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Channel 4 News (1982-)

Main image of Channel 4 News (1982-)
Channel 4, tx. 2/11/1982 - present
Daily 60 min edns (exc. w/ends), colour
Production CompanyITN
SponsorChannel 4

Presenters: Peter Sissons (to 1989); Jon Snow (1989-present), Zeinab Badawi, Daljit Dhaliwal, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Sheena MacDonald, Fiona Murch, Dermot Murnaghan, Nicholas Owen, Shahnaz Pakravan, Alastair Stewart

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Daily, one-hour long early evening bulletin.

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Developing from a troubled launch in 1982, Channel Four's flagship news programme didn't take long to become accepted as a highly distinctive news broadcaster. In now rather outdated newspaper terms, Channel 4 News surfaced somewhere between the lofty broadsheet and the thick-print tabloid: an hour-long analytical news programme taking on cultural and social issues for viewers who wanted, according to Channel Four, 'the news behind the news'. It was an admirable quality rare to television news anywhere, and one of Channel Four's more innovative ideas.

The formula developed from Channel Four head of news and current affairs Liz Forgan's far-sighted approach to what television news could achieve. A former woman's editor of The Guardian who had been appointed personally by Jeremy Isaacs, she had made it clear to the traditionally-minded ITN that Channel Four was looking for something new and genuine: an hour-long news format - a third to be foreign affairs - a specialist economics correspondent, no sport, no royal stories. In short, a 'news programme with brains, not a lecture with pictures' (Forgan).

Coming from a specially created unit at ITN, the programme set out with two prime objectives: to report more fully the major events of the day with background explanation and intelligent analysis, and to provide regular, systematic and specialist coverage of sometimes neglected areas like science, technology, economics and the arts. To further cement integrity and intentions, the programme also gave foreign coverage generous time and a less insular perspective by showing viewers how other countries report world news.

In the beginning, the four main presenters were ITN's Peter Sissons (formerly of News at One) and Trevor McDonald (diplomatic correspondent), with Godfrey Hodgson (former This Week reporter) sharing the foreign presenter's role, and economics editor Sarah Hogg. In 1989, Jon Snow took over as news anchor from Sissons.

In its early days, the programme barely registered in the channel's viewer ratings. With a sparse studio set and a rambling programme structure, Channel 4 News rattled along until the events of the Miners' Strike of 1984-1985. The programme earned its reputation for its careful and impartial reporting of the realities in the mining communities during this intense and disturbing period.

Somehow, it has always seemed that Channel 4 News at the beginning of the evening and BBC2's Newsnight at the end have been British network television's most serious attempts to get under the surface of the day's events.

Tise Vahimagi

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Sissons, Peter (1942-)