Sandy Ross recalls how Granada responded to the launch of Channel 4

I can remember one around that time which was all about this new channel called Channel 4. ITV had been lobbying quite hard for a second channel which they wanted to be ITV 2, essentially what BBC Two was to BBC One so that they would have two channels and could sell twice the amount of advertising, thank you very much, but also you could put particular kinds of programming on the second channel that hit different markets. ITV One was always going to be a popular mainstream broad based channel. Even today I doubt very much if something like ‘Jewel in the Crown’ and ‘Brideshead Revisited’ would be commissioned by ITV. If they had two channels it would have certainly worked well on the second channel.

So David, he really wanted to challenge this group of producers to come up with ideas for Channel 4. The example used, he had some slides taken of the magazine section in WHSmith with the whole range of magazines; women’s magazines, men’s magazines, sport’s magazines, golf magazines, car magazines, bicycle magazines and all the rest of it.And I remember him saying to the producers that the challenge to you is to think differently; not to think ‘World in Action’ or not to think ‘popular entertainment’. He said these are the magazines that sell to the public, so what you have to start doing is thinking of programmes in the way the magazine companies have hit the magazine market.

I still remember the day that the government decided, Willie Whitelaw was the minister at the time, that Channel 4 was going to happen. Plowright called together all the producers in the building into one of the downstairs committee rooms in the main building. We were all in there, David came in and he said “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is we’ve got Channel 4 but the bad news is we’re not running it, but the good news is we’re selling their advertising.” So that was the day Channel 4 was announced. But Channel 4 right from the beginning was never really interested in commissioning from the main broadcasters; it never saw that as being its function.

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