Celebrating Channel 4 at 40
In November 1982, a fourth free-to-air television channel began broadcasting in Britain. The first programme to show was teatime quiz show Countdown. Since then, Channel 4 has become synonymous with diverse and alternate programming – ranging from hard-hitting soaps like Brookside to groundbreaking comedies Peep Show and Father Ted and must-see dramas such as It’s A Sin and This Is England. We share four ways to celebrate this incredible institution’s anniversary and learn more about its 40-year history.
Channel 4 launched 4oD in 2006. The On Demand platform has since changed its name to All4 in 2014 and now, in 2022, My4 offers a new way to personalise your online viewing experience. Log in to the streaming service and you can find Truth & Dare, a collection of shows that celebrate 40 years of 4. Categories include The Truth, The Dare, The Fun, The Thrill and The Drama – navigating different genres, subject matters and time periods. For those looking for some provocative comedy, you can find Chris Morris’ devastating current affairs satire Brass Eye. There’s also the heart-breaking documentary Grenfell: The Untold Story, about the 2017 fire at London’s Grenfell Tower. For a great drama, you can’t go wrong with Alan Bleasdale’s G.B.H., starring Robert Lindsay as an unhinged Labour councillor.
Lisa Kerrigan, the Senior Curator of Television at the BFI, joins media journalist Maggie Brown to assess the legacy of Channel 4. Brown is the author of two BFI books covering the era, A Licence to be Different (2007) and Channel 4: From Big Brother To The Great British Bake Off (2021), which featured access to both the channel’s archives and interviews with key players. Crucially, with the spectre of privatisation looming, Brown and Kerrigan will also look to the future.
Given the channel’s close connections to the city – not least with Aardman Animations – this series of talks and screenings will see academics and filmmakers look at the Bristol-based programming over the years, as well as how it established a Creative Hub in the city. Following the daytime events there will be a screening of 2022’s Falklands War: The Untold Story, a documentary that looks at the conflict with Argentina that also marks its 40th anniversary this year.
This year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival featured two fantastic masterclasses involving Channel 4 and Film4, the company behind such films as Rocks, Last Night In Soho and The Banshees of Inisherin. In Film4: From Short Content to Features, director Glen Kitson joined production and development executive Amy O’Hara to discuss the obstacles a filmmaker needs to overcome to move from short films to features. Stream this talk and more by logging in to ASFF’s online platform.
Words: James Mottram
Lead Image: It’s A Sin, dir. Russel T Davies (2021)
1. Grenfell: The Untold Story, (2021)
2. Still from All Together Now: The Great British Bake Off Trailer, (2019)
3. Falklands War: The Untold Story, dir Harvey Lilley (2022)