dramsay@channel4.co.uk

Programme Coordinator: Liz Hudson

Based in London

lhudson@channel4.co.uk

 

 

Team Coordinator: Aimee Lowrie

Based in London

Contact: 020 7306 3688

alowrie@channel4.co.uk

 

Genre Assistant: Cibele Porto

Based in London

Contact: 020 7306 8773

cporto@channel4.co.uk