Channel 4 looks to controversy to raise audience numbers

Channel 4 is showing a controversial drama about the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as part of Mark Thompson's second spring/summer schedule as the chief executive.

The Deal, which was turned down by ITV as too controversial, charts the rise of the two men and explores their subsequent relationship.

The spring/summer schedule is of great importance to Thompson - all eyes are on him after his MacTaggart lecture at last year's Edinburgh International TV Festival in which he stated his determination to show more risky programmes.

Channel 4 has had a respectable start to the year with audiences for its early and late peak segments up by 21 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

"The performance has been respectable but the programming has been distinctly populist," Steve McDonnell, the TV director at MediaCom, pointed out.

Also included in the schedule is the documentary series The 3Rs. In the programme, Channel 4 is taking 30 GCSE students and putting them in a reconstructed state boarding school where they will receive a 50s-style education.

Channel 4 is adapting the Wife Swap format with two commissions. Trust Me I'm A Teenager gives teenagers the opportunity to review the lifestyle of another household with teenagers, while Masters and Servants moves a family into another family's house for a week and asks them to pamper their hosts.

Channel 4 has also bought the rights to show Michael Essany, a real-life US version of Sanjeev Kumar, who hosts his own local access cable show from his parents' living room in Indiana.