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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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
from Moel-y-Parc came on air with the "IBA:S4C" card rather later than C4, about
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
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February 11, 2020