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Channel 4 at 40

As the broadcaster turns 40, TVBEurope takes a look back at some of the key landmarks from its first 40 years

As Channel 4 reaches a milestone birthday, TVBEurope takes a look back at some of the key landmarks in the broadcaster’s first 40 years.


1982 – Test broadcasts start in August, with the channel officially launching across most of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on 2nd November. Countdown is the first show broadcast, the first night also includes the premiere of soap, Brookside.

On 8th November, Channel 4 broadcasts its first live sport, with coverage of a match from Division One of the National Basketball League.

1983 – Channel 4 becomes first UK broadcaster to air the Super Bowl live.

1984Channel 4 Racing launches.

1986 – Animated graphics are seen during Teletext transmissions for the first time. This is made possible by transmitting 4-Tel on View from a disc rather than live.

1987 – Channel 4 is made available across all of the UK transmitter network

1989 – Begins broadcasting in in Nicam digital stereo, initially from the Crystal Palace transmitter, prior to a national transmitter-by-transmitter roll-out during 1990.


1992Football Italia broadcasts for the first time. The Big Breakfast debuts.

1995 – Hollyoaks premieres.

1997 – Channel 4 starts broadcasting for 24 hours a day.


2000 – Big Brother premieres.

2001 – e4 launches as a pay channel.

2003 – After 2,915 episodes and 21 years on air, the final edition of Brookside is broadcast.

2004 – Channel 4 wins the rights to The Simpsons from the BBC.

2005 – e4 becomes a free-to-air channel. More4 launches.

2006 – On-demand service 4oD debuts. Channel 4 launches a HD service.


2010 -The final episode of Big Brother is aired on Channel 4. The show moves to Channel 5 a year later.

2012 – Channel 4 broadcasts coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics.

2015 – 4oD is renamed All 4.

2016Formula One airs on Channel 4 for the first time. Channel 4 Racing comes to an end after more than 32 years. Walter Presents, Channel 4’s foreign-language drama streaming service debuts.

2017The Great British Bake Off debuts on Channel 4 following its move from the BBC.

2018 – Broadcaster announces what it describes as a “global first” in AI driven TV advertising technology that enables it to place a brand’s ads next to relevant scenes in a linear TV show.


2020 – Broadcasts the world’s first ‘night mode’ TV ad break to mark World Sleep Day.

2021 – Channel 4 opens its new Leeds headquarters following the broadcaster’s announcement it would move out of London. UK government opens consultation on possibility of privatisation. Fire at Red Bee Media’s playout centre takes channels off air, access service remain off air until November.

2022 – Boris Johnson’s government confirms plans to sell-off the broadcaster. However, following the UK’s political turmoil that plan remains in limbo.

…and in 2023, the broadcaster will rename All4 to Channel 4 as it becomes the first UK broadcaster to adopt one brand identity across its digital and linear channels.