Channel 4 and the red triangle
This article charts the history of an experiment, conducted during the autumn and winter of 1986–7, in which Channel 4 trialled an on-screen visual warning symbol to accompany screenings of a series of international art-house films. The so-called ‘red triangle’ experiment, though short-lived, will be considered as a case study for exploring a number of related themes. Firstly, it demonstrates Channel 4's commitment during the 1980s to fulfilling its remit to experiment and innovate in programme form and content, in respect of its acquired feature film provision. Channel 4's acquisitions significantly enlarged the range of international classic and art-house cinema broadcast on British television. Secondly, it reflects contemporary tensions between the new broadcaster, its regulator the IBA, campaigners for stricter censorship of television and policy-makers. The mid-1980s was a period when progressive developments in UK film and television culture (from the rise of home video to the advent of Channel 4 itself) polarised opinions about freedom and regulation, which were greatly exacerbated by the press. Thirdly, it aims to shed light on the paradox that, while over thirty years of audience research has consistently revealed the desire on the part of television viewers for an on-screen ratings system, the UK is not among some forty countries that currently employ such devices on any systematic basis. In this way the history of a specific advisory experiment may be seen to have a bearing on current policy trends.
Citation : Smith, J. (2014). Channel 4 and the red triangle: a case study in film curation and censorship on television. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 11 (4), pp. 481-498
ISSN : 1743-4521
Research Group : Cinema and Television History Research Centre
Research Institute : Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- Leicester Media School