Back in 1982 when Channel 4 first aired, it sought to be an innovative self-funded channel that promised to ”foster the new and experimental in television” (Channel 4’s statement of promises, para. 2). Some 34 years later it still holds this value true and presents shows to its audiences that are profoundly diverse and- can be -rather abstract. As well as an amplitude of shows that ”reflect the complexity of Britain back to itself” (Channel 4’s statement of promises, para. 8), their daily news bulletins have a profound reputation throughout UK broadcasting which is made evident by their viewing figures nearly reaching those of the BBC and ITV. This perhaps could be a due to their unique presentational style and selective news agenda.
The ways in which UK news programs differ from each other lies with two fundamental components; their news agenda and their presentational styles. When watching Channel 4 News it is evident that they not afraid to break the restraints of traditional methods of reporting. Their presentational style is noticeably more flamboyant, particularly within their usage of GFX in their shows. A particularly notable example of this was their inclusion of text on screen during a package about the recent developments in Syria. Text on screen was used in one of their ‘Inside Aleppo’ reports that featured a text message conversation between two Syrian civilians. The way in which Channel 4 used a text message format as a unique angle of narrative convention, enables a more technologically savvy audience to instantly be able to relate and engage- as a text message conversation is something we all associate ourselves with on a daily basis, in our ever-growing technological age. Therefore, it is evident that Channel 4 used this method as a form of engagement and how they demonstrate their ”reputation for risk and non-conformism to engage a younger generation in the values of public service broadcasting.” (Channel 4’s statement of promises, para. 5). Features like this one, would not commonly be seen when watching a BBC news report. The BBC tend to stick with more traditional text on screen presentation such as bulleted words accompanied by VOs.
Channel 4 also breaks conventions of traditional news reporting by the way in which they structure their shows and their use of camera angles in the studio. The program will often begin with the presenter, stood, reading the headline of the top story, then the introduction credits will feature images regarding the top story to elaborate. This style is unconventional but gives more gravitas to the leading story. Whereas the BBC tend to not include as many images or ULAYs into their opening credits because of their well-established status.
Furthermore, some camera frames used by Channel 4 are notably more daring. A leading example of this is where a low mid shot is used with Jon Snow in the foreground but with Cathy Newman also in shot, over Snow’s shoulder but out of focus. Snow delivers a headline and then hands over to Cathy who elaborates further on the story- as the camera swoops past Jon and captures Cathy in full focus. This use of unique camera transition is captivating and really rather innovative. As mentioned in their codes of promises: ”we are there to offer a benchmark of quality and innovation, providing competition to commercial and public sector broadcasters alike” (Chanel 4’s statement of promises, para. 4).
What makes a news program unique to their own is not only its presentational style, but their news agenda and the way in which they selectively order news stories. It is an element that molds a news program into what it represents and navigates the appropriate viewing audience. The Channel 4 news generally tend to select humanitarian crisis’s, war and political reforms as their leading stories. In particular, the recent war in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo was widely covered by all major news networks but Channel 4 have their own section of the show- that will run for a lengthy amount of the shows air time- called ‘Inside Aleppo’. The style in which they present the war stricken Aleppo – via the use of ULAYs and SOTs with diegetic sounds of shell bombs and sniper fire etc, emotional interviews with civilians affected by the 4-year war and images of the catastrophe stricken buildings- delivers such poignancy and raw, hard- hitting emotion that simply can not be overlooked any longer.
The development in Aleppo -where in which the entire city was claimed back from rebel forces by their government- was covered by the BBC but featured as their 5th story in their report, as opposed to Channel 4 featuring it as their leading story. They tend to focus their leading stories around issues that they feel need to be urgently addressed and elaborate how it will affect you, the viewer at home.