In what ways has Channel 4 altered the landscape of British television broadcasting for its competitors?

Essay by danspamUniversity, Bachelor'sB, March 2004

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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...