History of the fourth UK television service
Timeline 1980 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Idents Programmes on Channel 4

Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster that, although largely commercially self-funded, is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which was established in 1990 and came into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital in 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide TV channel for the first time.

The channel was established to provide a fourth television service to the United Kingdom in addition to the licence-funded BBC One and BBC Two, and the single commercial broadcasting network ITV.

History of the fourth UK television service

When transmissions began on 625-line ultra high frequency (UHF) in the early 1960s, the General Post Office (GPO) were afforded the task of allocating each transmitter region with a set of frequencies that would provide maximum coverage and minimal interference; this provided capacity for four services, allowing one each for the existing BBC (later BBC 1) and Independent Television (ITV) services already carried on 405-line very high frequency (VHF), one for the new BBC 2 (1964) and a fourth for future allocations. By 1968, the Independent Television Authority (ITA) considered this sufficiently likely that when awarding franchises for the next ten-year period they included a clause that allowed the licence to be revoked and reconsidered if ‘ITV 2’ became a reality.

The term ‘ITV 2’ became popular as the term ‘ITV’ itself grew in popularity for the commercial network which had previously been referred to by generic titles ‘Independent Television’ or ‘Commercial Television’. In anticipation of the second network, it was common for television sets manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s to having the four channel buttons labelled BBC-1, BBC-2, ITV-1 and ITV-2.

It was not until 1998 that the name ‘ITV2’ was used for a new digital channel.

Timeline of Channel 4


The Broadcasting Act 1980 paves the way for a fourth television channel in the UK.


  • August: Test broadcasts commence. These mainly consist of showing the IBA’s testcard ETP-1.
  • November 1: S4C launches. All Welsh output shown on BBC Wales and HTV Wales moves to the new channel which shows Welsh programming at primetime. Programming from Channel 4 is shown in off-peak hours.
  • November 2: Channel 4 launches.
    • 4:40 pm: Continuity announcer Paul Coia launches the channel with the words “Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be able to say to you: Welcome to Channel Four”.
    • 4:45 pm: The first programme starts – Countdown and presenter Richard Whiteley starts by saying “as the countdown to a brand new channel ends, a brand new countdown begins.”
    • 7 pm: The first edition of Channel 4 News – the UK’s first hour-long news programme.
    • 8 pm: The first edition of Channel 4’s soap opera Brookside is broadcast.
  • 5 November – The first edition of music programme The Tube is broadcast.


  • Spring: Channel 4 broadcasts in vision teletext pages for the first time. Two magazines are shown – 4-Tel On View and Oracle on View – and in fifteen minute bursts which are repeated several times each day prior to the start of each day’s transmissions. Teletext pages are only shown on weekdays.
  • May 24: Channel 4 becomes the new home of Engineering Announcements.


  • March 22: The first horse racing coverage is broadcast on Channel 4, resulting in the launch Channel 4 Racing.
  • October 15: Weekday afternoon broadcasting starts at 2:30 pm instead of 5 pm and weekend programming begins an hour earlier, at 1 pm.


  • October 5: The first weekend horse racing is shown on Channel 4 when ITV transfers coverage of horse racing to Channel 4 ahead of the end of World of Sport.


  • February: For the first (and only) time, animated graphics are seen during teletext transmissions. This is made possible by transmitting 4-Tel On View from a disc rather than live.
  • September: For a brief period Channel 4 shows a red triangle at the start of, and during, films with adult themes.
  • October 15: Channel 4 starts weekend morning broadcasting with weekend transmissions now beginning at around 9:30 am.


  • April 24: The Tube is shown for the final time.
  • May 3: The first of two series of groundbreaking youth television show Network 7 starts. The programme is shown live at Sunday lunchtime.
  • September 14: ITV Schools programmes transfer to Channel 4 resulting in an expansion of the channel’s weekday broadcasting hours. The programmes are broadcast in the same 9.30 am to midday slot. Lunchtime programmes are also introduced, and they include a one-hour block of programmes from the newly formed Open College.
  • September 21: As part of the new lunchtime schedule, the first edition of a weekday business and financial news programme Business Daily is broadcast.
  • October 30: The first edition of Channel 4’s flagship current affairs documentary series Dispatches is shown.


  • January 11: The first episode of long running quiz show Fifteen to One is broadcast.
  • February: Channel 4 starts broadcasting into the early hours, closing down between 2 am and 3 am. Previously Channel 4 had closed down at just after midnight.
  • September 17-October 2: Channel 4’s only broadcast of the Olympic Games takes place when Channel 4 shows the overnight and breakfast coverage of the 1988 Olympic Games. ITV shows the daytime coverage.


  • March 31: The last Oracle on View transmission takes place.
  • April 3: Channel 4 launches its breakfast television service The Channel Four Daily. From this date, 4-Tel On View is shown in a single 40-minute block rather than in 15 minute bursts. It is also shown at the weekend for the first time.


  • February 19: The first edition of Channel 4’s documentary series Cutting Edge is shown.
  • July 31: The final edition of Engineering Announcements is shown at 5:45 am.


  • October 9: The 1000th episode of Brookside is broadcast.


  • June 25: The final edition of Business Daily is broadcast although the early morning bulletins continue until the end of The Channel Four Daily.
  • September 6: The first edition of Football Italia is broadcast as part of Channel 4’s deal to show Serie A. The channel continues to show Italian football for the next ten years.
  • September 25: The final edition of The Channel Four Daily is broadcast.
  • September 28: The first edition of The Big Breakfast is broadcast.
  • November 2: The FourScore theme used in the idents is replaced.
  • December 31: Channel 4’s testcard ETP-1 is shown for the final time.


  • January 1: Channel 4 becomes an independent statutory corporation.
  • Instead of fully closing down, 4-Tel On View is shown throughout the channel’s overnight downtime.
  • June 28: The final ITV Schools programmes are shown.
  • September: Schools programmes continue to be shown on Channel 4 under the branding of ‘’Channel 4 Schools’’.


  • January 16: The first edition of archaeology series Time Team is broadcast.


  • October 23: The first edition of Hollyoaks is broadcast.


  • October 11: After nearly fourteen years, Channel 4 unveils a new presentation package. Gone were the multi-coloured blocks, instead the familiar logo would be placed in one of four circles. This look would last for just three years.


  • January: Channel 4 starts 24-hour broadcasting, resulting in the end of 4-Tel On View.


  • October 25: The T4 strand is broadcast for the first time.
  • November 1: FilmFour launches as a subscription channel.


  • April 2: Channel 4 launches a new presentation package. Gone were the circles, instead the logo was placed inside a square. This look would last for five years.
  • July 1: Channel 4 starts broadcasting cricket following the channel sensationally obtaining the rights from the BBC the previous year

Timeline of Channel 4 courtesy of Wikipedia


Nov 2, 1982-Oct 10, 1996

Oct 11, 1996-Easter, 1999

Easter, 1999-Dec 31, 2004