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Diverse Reports (1984-87)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Diverse Reports (1984-87)
Diverse Productions for Channel 4, 25/1/1984-29/71987
c.140 x 30 min edns, colour
Executive ProducerDavid Graham
EditorsAnna Coote
 Alex Graham
 Philip Clarke
Reporters includePeter Clarke
 Christopher Hird
 Beatrix Campbell

Current affairs strand that dared to make its commentators opinions known.

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Right from its start on the fledgling Channel 4, Diverse Reports attempted to break the rules that bound political current affairs on television. Restless with the custom and practice of such orthodox political programmes as Question Time (BBC, 1979-) and Weekend World (ITV, 1972-88), and their shift towards news away from current affairs, David Graham, executive producer and co-founder of Diverse Productions, wanted a new form which presented 'signed' current affairs from a neutral base of traditional journalistic strength.

The programme's origins lay in Graham's The Friday Alternative (Channel 4, 1982-83), a re-thinking of the TV news agenda, reporting through different voices, and re-examining conventions of news reporting through different perspectives on events. Diverse Reports charged itself with finding the acceptable middle ground between The Friday Alternative's distinctly racy style and being innovative through tough journalistic standards.

The two programmes helped abolish the traditional demarcations between news and current affairs. While they were explicitly commissioned as news programmes, each used political observations as an integral part of its output. Despite its fresh, radical approach to current affairs presentation, The Friday Alternative was cancelled to make way for Diverse Reports. The combination of qualities resulted in a compromise.

The new programme aimed to develop a new form of political journalism on television which recognised the political position of the reporter. The programme focused on committed reporting, presenting openly right- and left-wing journalists on screen and breaking the bonds of 'due impartiality'.

As a result, the programme was showered by complaints from all directions. A report (tx. 13/6/1984) by Peter Clarke caricaturing the trade union NALGO was angrily accused by such pressure groups as the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom of letting the left-wing side down. Yet, apart from Clarke, the programme employed such New Right pundits as Ferdinand Mount and Paul Johnson; the left, meanwhile, was represented by the likes of Christopher Hird and Beatrix Campbell.

Diverse Reports took up positions that were not normal for television, stretching the terms of debate and striving to be honest about what was presented. Unfortunately, while the signed report made for lively, provocative television, it tended to lead its audience towards a limited set of conclusions. Such indulgences proved unsatisfactory for the non-partisan viewer, as well as for Channel 4 itself, and Diverse Reports was axed in 1987.

Tise Vahimagi

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