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In What Ways Has Channel 4 Altered The Landscape Of British Television Broadcasting For Its Competitors?

2180 words - 9 pages

The main characteristic of Channel 4's broadcasting life is, as John Ellis highlights, a marked shift from offer-led to demand-led television. Channel 4 can without question be seen as crucial in 'breaking open the habits of the era of scarcity, in leading the development away from concepts of balance and towards that of diversity of view'. This policy, despite the channel's difficulties, has proved successful, and has moved the goalposts of British broadcasting as a whole - indeed we saw a repetition of these revolutionary events with the birth of Channel 5 in 1998, which we will examine more fully later.Firstly, a brief history lesson. In 1977, The Annan Report argued for a 'third force' in British broadcasting to break up the duopoly of the BBC and ITV. The two opposing views previously to this had been (1) for the creation of an ITV2, and (2) for something completely different. What happened was basically a compromise - the 1980 Broadcasting Act required that the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) would ensure that the Channel 4 service contained 'a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal to tastes and interests and not generally catered for by ITV' and a 'suitable proportion of programmes...of an educational nature' it was also to 'encourage innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes'. The IBA was then left to decide on an appropriate institutional form for the channel and to collect an annual subscription from the ITV companies to meet its costs. In return, the ITV companies were to be allowed to sell the advertising airtime on the new channel within their own regions.So, despite being funded by advertising, Channel 4 had the most exciting public service remit of all the channels at its birth in 1982: 'as a particular charge the service of special interests and concerns for which television has until now lacked adequate time...a favoured place for the untried to foster the new and experimental in television'. Gill Branston believes we can now more easily make the case for commercial television, as set out in the 1954 Broadcasting Act. Despite Reith's oft-quoted opinion that ITV would prove 'worse than the bubonic plague', commercial television in fact proved to be 'an extension of PSB rather than an erosion of it'. This is demonstrated well when we consider the case of Channel 4, the 'commercial channel with the public service remit'.Ultimately, British television's balancing act, negotiating between public service and commercial considerations, is a successful one, and is what grants Britain the distinction of having the 'least worst television in the world'. The idea of 'competition for audiences but not for revenue' has become accepted as the driving force of British television - also the best means of ensuring its healthy public service commitment. Colin Seymour-Ure notes that during the 1970s and 1980s:The BBC knew that as its audience share fell, the case for a compulsory fee would have become...

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