Channel 4’s first programmes were broadcast on 2 November 1982, 40 years ago.
Royal Holloway University of London’s School of Performance and Digital Arts, and Centre for the History of Television Culture and Production are planning a conference for 23 and 24 September 2020 to assess Channel 4 on its 40th birthday. The conference will take place at the BFI Southbank in conjunction with the British Film Institute’s planned season of programmes from the first decade of Channel 4. We hope that sessions will also be streamed.
Channel 4 was set up by Act of Parliament as a public service broadcaster with a remit for “innovation in the form and content of programmes” and a commitment to “minority audiences” of all kinds. Channel 4 continues to be committed to acting as a publisher-broadcaster. Channel 4 has a unique, though frequently disputed, status as a publicly owned broadcasting company with a minority cultural remit and financed entirely from its own commercial activities.
Channel 4 has changed the nature of television both in the UK and around the world. Throughout its 40 year history, Channel 4 has managed, with varying degrees of success, to negotiate the tension between its aspirations to act as a force for change and its financing through advertising revenue.
We are calling for papers on all aspects of Channel 4’s output, organisation and cultural influence, not restricted to its first decade. We expect papers on programming, industry and cultural issues across the whole span of Channel 4’s history.
We are particularly interested in:
- the many innovations and experiments in programming across all genres,
- the changing approaches to minority and diversity issues
- approaches to sexuality and the body, including sexual identities and practices, the visual representation of nudity and sexual intercourse, anatomical variations and different physical abilities
- Channel 4 news and its contribution to changing the landscape of TV news in the UK
- Channel 4’s relationship with independent production
- The relationship with nations and regions, including the relationship between Channel 4 and S4C
- The history and impact of Channel 4 film initiatives
- Channel 4 as an institution, both organisational and physical, including relocation outside London
- The attempts made by Channel 4 to negotiate the changing media landscape
- What future Channel 4 has in the age of global streaming, SVOD and AVOD
- Channel 4 as a subject of political and cultural controversy
The shape of the eventual conference, which will be open to the public, will be determined by the papers submitted. In principle we are thinking of devoting one day to ‘Channel 4 Then’ and the other to ‘Channel 4 Now’. We hope that each day will be rounded off by a suitable early evening event, and that the in-person conference will also be live streamed to allow remote attendance.
Please send short proposals for individual or group presentations to Channel4conference@rhul.ac.uk By Friday April 15 2022