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Before Channel 4 and S4C, Britain had three terrestrial television services: BBC1, BBC2, and ITV.The Broadcasting Act 1980 began the process of adding a fourth, and Channel 4, along with its Welsh counterpart, was formally created by an Act of Parliament in 1982.The campaign was taken so seriously by Gwynfor Evans, former president of Plaid Cymru, that he threatened the government with a hunger strike were it not to honour the plans.The result was that Channel 4 as seen by the rest of the United Kingdom would be replaced in Wales by Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C) (Channel Four Wales).On its launch, Channel 4 committed itself to providing an alternative to the existing channels, an agenda in part set out by its remit which required the provision of programming to minority groups.In step with its remit, the channel became well received both by minority groups and the arts and cultural worlds during this period, especially under founding chief executive Jeremy Isaacs, where the channel gained a reputation for programmes on the contemporary arts.Instead of aiming for the fringes of society, it began to focus on the edges of the mainstream, and the centre of the mass market itself.
The first person to be seen on Channel 4 was Richard Whiteley with Ted Moult being the second.
It was most likely politics which had the biggest impact in leading to a delay of almost three decades before the second commercial channel became a reality.
One clear benefit of the "late arrival" of the channel was that its frequency allocations at each transmitter had already been arranged in the early 1960s, when the launch of an ITV2 was highly anticipated.
With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide TV channel for the first time.
The channel was established to provide a fourth television service to the United Kingdom in addition to the licence-funded BBC's two services, BBC One and BBC Two and the single commercial broadcasting network, ITV.
In September 1993, the channel broadcast the direct-to-TV documentary film Beyond Citizen Kane, in which it displayed the dominant position of the Rede Globo television network, and discussed its influence, power and political connections in Brazil.