Coltrane adds weight to Channel 4 schedule

Channel 4 will today unveil its first pounds 100m schedule, spearheaded by the biggest man in television - Robbie Coltrane.

Channel 4's budget is more than 25 per cent up on last autumn because of the relaxation of the funding formula which forced it to give ITV huge sums of advertising revenue.

The 47-year-old Cracker star will host the six-part Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles, a personal indulgence into his fascination with the internal combustion engine in all its forms. "I'm a noisy devil. I'm incapable of walking past a piece of machinery without wanting to know all the details of its private life. People say its unnatural and uncool, but I can't believe I'm the only person who thinks engines are fascinating," says Coltrane.

Leading the channel's drama output is A Dance to the Music of Time, in which the 12 novels by British author Anthony Powell are distilled into four feature-length films.

Miranda Richardson, Edward Fox and Alan Bennett will be seen in the ambitious dramas based on the rise and fall of the fictitious hero Nicholas Jenkins (played by John Standing).

Michael Jackson, who replaced Michael Grade as C4's chief executive, said: "The increased investment I have inherited will strengthen Channel 4 to fulfil its unique function. To echo Sir Jeremy Isaacs' founding promise 15 years ago this autumn, Channel 4 should provide programmes for everybody some of the time," he said.

Last year, ITV received pounds 87m from Channel 4 under the funding formula which was set up before Channel 4 began broadcasting. The formula guaranteed half of all Channel 4 revenue for ITV once the channel hit a 14 per cent share of terrestrial advertising revenue. In 1998, it can expect to reap just pounds 50m, but from 1999 Channel 4 will be free of the burden.

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