Shiny Shelf

E4 Music

By Eddie Robson on 20 August 2005

Now that ‘Big Brother’ has gone for another year (and now it’s ridden out the backlash, you can bet it’ll be around for a good few years yet, especially when they bring in the inevitable press-red-button-for-choice-of-cameras option), E4 can finally get on with the overdue process of redefining its identity. With the channel now available on Freeview, it’s standing in a smaller field than before and has the benefit of cross-promotion on Channel 4, so it could do to be a little more than just a place to see the latest American shows marginally before they come on Channel 4.

‘Lost’ is a big hit on which they need to capitalise (and it must be said that, although the ’see the next episode right now on our multichannel station’ was a nice gimmick when digital takeup was in its infancy, when you’ve actually got a digital platform it becomes slightly annoying because the new episodes are premiering at 11 o’clock, out of prime time. What E4 needs to do is rebuild its schedule so that it doesn’t tread on Channel 4’s toes, but doesn’t feel like it’s just piggy-backing on its analogue parent.

The most obvious step in this direction is E4 Music, which occupies the schedule in the quiet hours between 6am and 2pm (which, until now, was dead air except during ‘Big Brother’). During the hours it’s on, this is a godsend to Freeview-receiving music fans, who normally only have The Hits and The Music Factory to turn to: both fairly bland stations splattered with banal text-message games. E4 Music mixes pop and indie aimed at viewers in their teens and twenties (which is E4’s core audience anyway), pitching itself somewhere between MTV and MTV2.

Any channel that runs half an hour of Missy Elliott and then half an hour of Franz Ferdinand is OK by me. The slightly retro graphics (which recall the early days of ITV’s ‘The Chart Show’ – nice touch) and idents are in keeping with the generally high standard of E4’s look, and my only real complaint is the employment of under-talented presenters like Edith Bowman to ramble between the videos to no discernible purpose. Actually, that is quite annoying.

Would that this was the only annoying aspect of E4’s coverage of this weekend’s V Festival. The standard of presentation there was pitiful, but this paled by comparison to the sub-competent sound quality, which appeared to have been recorded not from the mixing desk but from a microphone placed in front of the PA system, with the bass turned right down. I watched about an hour of the coverage on Saturday night and every act suffered from inaudibly muffled lyrics and thin, weedy backing in which every instrument blended together into an indistinguishable sludge. Rubbish.

Even so, I hope that Channel 4 and E4’s new commitment to music programming results in an entirely separate Channel 4 digital music channel, as terrestrial viewers have been under-served in this regard for far too long.

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By Eddie Robson

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