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Channel 4 first starting broadcasting in 1982 to provide a fourth television service in the UK along side the licence-funded BBC one and BBC Two and the single commercial broadcasting network, ITV. Channel 4 is a commercially self-funded and publicly owned company. The station is owned and run by a public corporation of the Department for Culture.
The content of Channel 4 can be described by the channel's remit:
"The public service remit for Channel 4 is the provision of a broad range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular:
- demonstrates innovation, experiment and creativity in the form and content of programmes;
- appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society;
- makes a significant contribution to meeting the need for the licensed public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature and other programmes of educative value; and exhibits a distinctive character."
Channel 4 was the UK's first 'publisher-broadcaster'. That is the channel only commissions it's programming from companies that are independent of itself.
Channel 4 shows a mix of comedy, news, films and documentaries. Many of the mainstream American comedies such as 'The Simpsons', 'Friends' and 'How I Met Your Mother' are shown on this channel as well as the long running, critically acclaimed, investigative documentary; 'Dispatches'. As part of the channels public service remit, there is also a significant number of educational and schools' programming.
Channel 4 has always pushed the boundaries with the content it provides, particularly when that content is related to sex, drugs or other adult themes. They over stepped the mark in 2007 when a season of programmes about masturbation due to be shown in March under the title of 'Wank Week' was cancelled after attacks from several senior television executives, and advertisers as well as general criticism from the public.