Storm Over Four: A Personal Account by Jeremy Isaacs - review by Jad Adams

Jad Adams

The Man Who Preceded Michael Grade

Storm Over Four: A Personal Account


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 215pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

As its founding Chief Executive, Jeremy Isaacs was almost single-handedly responsible for the distinctive style of Channel 4 from the time it came into being in 1982. The new channel broke the lowbrow stereotype of lTV that all television ought to be family viewing. This attitude persisted not because of an endearing regard for the family as an institution but because television at the level of the lowest common denominator attracted large audiences for the commercials which are what commercial television is all about. Isaacs writes: ‘High millions mattered; low millions hardly counted; hundreds of thousands counted not at all.’ Channel 4 was to provide programmes for the neglected hundreds of thousands. ‘We would be a channel for the choosy viewer, selecting a particular chocolate from the box, leaving the rest to others.’

The tabloids, used to commenting on a diet of Dusty Bin and Ena Sharples, found it dull and dubbed it Channel Snore. Then they heard that people in Channel 4 dramas used language in common use, and the same tabloids dubbed it Channel Swore. In one week a bleary-eyed writer on the Sun counted 173 swear words. Jeremy Isaacs could cope with this, he called it storm-over journalism as in ‘Storm Over IRA Film.’

More shocking to him was how viewers reacted to the expression of opinions they disliked. Brought up on television which feigned national consensus, viewers telephoned the Channel to ask where the unanimity had gone. Isaacs was stumped, ‘People had no objection to an opinion strongly expressed in a newspaper, in

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