The company was founded in 1982 as Channel Four Television Company Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the IBA, and became an independent statutory corporation in 1993. June 1995 saw Channel Four expand beyond its remit of providing the 'fourth service' in a significant way, with the launch of Entertainment 4. Since then the corporation has been involved in a range of other activities, all in some way associated with the main channel, and mainly using the '4' brand.
Towards the end of the 1980s, the government began a radical process of re-organisation of the commercial broadcasting industry, which was written onto the statute books by means of the Broadcasting Act 1990. Significantly, this meant the abolition of the IBA, and hence the Channel Four Television Company. The result led to the creation of a corporation to own and operate the channel, which would have greater autonomy and would eventually go on to establish its other operations. The new corporation, which became operational in 1993, was the Channel Four Television Corporation, and was created to replace the former broadcasting operations of the Channel Four Television Company. It was regulated by the new Independent Television Commission (ITC), created under the same act, and was oversaw by ITV region London Weekend Television. The ITC and its duties were later replaced by Ofcom, which like its predecessor is responsible for appointing the Corporation's board, in agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
In terms of the station's remit and other duties, the creation of the corporation meant little change; the new corporation would have to manage its own advertising, rather than this being carried out on its behalf by the local ITV contractors (see Funding).
In March 2010, Channel Four Television Corporation and its Chief Executive were criticised by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee for breaking service commitments, a lack of transparency in accounting for digital channels, poor governance and failed investments.
In 2014, the Government drew up proposals to privatise the Channel Four Television Corporation. However, the proposal was rejected by the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Channel 4 is a national television channel in the United Kingdom which began transmission on 2 November 1982. The channel was established to provide a fourth television service to the United Kingdom in addition to the two BBC services funded from the television licence, and the single commercial broadcasting network, ITV.
Channel 4 is largely commercially self-funded. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter in Wales to digital on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide TV channel for the first time. The channel is known for broadcasting a variety of programmes aimed at the public's interest. Its aim is to "champion unheard voices, take bold risks and stand up for diversity." The broadcaster's news department Channel 4 News is broadcast weekday evenings at 7:00–8:00 pm, with a five minute summary at 12:00 noon. It is broadcast on weekends as well, with one bulletin every evening for thirty minutes.
Channel Four launched a subscription film channel, FilmFour, on 1 November 1998. It was available on digital satellite television and digital cable. Companion services, such as FilmFour+1, FilmFour World and FilmFour Extreme were also available on some digital services. In 2003 Extreme and World were discontinued, and replaced with FilmFour Weekly. FilmFour Weekly closed in July 2006, when the main, newly named Film4 channel went free-to-view and became available on digital terrestrial. The switchover to digital terrestrial was heavily advertised. The adverts featured Lucy Liu, Christian Slater, Ewan McGregor, Judi Dench, Gael García Bernal, Willem Dafoe, Mackenzie Crook, Rhys Ifans and Ray Winstonedeclaring "Film4 is now free" in various situations across London. It remains the only film channel available free on digital terrestrial television.
When Channel 4 had the rights to broadcast Test cricket in England, the downtime of the FilmFour channel was often used to broadcast uninterrupted coverage of a match when the main channel was committed elsewhere, usually to racing. At these times FilmFour was available unencrypted and free-to-air.
E4, an entertainment channel with a target age range of 16–34, was launched on 16 June 1995 on Sky Analouge and several cable services. It features premieres of US imports and supplementary footage for programmes on its main channel (most notably extended Big Brother coverage).
In 2005 the channel launched on digital terrestrial. E4 is widely available in Ireland, in close to 70% of homes, being carried on the Virgin Media Ireland cable network and also on Sky. The channel operates an advertising opt-out, allowing advertisers to directly target Irish audiences.
More4 is a channel aimed at those aged 35–60. Launched on 10 October 2005, it carries news and nightly discussion programmes, such as More4 News, an extension of Channel 4 News that attempts to look "beyond the headlines", giving in-depth analysis.
Launched in August 2008, M4 is a Channel 4-branded channel within The Box Plus Network, showing music videos and entertainment programmes.
Channel 7 is Channel 4‘s other entertainment channel.
The channel was launched on 19 May 2009 as part of the major rebranding and repositioning of the UKTV network. The new channel was created to provide female and paranormal programming on the UKTV network, by airing programming previously aired on UKTV Style. As part of the repositioning of UKTV Style to Home, this channel would focus primarily on home and garden programming. As part of this, UKTV Gardens was closed, with programmes merged with Home. The new channel Really would launch from UKTV Gardens' broadcast slot and would replace the channel on that service. Responsible for launching Really would be the channel head: Clare Laycock since July 2008. The channel was originally available only on satellite and cable services, however on 14 June 2011, UKTV announced that Really would launch on Freeview channel 20 on 2 August 2011. The channel, along with Drama, were added to Virgin Media in Ireland on September 2018.
On 1 April 2019, it was announced that Channel 4 would buy Really and be rebranded as Real4 shortly after.
The channel originally launched on 1 November 1997 as UK Style, broadcasting lifestyle programming from the archive of the BBC and from external producers.
On 8 March 2004, in line with the rest of the UKTV network, the channel changed its name to UKTV Style. The channel's schedule was further freed up by the creation of new channel UKTV Style Gardens in January 2005, which allowed the transfer of all landscape and gardening programmes to the new channel. The channel name was later shortened to UKTV Gardens in 2007.
As part of the rebranding of UKTV's channels to unique names and identities, UKTV Style was rebranded as Home on 30 April 2009 and repositioned to include programming based around home improvement, gardens and home lifestyle programmes. Other female lifestyle programmes were transferred to newly created channel Really, and all gardening programmes were transferred from UKTV Gardens to Home as part of the rebrand.
On 1 April 2019, it was announced that Channel 4 would acquire Home.
In June 2019, Channel 4 announced that Home would be rebranded as a Home4. This took place on 21 January 2020, the first programme to air on Home4 was the BBC’s Homes Under The Hammer at 7 am, since C4 had also now access to BBC owned home shows.
The channel originally launched on 5 November 2001 as UK Food, as a channel dedicated to cookery programmes that had previously been broadcast on the increasingly crowded UK Style channel. The channel changed its name on 8 March 2004 to UKTV Food.
As part of the rebranding of all UKTV's channels to a unique name and identity, UKTV Food rebranded as Good Food on 22 June 2009, the last of UKTV's brands to do so.
On 1 April 2019, it was announced that Channel 4 would acquire Good Food.
On 5 September 2019, Channel 4 announced that Good Food would rebrand as Kitchen4 in the early hours of September 12th. The first programme to be shown was a repeat of Choccywoccydoodah.
Channel Four runs timeshift variants of its services (except 4Music and 4seven) on all digital platforms. In 2007, Channel 4 was the first terrestrial broadcaster in the United Kingdom to offer a time-shift variant of its main channel. In common with many other broadcasters, these channels output exactly the same programmes and continuity as was broadcast an hour previously, and are titled with the station name followed by a "+1" suffix.
News of BT's first foray into sports broadcasting first came about on 12 June 2012 when it was announced that they had won the rights to 38 live Premier League matches for three seasons from the 2013-14 season, beating American broadcast partner ESPNwho had held the shared rights with Sky Sports the previous season. BT announced at the same time that it would be launching its own channel for its new football coverage. The news followed speculation that ESPN was reconsidering its position in the UK.The following months also saw BT win rights to Premiership Rugby and its associated 7s Series, and American, Brazilian, French and Italian top-flight football. On 25 February 2013, BT agreed to acquire ESPN's UK and Ireland TV channels business, consisting of ESPN and ESPN America (ESPN Classic was not included). BT would continue to broadcast at least one ESPN branded channel since the deal's completion date of 31 July, as part of its BT Sport package of services. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but BT was understood to be paying "low tens of millions".
On 2 May 2013, BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 were added to the BT TV EPG, followed by Sky the next day along with an on-screen message that the channel was coming soon. On Sky, the channels replaced BT's placeholders, Sailing 1 and 2. The BT-owned terrestrial feeds of Sky Sports 1 and 2, which were also used for Top Up TV, were dropped on 1 July in favour of BT Sport 1 and 2. The Channels started broadcasting on 1 August 2013, on the same day ESPN America ceased to broadcast and ESPN became ESPN from BT Sport; broadcasting most of ESPN America's content. BT signed a wholesale deal with Virgin Media on 15 August 2013 bringing the channels free of charge to customers on the TV XL package.
The channel was acquired by Channel 4 in September 2014, and was rebranded as Sport4 shortly after. A sports news channel news in association with ITN launched with the rebrand.
On 9 June 2015, ESPN was rebranded as Sport4 America.
Sport4 holds exclusive live UK and Republic of Ireland TV rights to 52 Premier Leaguematches per season, all Australia's home cricket matches, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UFC, National League, Ligue 1, the Bundesliga, the FA Community Shield, the FA Trophy and the European Rugby Challenge Cup, the Premiership Rugby Cup, MotoGP, the FIH Hockey World League and WWE. They are also the official broadcast partner of the European Rugby Champions Cup and Premiership Rugby. Sport4 also holds shared rights to the FA Cup with the BBC (until 2019-20), the Scottish Professional Football League with Sky Sports and BBC Alba. There are five channels in the group, all of which are free.
- Sport4 - The main channel
- Sport4 Extra - Showing other sporting programming if matches overlap.
- Sport4 News - The sports news channel.
- Sport4 America - american sports
- Sport4 Gold - classic sports
The Box Network
In July 2007, Channel Four bought 50% of Box Television Ltd for £28 million from Emap plc. Emap's stake was transferred to new owners, Bauer Consumer Media, following Bauer's acquisition of Emap's publishing and radio businesses. In 2015, Box Television was renamed to The Box Plus Network with a new look and logo. Box currently operates six music TV stations (The Box, Box Hits, 4Music, Kiss, Magic and Kerrang!).
Channel Four has had a long record of success in funding the production of films through Channel Four Films, renamed FilmFour in 1998 to coincide with the launch of its digital channel of the same name. Notable successes include The Madness of King George, The Crying Game, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Trainspotting.