With close reference to no more than three texts discuss how Channel 4’s drama reflects its public service remit. ‘Channel 4 no longer makes programmes for minorities, because it wants to bring audiences together rather than segment them.’ (Jeffries, S). The objective of this essay is to discuss and examine the ways in which ‘Channel 4’ dramas reflect its public service remit. Throughout this essay there will be an analysis focusing on two particular television drama’s that have been produced purely for Channel 4 to show if they do reflect the station’s public service remit and how they reflect it; these two dramas being, ‘Brookside’ (1982) and ‘Skins’ (2007). By examining these two particular television dramas, certain elements will be considered to show that they are successful at reflecting on Channel 4’s public service remit. Some of these elements include the storyline’s that were created for the drama shows, how many viewers the shows had gained, what money was made from the shows and the duration of the shows. Channel 4’s public service remit will be explored, with close attention to any changes that have been made to over the years. There will also be emphasis of why the chosen television dramas do reflect Channel 4’s public service remit with the use of comparison, not only with dramas produced for Channel 4 but with other television broadcasting stations, for example television dramas that are aired on Channel 4 would not be seen as ‘appropriate’ to be shown on ‘ITV’. ‘Channel 4 has changed the way it delivers its remit over time, although it continues to deliver the quantifiable elements of its remit and consistently meets or exceeds its licence obligations.’ (The Guardian 2007). Publically owned, ‘Channel 4’ is a commercially funded public service broadcaster. Channel 4 does not receive any funding from the public and has a remit to be innovative, experimental and distinctive. Channel 4 creates television, film and digital media that reflect on its public service remit, which is outlined in the 2003 Communications Act and most recently in the 2010 Digital Economy Act. The broadcasting station was first launched in 1982. Unlike other broadcasting stations such as ‘ITV’, Channel 4 is funded predominantly by advertising and sponsorship whereas ‘ITV’ is shareholder owned. Channel 4 is a statutory corporation, independent of Government, and governed by a unitary board made up of executive and non-executive directors, who are responsible for ensuring that Channel 4 fulfils its remit and delivers its financial responsibilities. With Channel 4 being funded purely by advertising, any profit that is generated by its commercial activity is directly reinvested straight back into the production and delivery of their public service remit through television, film and digital media. Channel 4's primary purpose is the fulfilment of its public service remit, which is defined in the 2003 Communications Act. The Communications Act states that ‘the public service remit for Channel 4 is the provision of a broad range of high quality and diversity in programmes which in particular have to obtain many points. Programmes must demonstrate innovation, experiment be creative. The programmes produced have to appeal to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society. They have to make a significant contribution to meet the needs for the licensed public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature and value. Finally, the programmes must exhibit a distinctive character. The public service remit for Channel 4 was updated by 2010 Digital Economy Act, which in addition to the 2003 Communications Act, requires the broadcasting station to participate in a broader range of activities. The 2010 Digital Economy act required Channel 4 to participate in the making of variations of relevant media content to a high quality that appeals to the interests of a culturally diverse society, by doing this programmes must explore a range of issues that appeal to the interest of all age groups. The ‘Office of Communications’ commonly referred to as ‘Ofcom’ is the government approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting of telecommunications of the United Kingdom. Channel 4’s license from ‘Ofcom’, with addition with demands to meet the requirements of the public service remit, places specific programme obligations on Channel 4. ‘Channel 4 has never shied away from powerful, authored drama. All of these dramas are about backing great writers to say something truly distinctive’. (Hunt, 2012). ‘Brookside’ (1982-2003), is a British Soap Opera set in Liverpool, England. The television series first aired on the launch night of Channel 4 in 1982 and ran for 21 years until 2003. ‘Brookside’s’ very first show gained 2.8 million viewers, making it have the fifth biggest audience of that evening. As the opening show was that popular it reflects on the public service remit as audience’s were tuning in to see programmes that were different and creative, and Channel 4 was the station that first produced these examples of shows. ‘Brookside’ became one of Channel 4’s most successful television dramas for a number of years and is notable for its tackling of realistic and socially challenging storylines. With this taken into account, this programme reflects on the public service remit as its storylines explored a range of issues that had never been seen before the’ watershed’ on television before. One well known example of a storyline in ‘Brookside’ is a lesbian kiss, which was broadcasted for time first time pre-watershed. With this being shown on Channel 4, it is reflecting the public service remit as it is pushing the boundaries of the ‘taboo’ and exploring more controversial subjects that society had never seen being broadcasted on their television at that certain time before. ‘one of the continuing aspects of Brookie: the harder and more challenging the storyline, the more the audience appreciated the programme.’ (Redmond, 2012). Redmond's pursuit of a new soap realism led Brookside at the outset to allow its characters to swear, until it became clear that this was alienating the very working-class audiences whose 'real' lives the serial was professing to represent. By July 1983 the regular audience had fallen to a dismal 500,000. Redmond agreed to clean up the scripts, and audiences recovered steadily, and in 1985 the Brookside reached a decade peak of 7.5 million viewers. However, with other television dramas on other broadcasting stations on such as ‘BBC’S’ ‘Eastenders’ (1985), some episodes would clash and times of broadcasting of ‘Brookside’ got made to change a few times with the consequences of decline of viewer ratings and with this the show ended. This was Channel 4’s longest running dramas and one of its most successful creations, which again reflects on the public service remit. ‘Channel 4 Drama is passionate about talent. We source and develop material and strive to push the boundaries of creative ambition. Drama continues to deliver high profile and award-winning programmes, from single films to long-running series. We have creative freedom to commission talent and projects that have integrity, originality and ambition.’ (Channel4.com, 2014) ‘Skins’ (2007-2013) is a British television teen drama that follows the lives of a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England, through the two years of sixth form, the show premiered of ‘E4’ in 2007 and it’s last broadcast was in 2013. The show went on to be a critical success as well as a ratings winner within its target demographic. Over its initial six-year run, Skins proved to be a typical of ongoing drama series in that it replaced its primary cast every two years. The first series received positive reviews, although some critics complained that the series depicts teenagers unrealistically and stereotypically. ‘Skins continues to go from strength to strength, with viewing figures of the last series being the highest yet.’ (Campbell). ‘Skins’ reflects Channel 4’s public service remit, similarly to ‘Brookside’ in the manner that it explores a range of taboo storylines that had never been seen before and with a style that is edgy which appeals to a different audience. ‘There's no point in denying that the drink, drugs and reckless shagging are a huge draw for its teenage audience.’ (Nicholson, 2010). Skins also reflects the public service remit as it draws upon when the remit was updated in 2010 by the Digital Economy Act and one of the requirements when this was updated was that Channel 4 participated in the broadcasting or distribution of relevant media content by means of a range of different types of electronic communications networks. ‘Skins’ does this because it has a huge following online via either ‘E4’s’ website or ‘Myspace’. ‘However, the number of MySpace viewers will be capped at 2,000 to prevent any adverse impact on television ratings.’ (Holmwood, 2008). With this taken into consideration, this shows that ‘Skins’ reflects the public service remit as if viewers want to view it online they can but to an extent, so that they have to view it on television. ‘Jain said Skins was "completely channel defining" and that she was now looking for further dramas for the digital network, with another set to air by the end of the year.’ (Holmwood, 2008). In conclusion, through analysing the two particular television dramas, ‘Brookside’ and ‘Skins’ it is clear to see that they do reflect Channel 4’s public service remit in slightly similar ways, however only to an extent because surely if they completely reflected the broadcasting station’s public service remit, they would still be on television screens today? As the years have passed so have television dramas and this is because of repetition of storylines that do not reflect on the public service remit for Channel for and the requirements of the programmes. The programmes that are broadcasted on Channel 4 have many requirements because of the public service remit and if the programmes do not reach and exceed the standards of these requirements, it gives Channel 4 a bad reputation. Channel 4 has the chance to display shows that other broadcasting station’s, such as the ‘BBC’ and ‘ITV’ cannot as they have strict restrictions. Although Channel 4’s dramas on the alternative station can be seen as offensive by some people, it gets them talking about what they have seen and by word of mouth people watch these particular dramas to see what the fuss is about, so again these dramas reflect on the public service remit because it is attracting a diversity in society. Channel 4’s television drama’s, with emphasis on ‘Brookside’ and ‘Skins’ do reflect on the public service remit because they are experimental with their storylines; they break boundaries that haven’t been before. They also do make a signification contribution to meeting the need for the licensed public service because the topics that are explored relate to current news and can be considered as an educative value to what real life; the dramas try to be realistic so that they can make an opinion and open people’s eyes to what society is actually like.
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