Channel Four and Education 

2 November 2022

Naomi McIntosh, Channel Four’s Senior Commissioning Editor for Education, describes the new service



Television & Radio 1983 cover

From Television & Radio 1983, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in December 1982

As Channel Four goes on air nation-wide it triples at a stroke the quantity of educational television programming under the IBA’s aegis. Much of this output is provided at more convenient times on the new channel than was previously possible.

Seven hours a week, 52 weeks a year, of educational output cannot all be provided in tidy, ‘structured’ series. Some of course will be, but some programmes will come weekly in a magazine format, while others will be indistinguishable from serious general output.

Even with so much more time we have had to choose some priorities: among these in our first year we have decided on a regular magazine programme for the over 60s, and another one for people as consumers, both of goods and services. But among the regular strands there will be something for everyone: art, history, books, fitness and sport, health and medicine, local government. Parliament, and the Third World. The emphasis on Channel Four will be on more choice. At the same time we do not want to waste resources and overlap with BBC and ITV. It does not seem sensible to get into areas where the BBC has been pre-eminent: language, for example, and literacy. Since we do not open up until 5.30 p.m. we have decided, at least initially, not to engage in schools programming or to programme regularly for younger children. We are, however, planning two specific series for children, one to promote multi-cultural education under the title Everybody Here, the other aimed at mentally-handicapped children.

We wish to make a major commitment to a major national educational need. The Cockcroft Report, the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education in its Gallup Survey, and several similar findings, make a clear case for numeracy – a hidden need. The response to Yorkshire Television’s first series Make It Count, when it was put out at a reasonable time of day, surprised everybody. We are working with Yorkshire to build on its two existing series, Make it Count and Numbers At Work, and are putting in the resources to up-date them and add a third series, Counting On. If it works, we can continue our commitment for more than one year. Both the existing series are designed for people to learn from at home, and there are work books published by the National Extension College to go with them. We are going further this time and working through the NEC to produce individualised postal feedback to people in their own homes. In addition we have joined with the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit, Broadcasting Support Services, and their equivalents in Scotland, in the planning of the whole series and its various extensions. We are delighted that everyone is keen to work with us. We also hope that a major commitment of this sort can act as a stimulus locally, raising people’s awareness of the need, and we hope to provide easily available materials which can be used by tutors and groups, if they want to, in the community.


Children shout up to a camera

Everybody Here. A series for children about children – of all ethnic backgrounds. Channel 4/Telekation International


Other interesting projects will be a monthly series about History associated with History Today magazine and a continuing contribution to development education from the International Broadcasting Trust.

While much of our output will be aimed at stimulating people to learn for themselves, we are also working with a wide range of groups in the community to ensure that as many people as possible are encouraged to build on what we are able to offer. After all Channel Four offers the largest single addition to educational opportunity in the country for many a year.


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