Channel 4 isn't edgy or educational, it takes advantage of the vulnerable

Their ‘mission’ to be provocative now seems to be a licence to indulge in nasty, voyeuristic documentaries

Share

Way back in 1982, just after I left school, Channel 4 entered a broadcasting landscape that now seems as antiquated as David Cameron’s haircut. Its first chaotic year of programming was amateurish and often embarrassing. It had no advertisers, only tedious muzak gaps between programmes. As for its programmes, well, we all watched Brookside (mostly for The Grant family) and The Tube, but little else.

Its brief was to be an ‘alternative’ to the mainstream and it seized this opportunity to be deliberately provocative by upsetting the self-elected moral censors of the media. Needless to say the right wing press regarded Channel 4 as a disgusting, loony lefty broadcaster and many blamed their heroine, Thatcher for giving birth to this monster.

Look around 4’s schedules today and this ‘mission’ to be provocative now seems to be licence to indulge in a relentless diet of nasty, voyeuristic so-called ‘reality’ documentaries, played out ironic quiz shows, tedious ‘lifestyle’ shows featuring aristocrats telling us how to knit ourselves out of austerity and er, The 500 Best Celebrity Tweets of 2013.

Yet, Channel 4’s latest self-deluded ad campaign wants to convince us that it is still ‘edgy.’ It takes more than Jon Snow’s coloured socks and Top Boy to make a channel truly ‘maverick.’  No, their take on edgy is summed up by their own in-house PR agency ‘4Creative’s’ poster boys and girls; the disfigured, the disabled, the naïve and the easily conned victims of this ‘brave’ and ‘challenging’ channel.  

There is an unpleasant undertone to series such as ‘Secrets Of The Scammers,’ ‘Make Bradford British’ and ‘Benefits Street. ’ For some reason the channel seems utterly obsessed with ‘homegrown terrorists’, immigrants, and will seemingly use any tired device in order to demonise Muslims and other ‘deviants’ – the poor, the fat, the disfigured, the mentally ill.

Oh yes, they will crack on that these shows are ‘educational’ and maybe provide a ‘helpline’ number at the end but deep down, we all know why people watch ‘The Undateables’ and ‘The Man With The 10 Stone Testicles’ - and it isn’t to feel all warm inside as love and hope triumphs over cruelty and despair. No, its to gawp at these unfortunate humans as Victorians would at a tawdry freak show.

Channel 4 is a ‘public service broadcaster’ (whatever that means today) but hasn’t got the luxury of the BBC’s licence fee to fall back on and so relies upon advertising. Even so, their 2012 annual report showed a £29million operating loss and so, they milk their big earners for every last drop of revenue. Sadly these are the 10 most watched C4 programmes of the past decade: 
 

Rank

Series title

No. of Viewers

Date

1

Big Brother

10,010,000

26 July 2002

2

Big Brother

8,980,000

6 August 2004

2

The Grand National 2013

8,980,000

6 April 2013

3

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

8,804,000

8 February 2011

4

Celebrity Big Brother

8,781,000

19 January 2007

5

Big Brother

8,540,000

26 July 2002

6

Big Brother

8,199,000

18 August 2006

7

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

8,048,000

15 February 2011

8

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

8,032,000

1 February 2011

9

2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony

7,783,000

29 August 2012

10

Big Brother

 

 


In their 2013 annual report, Channel 4 has this to say about its commercial remit:

"We seek to operate the business to break-even over the long term, with more profitable programmes and activities cross-funding high public value content that is less profitable. This model means that across our output we are able to sustain levels of investment in programmes that are central to delivering our remit."

It’s a difficult cultural and financial balancing act, to convince the government that they are providing public service broadcasting and to convince advertisers to pay them top dollar for the type of programme most people watch.  

Yet it’s the hypocrisy of their spiel that really grates:  

“Over its 30-year history, Channel 4 has frequently given a voice to under-represented groups – helping to shift attitudes and combat prejudices, and in the process creating some of the most iconic programmes on British TV, from Desmond's to the first lesbian kiss in Brookside and on to the London 2012 Paralympics. In 2012 we continued to give a platform to people to express viewpoints and experiences rarely heard in mainstream media.”

So that’s Desmond's (first broadcast in 89 and ended 95), the lesbian kiss in Brookside (1994) and the 2012 Paralympics. Big deal! Rather than ‘helping to shift attitudes’ Channel 4 actually perpetuates negative attitudes towards the most vulnerable in society. For this reason, it should hang its head in shame.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + 15% Bonus: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a l...

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The first woman in the Royal Navy is history to command a major warship  

If we want true gender equality, Commander Sarah West must be treated the same as any man

Jane Merrick
A destroyed UN vehicle is seen in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014 following Israeli military strikes.  

Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza

Yara Hawari
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz