Media: Cult viewing worth paying for


in the industry they are called killer applications. Media offerings so good the public just can't refuse them. For pay television so far the killer applications have been Premier League football and first-run movies.

Until now those first-run movies have not tended to be the kind that look like killer applications to the reviewers and readers of The Independent. Instead the Hollywood action blockbuster dominates the pay movie channels just as much as it dominates the multiplexes.

Pay television, when first launched here in the late Eighties, was supposed to let a thousand flowers bloom. Opera channels were promised. Ballet by the yard would go hand-in-hand with Hollywood beamed into your home.

But, with the exception of small cable channels like Performance, it is difficult to escape the perception that more television channels just mean more of the same.

The curse of digital, especially the paid-for parts, is that so much of it is already available on cable or satellite and a lot of that has already been on terrestrial television.

But out of this mulch comes a project that at last looks like exciting the chattering classes about paying for a television channel.

Channel 4 announced last week that it will launch Film Four in November, its independent and international film channel. Film Four will offer something different: independent films from around the world that the channel describes as "cult, controversial, uncensored and uncut". It will screen several films a night and broadcast for 12 hours a day. Crucially it will be available as part of ONdigital's terrestrial package, as part of Sky's satellite digital package and on analogue cable and analogue satellite packages. It will cost a few pounds a month on top of each operator's basic package - the final price is yet to be confirmed.

Its appeal lies in that it is offering a new distribution system for art house films that in recent years has disappeared from many cities and towns. If you live outside London, the frustration of reading repeated reviews of films that never make it to your local can be replaced with a satellite dish or a set-top box.

And as befits Channel 4's status as a public service broadcaster, Film Four can also be seen as being in the national interest.

There is no doubt that as well as annoying Daily Mail readers, one of the great benefits of Channel 4 has been the boost it has given to the British independent film industry.

The production of films in Britain slipped from a high of 150 films made in the UK in the mid-Fifties to the all-time low of 24 produced in 1981.

Channel 4 launched in 1982 and has since financed or part-financed 262 films. Without Channel 4 there would have been no My Beautiful Laundrette, no Mike Leigh films such as Naked or Secrets and Lies and none of Ken Loach's radical, difficult films such as Raining Stones.

Many argue that Channel 4 should take a lot of credit for the fact that in 1996, the last year for which there are complete figures, there were 128 pictures made in the UK.

Now, with Film Four, the channel has a solution to the problem thrown up by the success it has helped to create. In 1995 over 50 per cent of British films failed to make it to a cinema screen. Last year it was worse.

If the market for independent and foreign films is not big enough to support art house cinemas, then a real benefit of digital technology could be its use as a new distribution system. The downside is that it will not be possible to pick off just Film Four and pay for it separately. Nevertheless, it sounds at last like a killer application that will do a bit more than just make movie stars, football players and Australian media moguls richer.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all