Culture appeals to Channel 4 News

Two weeks ago, Matthew Cain, former executive producer of the South Bank Show, joined Channel 4 News as the programme's first culture editor.

Channel 4 News
Channel 4 News

His appointment was part of a wider drive by Channel 4 to place more emphasis on arts and culture output.

The broadcaster's audience research has revealed a greater appetite for culture stories.

The move also comes six months after the BBC hired Tate Media director Will Gompertz as its first arts editor. Channel 4 News' new commitment to producing challenging pieces on arts and culture presents a wealth of possibilities for professionals.

'Matthew will bring momentum, energy, increased visibility and leadership to our arts and culture output,' says Channel 4 News editor Jim Gray. 'He's a strong character, so he will have an authoritative view and make judgements.'

Channel 4 News' definition of culture is broad. Gray says the team is interested in everything from art and literature, to the movie business and popular music.

'We are looking for strong stories that spring from an exhibition or the artist in question. We want to do clever, smart thinking on the artistic process and the work behind events. When people think of Channel 4 News, I want them to automatically link it to arts and culture,' says Gray.

But, he warns, the arts and culture sector will be given the same treatment as other news stories. Gray says: 'We will be as pokey and as challenging on our art coverage as we are on foreign politics. PROs should expect that.

'We cause trouble. We ask tough questions. Art is not just a subject for light relief at the end of the programme. I want to find stories that could play further up.'

This, says Gray, is the key for PROs securing coverage on the programme: 'If there's something chewy to get into, think about that when pitching an idea.'

Dotti Irving, CEO of Colman Getty, speculates that Channel 4's appointment of Cain is in response to the success of Gompertz at the BBC, the 'Robert Peston of arts', as she calls him: 'I'm sure Cain will be every bit as good. This will be intelligent cultural coverage that consumers of culture want.'

Irving adds: 'There is a huge amount in the media about cuts in arts funding.

'So, it is particularly welcome that Channel 4 News will be promoting the arts much more visibly to show they really matter.'

Midas PR chairman Tony Mulliken also welcomes the change: 'We hope that now some of the most prominent arts stories will see the light of day.

'While Mandelson, Blair and JK Rowling would be on Channel 4 News anyway, this wider remit to take in the arts will give viewers the opportunity to see there are other authors of cultural importance too.'



Viewers: 20.3 million monthly (source: BARB)

Website:; average of 850,000 unique users monthly

Key demographic: Channel 4 News has a higher proportion of 16-34 age group viewers than other terrestrial TV evening news programmes (source: BARB)

Culture contacts: or nick.scottplummer


A MINUTE WITH ... Jim Gray, editor, Channel 4 News

Jim Gray

What advice would you give to PROs?

If you have an event to promote, think carefully about what a Channel 4 News audience would gain from it. Also exclusivity and first access is important. Remember our arts coverage will fit with our overall values of excellent journalism, being challenging to subjects, controversial and sometimes making our viewers uncomfortable.

What are you looking for?

What works for us is having advance access if there is a really strong story behind the production of art. The process can be filmed and broadcast later. We want to see the sweat and imagination behind a piece of art. It is not just the moment of the unveiling that we are interested in. I like it when there is a strong personal narrative behind a piece of art. We are also up for exploring, perhaps more than other broadcasters, insight into uncomfortable areas or dark corners of British life.

Will Matthew Cain also cover culture on your website?

He will have his own blog that will have a characterful take on art. His thoughts will also appear in other outlets. He is actually going be late for his first day of work, owing to the first meeting of Channel 4's new arts board, which will play a key role in shaping our cultural output.

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