Channel 5 is the United Kingdom's fifth terrestrial TV Channel. The British frequency plan only allowed for four channels to be transmitted using analogue terrestrial transmitters, so it was very difficult to allocate frequencies for the new channel before its launch in March of 1997 – UHF channel 37 was allocated in many areas, which meant that large numbers of domestic videorecorders (which output on that channel) had to be retuned at the new company's expense. Unlike the other four analogue British television channels, many areas remain unable to receive it via analogue terrestrial broadcasts, notably the south coast of England, where the signal would otherwise interfere with signals from television stations in France. The channel is available on all digital platforms (Sky Television satellite, and Freeview digital terrestrial, and also most cable operators).
The channel has had a reputation for lowest-common-denominator broadcasting, famously screening low-budget "erotic thrillers" on Friday and Saturday nights, and concentrating its output on entertainment and lifestyle shows at the expense of factual programming. Recently though it has shown signs of moving steadily up-market, and has attracted large audiences as the UK home of many cult American series including CSI, Alias and Lexx. As part of its move up market five won a bidding war with the other terrestrial TV channels for the rights to show the new Friends TV show spin off, Joey. News media estimate five's winning bid at anywhere between £250,000 and £500,000 per show, either way in regions unheard of for a new TV show, and very rare even for established TV shows.
In 2002, Channel 5 had a 6.3% share of individual television viewing in the UK.
On 27 February 2004 it was reported that the owners of five and Channel 4 were discussing a possible merger; this was widely seen as a potential upset for Channel 4's pride. Some comics joked that the merged company should call itself Chanel 9 after the spoof foreign network on The Fast Show and also because 5 plus 4 = 9. Channel 4 and Channel 5 announced that merger plans would be cancelled in November.
From 1 January 2005 Sky News was awarded the contract to provide the news for Channel Five, making it the second news company to be produce news for a terrestrial channel other than ITN.
Jim> True dat.