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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Michael Jackson: Media man
Michael Jackson
Jackson leaves Channel 4 for the US
Michael Jackson is leaving Channel 4 after overseeing a period of critical and commercial acclaim with awards, plaudits and even that most elusive of prizes, audiences, flocking to the channel.

He leaves for America and the lure of the mighty dollar and whoever has to step into his shoes will have a difficult act to follow.

However, it is unlikely that the new chief executive will be given the advice that former Channel 4 head Michael Grade gave to Jackson when he passed on the baton.


"Change everything," Grade told Jackson. And he did.

A former controller of BBC Two and BBC One, Jackson came armed with the commercial nous to make popular programmes and the eye for the original and the distinctive, which has marked Channel 4 since its conception in 1982.

Big Brother winner Brian Dowling
Jackson oversaw the success of two Big Brother series
He has made Channel 4 into a more commercial organisation, much more able to punch above its weight with the big boys, ITV and BBC One.

If there is any surprise it is not that he has succeeded but that he has manage it at such a young age. He is still only 43 years old.

But considering the Macclesfield-born executive started speaking of a media career at the age of 12, perhaps it is not so startling at all.


He started life as an independent programme-maker in the years before Channel 4 was born, after graduating with a BA in media studies from the Polytechnic of Central London.

Always a devotee of television he has spoken of a nostalgic time when families still sat "in front of the box, curtains, drawn, bathed in its blue glow".

E4 poached Friends from Sky One
He was perhaps always destined to run Channel 4 - as an undergraduate he wrote a thesis, outlining what the not-yet-born Channel 4 could do.

He created the much-admired Media show for Channel 4 when still in his 20s, later hired by Alan Yentob to work on The Late Show arts programme on BBC Two.

Dizzying rise

He rose quickly through the ranks, following in the footsteps of his mentor Yentob to take over as controller of BBC Two when just 35 years old.

Three years later he was made controller of BBC One, where just a year into the job he was made chief executive of Channel 4.

It crowned a dizzying rise, which, if he had not been so successful, some may have called too fast.

The Jackson years at Channel 4 have been positively rosy.

He is able to take the plaudits for shows such as Big Brother, So Graham Norton and Da Ali G Show, for poaching test cricket from the BBC, as well as showing dramas such as Queer As Folk and Longitude.

He also has the boast - yet to be proved successful - of luring the king and queen of daytime TV, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, from ITV to the channel.

During Jackson's tenure Channel 4 also launched digital channels Film Four and E4 - and is scheduled to launch the horse racing channel, Go Racing, early in 2002.

Surprise move

His golden touch has been attributed by some for his ability to be in tune with the 18- to 30-year-old market so beloved by advertisers and always being open to the new.

Longitude was a Bafta winner
His detractors say he has dumbed down Channel 4 - an almost universal criticism of TV chiefs today - and has misspent public money of E4 and Film Four.

Some feel his surprise move to run an American TV company under Barry Diller of United Networks Company is actually an astute decision.

E4 and Film Four have yet to prove successful commercially and the ongoing row over how Channel 4 spends public money continues and is expected to come to a head in 2003 when the channel's licence comes under review.

Charting its past, present and digital future
See also:

15 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Hunt for Channel 4 head 'begins'
23 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Michael Jackson quits Channel 4
24 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
BBC man 'tipped' for Channel 4
14 May 01 | TV and Radio
Bafta triumph for Channel 4
01 May 01 | Business
Big Brother, Ali G boost C4 revenue
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Channel 4 hit by wrestling rap
15 May 00 | Business
Channel 4 float 'scrapped'
22 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
From one channel to multi-media
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