Media Lifeline: More4

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 13 June 2008 12:00AM

Channel 4 for grown-ups needs to fight to preserve its controversial programming heritage.

August 2005: More4, a Channel 4 digital TV extension for the over-35s, launches with A Very Social Secretary. Headed by Peter Dale (pictured), More4 has a programme budget of £33 million, more than £20 million of which is earmarked for original, UK-produced programming.

April 2006: The channel's ratings are also boosted by the decision to use it as a launch pad for two new series of The West Wing, which it runs back to back. In Channel 4's results announcements in April, it is revealed that More4 already commands a 0.65 per cent share of the multichannel audience - a very credible performance for a new digital channel.

January 2007: More4 continues to make its mark with controversial programming. Death of a President, a drama about a future assassination of President Bush, attracts widespread (and often angry) newspaper coverage in September 2006. The Trial of Tony Blair, aired in January 2007, is a satirical take (again, at this stage, set in the future) on the decline and fall of the then prime minister.

November 2007: But as Channel 4 celebrates its 25th birthday, its chief executive, Andy Duncan (pictured) reiterates his worries about the future as its share of ad revenues declines. More4 is already nominally profitable, but it, too, is coming under budget scrutiny.

June 2008: Dale resigns in apparent frustration over More4 cuts - its budget has declined from £33 million to closer to £20 million, which means that innovative and controversial programming such as The Trial of Tony Blair is now off the agenda. Dale reveals he is to set up his own independent production company. He is replaced as the head of More4 by Hamish Mykura, the head of documentaries at Channel 4.

Fast forward ...

November 2008: The Government agrees to subsidise core Channel 4 activities, provided it divests itself of its subsidiary brands, including More4, although it will retain access to Channel 4 reruns on favourable terms. The outgoing ITV executive chairman (and former Channel 4 chief executive), Michael Grade, forms a private equity-backed company to snap them up.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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