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Online database for pre-Internet TV listings

Date: 11/10/2013

A new database developed by the British Universities Film and Video Council and University of Portsmouth researchers as part of an AHRC-funded project, Channel 4 and British Film Culture, reveals the impact of ‘Press Packs’ on the success of the UK's new ‘fourth channel’, and provides a searchable resource for media historians.

Before TV listings apps, Smart TVs, and on demand services, broadcasters provided the press with print information about forthcoming programmes. Whilst the identities of the BBC and ITV were well-established in the public consciousness and reinforced by dedicated listings and features magazines, Radio Times and TV Times, from 1982 the new fourth channel arguably had to work a good deal harder to establish its own distinctive profile.

Channel 4's first senior press officer, Chris Griffin-Beale, died in 1998, but now the weekly press packs he developed which revolutionised media journalism have been fully digitised. Griffin-Beale gave the newspapers plenty of useful copy. They included full listings, programme reviews, highlights features, publicity photographs, production credits and staff contact details. This eloquent and well-researched content could be used directly by journalists when previewing new Channel 4 commissions in newspapers and TV listings magazines.

A specially produced guide to the structure of a press pack, and selected Press Pack Case Studies, provide an introduction for members of the public, while the searchable database will be used by researchers at the British Universities Film and Video Council. Linda Kaye, Research Executive for the British Universities Film and Video Council, explains:

True to the contextual spirit that informed the packs themselves, we also wanted to help the user to understand the why: why they are valuable and why they should be using them. So the collection is enhanced by articles, research case studies, timelines and from May 2014, key elements of the project’s website.

The Channel 4 and British Film Culture project has also produced a 30-year history of Film4 as a film producer, charting the rise of this enterprise which has funded international hits such as My Beautiful Laundrette, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Slumdog Millionaire.

Find out more about the database and explore the timeline and press packs on the British Universities Film and Video Council website (opens in new window).

Notes to Editors:

  • For further information, please contact: Alex Pryce, AHRC: 01793 41 6025 a.pryce@ahrc.ac.uk
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.


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