British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

About the project

The project’s research has involved three elements: a 30-year history of Film4 as a feature film producer, a survey of the breadth of Channel 4’s broadcast film content (including purchased film, commissioned independent film and video, animation, shorts and magazine programmes), and the Channel 4 Press Pack database, produced in collaboration with the BUFVC.

Before Channel 4, film and television in the UK had been seen as rival media with only limited opportunity for collaborative exchange.  Sir Jeremy Isaacs, Channel 4’s first chief executive (1981-87), was determined that one of the new channel’s many innovations would be to fund feature film production, not only for domestic television broadcast, but for theatrical exhibition internationally.  The success of the Film on Four broadcast strand in sponsoring a new generation of British film-makers brought to prominence notable talents such as Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman, Gurinder Chadha and Danny Boyle.  And hits such as My Beautiful Laundrette, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Slumdog Millionaire have seem Film4, as it is now called, transformed into an international player and a cornerstone of the British film industry, with production and distribution arms, a digital channel (Film4) and a download service (4OD) www.film4.com.

The project’s research has involved three elements: a 30-year history of Film4 as a feature film producer, a survey of the breadth of Channel 4’s broadcast film content (including purchased film, commissioned independent film and video, animation, shorts and magazine programmes), and the Channel 4 Press Pack database, produced in collaboration with the BUFVC.   The project team at Portsmouth, comprising two doctoral students, a post-doctoral researcher and a bursary PhD undertaking a comparative study of BBC Films, has drawn on archival materials at the BFI, the BUFVC, at Channel 4, the IBA archive at Bournemouth University and the BBC Written Archives at Caversham.  In-depth interviews have also been conducted with a range of key figures in film and television.  In November 2012 a two-day project conference was held at BFI Southbank to coincide with Channel 4’s 30th anniversary.  Media historians and industry personnel gathered to assess the impact of Channel 4’s contribution to British film culture and to debate the future role of Public Service Broadcasters in the film industry.  The project’s published outputs include special issues of the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television and the Journal of British Cinema and Television, and a complete, illustrated filmography of 30 years of Film4.