MEDIA: AN EXPERT'S VIEW - CHANNEL 4 SPRING - SUMMER SCHEDULE. Channel 4's new programming schedule could do with being more edgy, Jeremy Lee argues

Last August, the Channel 4 chief executive, Mark Thompson, used his McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival to set out his vision for the future of the channel. It had become too mainstream and risk-averse and on his watch its edginess would return.

Because of the programming lag, when shows commissioned under the previous regime have to work their way through the system, it has taken six months for Thompson to have his turn to play with the schedule.

While Channel 4 is performing well enough in terms of audience, there has been criticism that the schedule has been dominated by property and makeover shows. These provide critical numbers but don't provide an audience that can't be found elsewhere.

Therein lies the problem - what is it that we want from Channel 4? Is it there to keep ITV on its toes or to provide niche programming unavailable elsewhere? Because of the war, Channel 4 has opted for a relatively low-key launch of its spring/summer schedule.

Its headline series has the uninspiring working title The 3Rs, taking a look at how standards of education have changed over the past 50 years.

At face value it sounds pretty dull but Channel 4 is adapting the format first seen in ITV's brilliant Lad's Army, taking everyday GCSE students and putting them in a 50s state boarding school environment. After a month of intensive instruction the students will then sit O-level exams, thereby answering the question: are GCSEs easier than O-levels?

While this sounds watchable enough and should attract mass audiences, it is hardly mould-breaking TV. More risky is Channel 4's decision to show the dramatisation of the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown story - The Deal.

This drama, produced by Granada, was turned down by ITV as potentially too controversial (particularly in light of the current sensitive TV merger negotiations). It sounds like it should do well for ABC audiences.

Channel 4 is adapting the successful but excruciating Wife Swap series with Trust Me ... I'm A Teenager, where teenagers give their opinions on another family with teenagers. Derivative, but potentially entertaining.

More startling is the £1.7 million Channel 4 has invested in a film of John Adams' controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer, which deals with the 1985 hijacking of a Mediterranean cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists. This will hardly pack the viewers in and will surely give Channel 4's sales director, Andy Barnes, a headache, but it is a good example of the station's "something for everybody" approach.

Other commissions include an investigation into the global pharmaceuticals industry and an exploration of female circumcision in Kenya.

Comedy highlights include the return of Ali G and Bo Selecta!, while Channel 4 has made the unusual decision to show a primetime general knowledge quiz called Grand Slam.

Edgy and risky? Not really, but the breadth of the schedule shows Thompson's critics that he is merely the BBC director-general in-waiting.

Jeremy Lee, Campaign's media reporter and former archaeologist, is delighted to see that Time Team is returning with a nationwide Big Dig in the summer.

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