“Animals in the womb: Mammals” – pioneering TV from Channel 4

This programme used a combination of computer graphics, physical modelling, and actual ultra-sound images to create stunning pictures of the foetus of a dolphin, an elephant and a golden retriever developing in the womb. There was a commentary, but for much of the time the amazing images spoke for themselves. [Article contributed by Derek Pollard]

The programme was broadcast on 21 December at 21:00 – after the watershed but still peak family viewing time. It ran for one and a half hours, and enjoyed the accolade of ‘Radio Times Choice’. The commentary provided plenty of detailed information – lengths, distances, body weights, volumes, speeds. And, coming to my point at last, it was all in metric, even the speeds.

This struck me as quite a courageous decision by Channel 4, dependent as it is on the support of advertisers, and in competition with other public service broadcasters such as the ‘aiming to reflect common usage’ BBC. The programme was billed as ‘science’, but it was clearly aimed at a mass audience.

Channel 4 has a reputation for innovative programming, established soon after it was founded in 1982 (coincidentally about the time that the UK metrication programme stalled). Who then would have thought that it would be pioneering the use of metric units on popular TV programmes twenty-four years later?

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