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24 September 2014
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Culture, controversy and cutting edge documentary: BBC FOUR prepares to launch

BBC Four, British television’s boldest new investment in cultural programming for a generation, is fired up for launch with a rich mix of intelligent, enriching and diverse programming.

Tracey Emin in the definitive history of Britart, Eddie Izzard on stage in the West End hit A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, the television premiere of Ian Curteis’s controversial The Falklands Play, and the world’s biggest ever concert of African music, hosted in Senegal next month by Youssou N’Dour, are just some of the highlights of the channel’s launch season confirmed today. And it was announced that the whole of BBC Four’s launch night schedule on Saturday 2 March 2002 will be simulcast on BBC TWO.

Outlining the channel’s plans, Roly Keating, Controller of BBC Four, said today: "BBC Four is outward-looking and global-minded. It’s for people who want more from television - more depth, more range, more stimulus for the mind. We want it to surprise, delight and challenge, but above all to offer something satisfyingly different from the mainstream."

BBC Four’s programme mix ranges from specially commissioned drama and adaptations of plays and music performance, through thought-provoking documentaries to global news and cinema. The channel will have regular space for cultural debate around the complex issues of the day - covering the worlds of science, business, the arts, current affairs, history and politics.

A key part of the BBC’s portfolio of subscription-free, licence fee-funded channels, BBC Four will transmit daily from 7.00pm until at least 1.00am.

The launch season includes

· Ewen Bremner, Katrin Cartlidge and Stephen Fry star in Surrealissimo, an inventive drama-documentary that brings to life the notorious ‘trial’ of Salvador Dali by his fellow surrealists. Written by Matthew Broughton, the supporting cast includes Vic Reeves, Mark Gatiss and Matt Lucas.

Robert Hughes presents Goya: Crazy Like A Genius
Goya: Crazy Like A Genius. Critic and broadcaster Robert Hughes makes his first documentary on visual arts for five years, as he goes on the trail of the elusive Spanish painter whose terrifying images haunted Hughes’ dreams after his near-fatal car-crash in 1999.

Britart How did Britain transform itself in 15 years from an artistic backwater to one of the global capitals of art? This revealing and entertaining series uses testimony from all of the key players of the era to tell how it really happened. And in The Man Who Destroyed Everything, BBC Four explores the world of artist Michael Landy, who one year ago pulped all of his worldly goods in the name of art.

· A Day in the Death of Joe Egg Heartbreaking and horribly funny, Peter Nichols’ masterpiece about living with a handicapped child has been triumphantly revived in a new West End production starring Eddie Izzard and Victoria Hamilton. BBC Four’s cameras were there to capture a classic production.

· Seventeen years after it was commissioned by the BBC, Ian Curteis’s controversial The Falklands Play, receives its television premiere. The Falklands Play is a gripping account of how Margaret Thatcher’s government handled the biggest crisis in foreign affairs since Suez.

· Directed by the legendary Peter Brook and starring Adrian Lester, Hamlet comes to BBC Four. Filmed at Brook’s Bouffe du Nord theatre in Paris, this pared down, taut and mesmerising version is dynamic, compelling and modern Shakespeare at its finest.

· Of Apes and Men BBC Four devotes a week of programming to the relationship between the three great primates of Africa: gorillas, chimpanzees… and mankind. Is mankind intent on the genocide of its closest relatives in the animal kingdom? Science, politics and drama combine in a lively and thought-provoking week, including an adaptation of JM Coetzee’s novella The Lives of Animals, starring Eileen Atkins.

· The Trials of Henry Kissinger With newly declassified US government documents and previously unseen footage, BBC Four scrutinises the career of one of the world’s most famous diplomats and disputed figures of the 20th century. Do his critics have a serious case that he should be arraigned for war crimes for his role in US policy in Cambodia and Latin America?

· Secrets of the Black Diaries When Roger Casement was sentenced to hang for treason for his role in Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising, appeals for clemency were thwarted by diaries that revealed a promiscuous homosexual life. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four sponsors a series of ground-breaking forensic tests at Goldsmith’s College, London, to prove - once and for all - whether he actually wrote the diaries.

· Africa Now: Music of a Continent - An African "Woodstock" for a new generation, BBC Four’s cameras bring exclusive coverage of the greatest ever pan-African music event - a two-day festival, which brings together stars from all over the continent in the football stadium in Dakar, Senegal, under the Music Directorship of the acclaimed Youssou N’Dour.

· Fidelio in Birmingham. BBC Four goes live to the opera event of the season, as Graham Vick and Birmingham Opera follow up last year’s extraordinary promenade production of Wozzeck with an ambitious new version of Beethoven masterpiece staged in a circus big top in the grounds of Aston Hall. Cast includes Jane Lesley MacKenzie (Leonore/Fidelio), Ronald Samms (Florestan), Jonathan Best (Rocco) with the participation of local community, drama and youth groups.

· BBC Four introduces television’s only year-round dedicated books programme, as writers come face to face with audiences of inquisitive readers in the Readers’ and Writers’ Roadshow, hosted by Orange Prize founder Kate Mosse.

George Alagiah presents BBC Four NewsBBC Four News puts a refreshingly global perspective on the issues of the day every week day at 8.00pm and will be presented by George Alagiah and Kirsty Lang.

· The pleasures of intelligent discussion and debate on topical themes can be found in the Talk Show; and some of the world’s most eloquent people - writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders - are featured in the Profile slot.

BBC Four also launches a world first - an art exhibition brought direct to viewers’ homes via interactive TV - with Painting The Weather. It features 110 paintings on the theme of weather by more than 80 artists from public collections throughout the UK. The web exhibition curated by the National Gallery and interactive television elements combine to create a unique experience [see separate press release for further details].

Roly Keating says: "Painting The Weather is the kind of thing that only the BBC could stage, using the pioneering skills that created interactive Wimbledon to bring a complete art exhibition direct into people’s homes.

"With a launch budget of £35 million, BBC Four is well placed to deliver the kind of edgy and sometimes risk-taking programming that the digital world needs. It’s a world-class cultural centre bringing the best in contemporary documentary making, music, theatre and international cinema to the heart of the schedule and at primetime."

BBC Four schedule.

To view a full BBC Four press pack in pdf format click the link below:

BBC Four press pack

To obtain a copy of Adobe Acrobat PDF viewer, click here.

Notes to Editors

· Approval was given in September 2001 by the Secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport for three new digital television and five radio channels to be launched by the BBC in 2002. In addition to BBC Four, plans were approved for two new children’s television channels and five new digital radio stations.
· BBC Four joins BBC ONE, BBC TWO, BBC CHOICE, CBBC and CBeebies (launched on 11 February) as part of the BBC’s portfolio of television channels.
· A new proposal for a public service youth channel aimed at 25-34 year olds, BBC Three, is currently awaiting approval by the DCMS. Public and industry consultation was completed at the end of January.
· BBC Four and the other BBC digital channels are free-to-air, i.e. with a set-top box or integrated digital TV set these channels are non-subscription. However, they can also be received by satellite (through Sky), aerial (ITV Digital) or cable (NTL and Telewest).



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