New rules for Channel 4

CHANNEL 4 has had its broadcasting licence re-written so that it must produce more programmes with multicultural and disability themes. It also has to reduce the number of repeats and imported American programmes it uses.

The channel will now have to air at least three hours of television a week about, and for, audiences from Britain's ethnic minorities. It also has to broadcast some of those shows in its peak evening period. The new terms are a victory for comedians Lenny Henry and Michael Palin, and novelist Ben Okri, who campaigned for increased multicultural output.

As well as extra disability shows, the channel must now increase to 60 per cent the proportion of shows commissioned specially for it. This follows some concern among some critics about its dependence on imported programmes like Friends, Frasier and Oprah .

The broadcaster's licence had to be re-written by the Independent Television Commission after the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, decided to end the controversial funding formula that meant Channel 4 paid a share of its advertising revenues to ITV. With the extra money it now has, it is expected to return to a more radical style of programming than in recent years.

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