Sunday, 3 November 2013

Born risky or Being safe? - Channel Four at 31

Last year, this article which was written for the Portsmouth News. In which I set out a brief description of The Tube, but as Channel Four becomes thirty-one. What can we learn from this? First of all, the article as published.

On Guy Fawkes night 1982, Channel Four provided a rocket up the schedules with the introduction of The Tube. Irrevocable, indolent and interesting, it set out its pop manifesto right from the start, although the original presenters were to be Boy George and a pre-Big Breakfast Paula Yates, but when Boy George found chart success, a newly freed from Squeeze Jools Holland filled the gap left.

With it being broadcast live on early Friday evenings, the programme had a fresh edge over any other music show at the time which lead to many one-liners being made by both presenters which was all part of its appeal and leading to new acts and even comedians coming up to its Newcastle studios to play and get exposure to youth at home.

Part of the appeal of the programme was to see what they could get away with that week, not only pushing the boundaries but giving them a kick up the charts in the process, later on they helped Frankie Goes to Hollywood with early television exposure.

But as time went on and the one-liners became more obvious, Jools Holland's throw-away line too rude to print in a family paper led the show to be suspended for three weeks as it was rather unwisely broadcast during Children's ITV. Sometimes naughty, but always good it gave to television a relevance of music and while it lasted 'The Tube' was one great ride!

Channel Four has set itself out as saying they were born risky, but in at least the past five years when can it has been? Is this channel which wanted to shock, wanted to give something to the youth of Britain, provide a home to programmes fit anywhere? The channel set out programmes for the disabled, not only adults but youngsters. Cecil Korer who came from the BBC was a key part of this, he may have been seen as some what of the old school having been a programme purchaser and a commissioning editor for the Light Entertainment group.

Seemingly for this he purchased Cheers and The Paul Hogan Show for the fledgling channel and even in commissioning Countdown that the first production team christened the number picking computer C.E.C.I.L (standing for Countdown Electronic Computer In Leeds). Where as Countdown had come from Yorkshire Television, another of his successes was Treasure Hunt from the independent producer Chatsworth Television, with the team of ex-newsreader Kenneth Kendall, TV-AM weather presenter Wincey Willis and Anneka Rice at that time who had previous worked in Hong Kong as a newsreader. But these successes set up the channel as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, if Channel Four was conceived as the IBA's second commercial channel then it had done its job.

In setting up his own production company Gambit Enterprises, Korer's company made Hand in Hand, which introduced children both hearing and deaf to each other's worlds but also revivals of 'Where In The World?' and 'The Heritage Game'. 

Plus with the likes of Mike Bolland, bringing new approaches to youth and entertainment programming. They were bold times, stretching the channel to do what it could to be so different. But with Channel Four proclaiming they were born risky, it makes people think what they have become to offer like for like programming. Its true and maybe said to say that Channel Four has come into the 21st century, not as it should be but with a changed personality. It might have matured with age, but the rebellious spirit has gone and for British television it could be a significant move backwards.