Specialist Factual

Channel 4 Specialist Factual exists to say new, disruptive and original things about the world.


We are looking for audacious, provocative and news-making ideas that combine brilliant TV with a new take on the most challenging ethical questions facing us now, the taboos we don’t talk about, vital stories that need to be revealed, and points of view we don’t hear. Big, bold factual theatre ideas, strong pieces of revisionist history and authored or investigative films that take on big targets. And most of all – big popular new series and formats that will stand the test of time and draw a big, broad audience. Great TV with a strong Specialist Factual sense of purpose and content. Our Specialist Factual department has delivered some of Channel 4’s most original and noisy programmes and that is something we want to supercharge with fresh impetus and dynamism.


Across the different subject matters we cover – the main ones being History, Science, Adventure, Topical, Travel and Arts – we want to find big, bold, popular returning series. Many of our biggest hits have combined strong Specialist Factual purpose with techniques borrowed from documentary or factual entertainment. We are the department behind The Piano, Grayson’s Art Club, SAS: Who Dares Wins, and The Secret Life of 4/5 Year Olds. The new returning series could be formats, including competitive formats, or access driven series. We are looking for big, entertaining ideas of scale. Talent have always been a huge part of our returning slate – from Guy Martin to Grayson Perry – and we are keen to find others – new and established. We want to start building up some new voices especially in history and science. And across the slate, we’re keen to see how we can work with other co-production partners to deliver high quality pieces. 


We are looking for high-impact, provocative and challenging schedule-piercing events. These could be spectacular, challenging, surprising pieces of factual theatre – examples would be Jimmy Carr Destroys Art, and further back The Autopsy, or Drugs Live. Or pieces of scale and ambition like our upcoming opera in Welsh, Gay Wedding: The Musical or Death of Klinghoffer in arts. What we really want is audacious, disruptive and challenging programmes that feel new in form, that spark debate, make trouble and intervene in the national conversation. 


We commission strong single films and series. Single films should be revelatory and ideally deliver a scoop. Think Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview or Grenfell: The Untold Story. Or noisy, distinctive and accessible films – in the vein of 100 Vaginas, or Me and My Penis. As with all our content, we want to tackle complex ethical questions, difficult issues and offer different points of view not often heard, so these may be strongly authored such as David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count. You could also look at Prue and Danny’s Death Road Trip, and Gender Wars. For our Secret History strand the films need to break a new story or offer up a revisionist take such as The Unremembered: Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes. In science, we want big and bold approaches and to tackle enormous subjects like climate change and AI in a distinctively Channel 4 way.

Specialist Factual series should tell us something new about the world, offer privileged access and unpack a system or precinct to explain how it works. The “how does it work” approach also lends itself well to big engineering projects, trains, ships and infrastructure. But we also want to look at topical issues and precincts with purpose and heart, as in Kids, looking at the world of kids in care. We are keen to find popular precincts to explore in a new way and with innovative techniques. In history, we have had strong limited series examining Trump, Putin and Osama Bin Laden, Sathnam Sanghera’s Empire State of Mind. In contemporary and cultural history, we have recently had success with Paula and Depp v Heard. We have also covered the 80s in Made in the 80s: The Decade that Shaped our World, and Italia 90: When Football Changed Forever. Where next should we be looking? And in science, how do we find high impact and revelatory series that feel distinctive, accessible and impactful.





In history we are very interested in contemporary post-war history. We want history that makes us rethink the present and engages with current issues and events, and has real salience. How for instance can we make sense of the war going on now? We want big scoops and revelations, and have the stomach to take on big targets. What access can we fight for to interrogate the past and present? We are not just looking at contemporary history through the popular culture prism, but want new ideas about which areas of modern history we can re-imagine, in a definitive way. Think Paula and our upcoming series on the miners’ strike.


Finding new ways of talking about climate change and the environment, and AI are our main priorities. But we would love new ideas about how to approach these huge subjects, so it doesn’t feel like a turn-off. How can we be really arresting and break through in a uniquely Channel 4. We want to approach climate change in popular, surprising and ambitious ways, as in Guy Martin’s Great British Power Trip. We want to hold power to account and investigate how we got here, and who is responsible. And we want to find big event pieces which feel noisy and exciting. Science, engineering, and invention underpin lots of the stuff we love about the modern world and our programming should reflect some of that joy and excitement.

We are interested in the intersection of science and history, and science and crime as ways to find high-rating, high impact new series that approach science – and this may come through creatively thinking about access. In science, we lean towards the spectacular (The Plane Crash, Mummifying Alan, Live from Space) and the challenging – often new science or technology that raises new ethical dilemmas.  We encourage experimentation with form - and especially with new technology. We now have a series looking at cancer and surgery, Super Surgeons.   


Travel is a massive priority for us. Sue Perkins in her camper van, exploring the dark side of the American dream. Guy Martin has new adventures on the way. We’d love to do more in this space. Talent of course is key.  But who could we grow as our own talent who owns clever travel on 4?   Where will they go, and crucially what will they say? Across anthropology, geography, climate change - travel is a brilliant vehicle for doing crunchy topics in a fun, accessible way. 

Adventure is another huge priority.  There’s clearly often some overlap here with travel.  What we are not looking for is well-intentioned, but slightly worthy trips and treks to various far-flung places.  But if you do have something with a genuine first, or real innovation – like the hunt for Shackleton’s ship – we would love to hear about it.


Our approach to arts is very ground up and democratic as exemplified by Grayson’s Art Club. We want to find ways engaging people in art, and for it to find its way into the real world as with the accompanying exhibitions. Rather than doing lots of pieces ABOUT something, we are interested in artists taking us into popular precincts and places. Ideas for artists across the board who could be great on TV would be welcome. Very keen to work with amazing talent – either in performance or directing to make us think in a new way. We are also interested in arts event pieces which are genuinely controversial, ground-breaking or unsettling – think of Channel 4’s Jimmy Carr Destroys Art, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, Death of Klinghoffer, the Battle of Orgreave, Gay Wedding: The Musical – or pieces which scale up the identity/body ideas explored in films like 100 Vaginas and Boobs.  As with the other subjects, we cover, we are keen to find scoops in the arts space, and to discover high impact stories in the arts space, rediscovering hidden subjects, or fascinating biography with new revelations. Our short art film strand Random Acts continues, with a few films commissioned evert year. Ideas should be stand out and completely original.


We’ve talked about science, history and arts but some of the best programmes commissioned by this department don’t fall neatly into one sub-genre. They could just be uncategorisable pieces of brilliance that defy genre definitions and boundaries, are just driven by a sense of ambition, fun and iconoclasm. Not homework, but full of actuality, characters we care about, and emotional engagement, as well as deep underlying purpose and detail in the content.


Head of Specialist Factual: Shaminder Nahal

Topical singles and series, factual theatre, arts

based in London


Commissioning Editor: Jonah Weston

Science, Travel, and Adventure

based in London


Commissioning Editor: Emily Shields


based in Bristol


Commissioning Executive: Simon Lee

based in London


Commissioning Executive: Naomi Rose

based in London


Programme Coordinator: Chris Shiel

based in London


Genre Assistant: Suher Sofi

Assistant to: Shaminder Nahal

based in London



Genre Assistant: Janice Tiffany

Assistant to: Jonah Weston and Emily Shields

based in Leeds