Alternative Christmas message

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The alternative Christmas message is a message broadcast by Channel 4 since 1993, as a sometimes humorous and sometimes serious alternative to the Royal Christmas Message of Queen Elizabeth II.

Background[edit]

Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an "alternative Christmas message" usually featuring a contemporary, often controversial celebrity, delivering a message in the manner of Her Majesty. This tradition started by accident when, running a series of programmes on 'Christmas in New York', the channel invited Quentin Crisp to give an alternative message – playing on the pejorative term 'queen' meaning a very feminine male homosexual. In contrast to the Queen's message, the alternative lasts only three to five minutes. The concept seems to date back to a sketch in a Christmas special of The Two Ronnies, where Ronnie Barker delivered a Christmas message from "Your Local Milkman". Examples of recent variations to the Alternative Christmas message proliferate on YouTube.

List of alternative message presenters[edit]

2004 alternative message[edit]

Marge Simpson was chosen to give the message due to Channel 4's recent acquisition of rights to broadcast The Simpsons.

In it she commented on David and Victoria Beckham's marriage in a negative comparison with hers and Homer's, and compared the special relationship between the UK and the US to that of Mini Me and Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films ("Helping out in all our zany schemes to take over the world"). Lisa Simpson also held a sign supporting Cornwall's secession reading "UK OUT OF CORNWALL," while chanting "Rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn" (Cornish for "freedom for Cornwall now").

2005 alternative message[edit]

The majority of Jamie Oliver's message was in the form of a comedy sketch, where he was a school cook preparing junk food, including "Turkey Twangers", for children. This turned out to be a nightmare, and he awoke to give a message about his wish for the new year being for British children to be fed better. He was chosen to deliver the message following his successful Jamie's School Dinners series. The broadcast also featured actress Jessica Stevenson as a dinnerlady.

For the first time, sister channel E4 broadcast an "alternative to the alternative message", delivered by Avid Merrion, the creation of comedian Leigh Francis from the series Bo' Selecta!.

2006 alternative message[edit]

This message was due to be presented by Khadija Ravat (b. 1973 in Zimbabwe):[4] a British Muslim teacher of Islamic studies who has worn a niqab for ten years.[5] The decision of Channel 4 to have a veiled woman giving the speech was a particularly controversial one due to the media attention that the niqab has received in the UK in 2006.[6][7]

With regards to the decision, Channel 4 said that it was fitting that the "alternative Christmas message should be given by a Muslim woman in a year when issues of religious and racial identity and freedom of expression have dominated the news agenda."[7]

The address went out at 3 pm, the same time as the Queen's speech on BBC1 and ITV1.[8] Ravat had stated that she would not be watching her own broadcast in favour of watching the one given by the Queen.[9] Her place was taken by another veiled woman, with the first name Khadijah. She was a convert to Islam in 1996 and took up wearing the niqab two years after she converted. She stated during her speech that her great-grandmother was a suffragette.[4]

The alternative Christmas message on E4 was Fonejacker's Christmas Message in which actor Kayvan Novak prank-called members of the public. This five-minute broadcast was also a preview of his new series which aired in mid-2007.

2008 alternative message[edit]

The 2008 Christmas message was given by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of The Islamic Republic of Iran. The message was given in Persian with English subtitles.[2] In this message Ahmedinejad said that "if Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers".[10] The message was considered controversial and received much criticism both before and after its broadcast. Much of the criticism was centred on Ahmadinejad's allegedly anti-semitic and homophobic views. However, the message itself was not regarded as inflammatory and did not make any reference to these two issues.[11] Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called Ahmadinejad a "criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world's most bloody tyrants".[12] The broadcast resulted in almost 300 complaints to the media regulator, Ofcom, but it ruled that there was no breach of the broadcast code.[13]

2009 alternative message[edit]

The 2009 message was delivered by Katie Piper, a former model and television presenter who had featured in an edition of Channel 4's Cutting Edge documentary strand in October 2009. The hour-long documentary, which traced Piper's recovery from an acid attack in March 2008, had received significant viewer attention; it had received the highest viewing figures of any entry in the Cutting Edge strand during 2009, and received the most viewer responses of any Channel 4 show in October 2009.[14] The documentary has since been made available for international broadcast.

The huge response to the Cutting Edge programme led Channel 4 to invite Katie Piper to give 2009's alternative Christmas Message, which focused on the theme of "appreciating the beauty in life" and also allowed Piper to reflect on the huge public support she had received following the earlier film. The message also featured new footage of Piper and her family at home. Piper's message was aired at 3 pm and repeated at 8.50 pm on Christmas Day 2009, the later showing being broadcast following on from a re-airing of Katie: My Beautiful Face. The 3 pm screening attracted 500,000 viewers and the 8.50 pm broadcast drew 400,000.[15]

2010 alternative message[edit]

The 2010 message was delivered by a team of midwives as part of One Born at Christmas, a festive special based around Channel 4's hit documentary series One Born Every Minute. One Born At Christmas was broadcast live in various slots on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and will follow the work of nursing and medical staff and chronicle the experience of parents giving birth over the Christmas period. It had earlier been erroneously reported that Dino "Dappy" Contostavlos of N-Dubz would be giving the 2010 message; Channel 4 later clarified that he would be featured in a segment on T4, not giving the main message itself.

2011 alternative message[edit]

Two Alternative Messages were delivered in 2011. The first to air was a 'Just Be Yourself' message, airing at 13.55 on Christmas Day, and fronted by four people who appeared in diversity-themed programming during 2011 on C4: Max Laird of Seven Dwarves, Susan Campbell-Duncan of Beauty and the Beast: Ugly Face of Prejudice, Karen Gale of My Transsexual Summer and, giving her second alternative Christmas message (a first for the series), Katie Piper of Katie: My Beautiful Friends. The second message, airing at 16.15, featured Vic Goddard and Stephen Drew, head and deputy head of the school featured in the hit documentary series Educating Essex.[16]

2012 alternative message[edit]

Comedian Adam Hills, presenter of The Last Leg with Adam Hills, delivered the message.[17]

He was chosen to give the message following Channel 4's successful broadcast of the 2012 Summer Paralympics. The focal point of the speech reflects on the success of the games and its successful "superhuman" promotion and how it changed the perception to disability. His speech concluded with the camera panning out to the Olympic Stadium and archive footage of the athletes (some quoted in his speech) during the games to the tune of Public Enemy's "Harder Than You Think", the theme tune of its coverages.

2013 alternative message[edit]

Ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden delivered an alternative UK Christmas message, urging an end to mass surveillance. Snowden opened his two-minute message, recorded in Russia, with a reference to novelist George Orwell, author of 1984, saying the surveillance technology described in his works was "nothing compared to what we have today". He said: "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought." He added: "The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Muslim woman pulls out of Christmas Message". Digital Spy. 2006-12-16. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b "Ahmadinejad gives festive speech". BBC News. 2008-12-24. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  3. ^ Plunkett, John (11 December 2009). "Acid attack survivor to deliver Channel 4's alternative Christmas message". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ a b "Channel 4's alternative Christmas message is still shrouded in secrecy". Daily Mail (London). 2006-12-25. Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  5. ^ "Veiled woman to give C4's speech". BBC News. 5 December 2006. Archived from the original on 22 December 2006. Retrieved 17 December 2006. 
  6. ^ ":: Haveyoursay (section)". Daily Express. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  7. ^ a b "Channel 4's alternative Christmas message to feature broadcaster in veil". Daily Mail (London). 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Martin. "Islamophobia: Anti Muslim Racism". Islamophobia Watch. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  9. ^ Sullivan, Martin (2006-12-07). "Khadija Ravat won't be watching Channel 4 programme". Islamophobia Watch. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  10. ^ "UK criticises Ahmadinejad broadcast". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  11. ^ Interview: Rick Demarest (mrm) (2008-12-26). "President of Iran Gives Alternative Christmas Message in UK". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  12. ^ Johnston, Ian (2008-12-26). "Iranian leader's Christmas message prompts outcry". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  13. ^ Sweeney, Mark (23 February 2009). "Channel 4's Christmas message from Iranian president cleared by Ofcom". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2011. 
  14. ^ Channel 4, The TV Show: Rated/Slated, October 2009
  15. ^ MediaGuardian – Christmas Day ratings
  16. ^ "Channel 4 to air two Alternative Christmas Messages", guardian.co.uk, 22 Dec 2011
  17. ^ http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2012/12/04/16711/adam_hills_to_deliver_c4s_christmas_message