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Channel 4 - Your Thoughts

 

 

 

 

Here we invite your comments on what you thought about Channel 4 when it launched.  What were you expecting from the channel?  Where your expectations fulfilled?  What did you like originally about the channel? Did you have any problems in receiving the channel?  Was there any hype anticipating the channel?

These questions were answered by some people, here are their thoughts...


Lee Jones (E-mail)

I can remember the start or rather the pre-start of C4 very well. Often I'd see the "IBA:CH4" test pattern - sometimes it'd have lines above and below this writing, other times no lines.

I recall one logo, the channel 4 four, with the words "Channel 4 Television" below and writing (something like) "Coming 2 Nov" going up at an angle at the top left of the screen.

At the time I also recall going to Butlin's in Minehead for a week and noticing similar S4C captions! (and the S4C test pattern!)

I can also recall another caption but with transmitter names written on it. I may have a not very good picture of this somewhere.

C4 used to play lots of different pieces of music under the C4 test pattern - I still have some recorded (though I lost my originals!)

And one more thing - C4 not starting broadcasting for a while until 1 in the afternoon. I think I still might have a bit of a recording of something like this but it's from much later (1990/91).


Gavin Nixon (E-mail, Northern Ireland)

Well, much as some others, my first notion that the station was coming was in January 1982 - I remember the month because it was during the really severe spell of weather at that time - when I was manually changing stations on my old B&W portable TV one afternoon and, down at channel 21, came across a blank screen with a tone.

This seemed to continue on an almost daily basis then stopped until about August 1982, when a test-card appeared, first with a tone, then with music, then, in October, with programme previews every so often.

One night in October, the logo (a still slide) appeared on the screen with an announcer apparently rehearsing (the announcer was Keith Harrison, one of the original group of four announcers, along with Paul Coia, David Stranks and Olga Hubicka).

Here in NI, the channel was only available via two transmitters - Divis, which supplies the vast bulk of NI's population with terrestrial pictures and, oddly for C4, one of Divis's relays, Newtownards, which supplies that town's sizeable population with pictures - they cannot 'see' Divis as that town is below sea-level.  NI's second city, Londonderry, could not receive the station until mid-1993.

I remember being fascinated by the station's presentation - it seemed so modern for its time compared to what we were used to from Ulster Television and BBC Northern Ireland.  It was also quite a novelty to have TV late at night at weekends, until about 2.00am - re-runs of "The Avengers" and Boris Karloff films particularly appealing to me.  As well, of course, as "The Munsters" before "The Tube" on Friday afternoons.

Then, of course, there was the lack of advertisements.  I remember watching "Countdown" on the first day and wondering what the first advert would be -
only to be confronted by the familiar 'part two follows shortly' caption, with little broken bits of the '4' logo on a black background, and a groovy little tune which I would later learn was "Fourscore II", a synthesized version of the channel's theme music.

I remember there were complaints that the same two pieces of music were played continually at every break, but I liked them, and thought it was quite clever that the pieces could be broken down to fit each of the seven standard lengths of ad-break, from 35 seconds to 3 minutes 40 seconds.  I actually have all fourteen versions on audio tape, interestingly in stereo, sent to me by their Head of Presentation all those years ago.

It would be six weeks until, during the final of that first series of "Countdown", I saw what I understand was the first advert to be screened on Channel Four here - for salmon!

A few more adverts would then appear but I cannot remember an ad-break being full of adverts until maybe March 1983, by which time they had put the "apologies for lack of commercials ..." caption on the screen during the break fillers.

Then, the "apologies" caption disappeared in about April - and we promptly again lost all commercials here in NI again until late July 1983, when they gradually built up until adverts filled-up many breaks though, as it was UTV putting them out and in those days they closed down early, there would seldom be in adverts in the breaks after about 11.30.  Interestingly, too, during the disputes that blacked-out Thames Television on two separate occasions in 1984, we had no adverts on Channel Four here during the week - only at weekends.  Again, when UTV was off the air for two weeks in April 1987, we had no adverts on Channel Four here either.

In the early days, too, I recall that the announcers used to take it in turns to present a programme called "Preview 4", presented from the Charlotte Street premises.  The announcer would sit in a chair, styled like the C4 logo.  They would also be seen in front of a giant aspidistra plant at closedown though, on the first night at closedown, I remember seeing Paul Coia blowing out a candle shaped like the '4' logo.

Funnily enough, and while having a job of work to do is undoubtedly a major factor, much as the channel is now pretty successful, I don't watch it that much and don't have the fondness for it that I once had.  24 hour TV and polished presentation ... oh for the good old days!


David Evans (E-mail)

There was a campaign on tuning in your TV to receive 4.  They sent me badges and car stickers with "I've joined the I've had my set set set" they were white with single colour mid blue text and ch4 logo.

There was a glossy book/brochure in silver with a TV lozenge picture which ran through what CH4 promised to be showing when it began.  I also received (and still have) a large bus shelter sized poster with a colour 4 logo in a black TV lozenge above a row of buttons with a diagrammatic finger reaching for the 4th button "get set for 4" "Channel 4 is coming 2nd Nov"

I loved the difference in style Ch4 had in comparison with other channels.  The logo was great - very of its time in its primary colours and although many programmes were great  - especially later at night - the Saturday afternoon shows were pretty strange - like low budget versions of the stuff now showing on Discovery Home and Leisure channel!

The arts and "yoof" programming were good - that seems to have been shunted into a Sunday slot in favour of US comedy imports.

I remember the many experiments with comedy like "who dares wins", Ruby Wax's "for 4 tonight" - live from Newton Barnes, "They came from somewhere else", "Dream stuffing" - the one with 2 girls living in a council block.


Mike Brown tells us about their technicalities pre-launch...

Mike Brown (E-mail, Berkshire)

The IBA's colour test card and music were shown daily for 6-8 weeks before launch, which was, of course, 2-Nov-1982.

At the time the IBA must have been quite rich and began installing the transmitters for Channel 4 well ahead of time. The equipment was installed at my local transmitter (Sandy Heath) almost a year in advance. I know this because I caught one of their engineering tests in January 1982. It consisted simply of grey-scale bars and tone which they ran for 2-3 days before switching the transmitter off again until the Autumn.


Steve Heap (E-mail, North West)

Don't remember anything other than the 'IBA:CH4' test card on C4, but I think this card and tone were being transmitted, at least by Winter Hill, as early as winter 1981-2. Closer to the launch, the tone was replaced by music - including the themes from Shaft and Rocky - and an edition of Engineering Announcements informed us that "if you're getting music with your test card, then you're receiving the signal from the central Channel Four studios in London" or similar.

S4C from Moel-y-Parc came on air with the "IBA:S4C" card rather later than C4, about May 1982.

One other related memory - a large billboard advert, at the top of which was something like "We apologise for the lack of choice for television viewers. Meanwhile, here is some music." And there was indeed - the whole rest of the ad was a giant musical score. I'm pretty sure this was linked to C4, though it was before I'd even heard that C4 was going to start - maybe 1980 or 1981. And thus, though I can read music, I'll never know whether the score was that of '4 Score' or not. (I'd guess not though.)

 


More comment on Channel 4 pre- and post- launch are still very welcome.
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Last Updated: January 18, 2015