Channel 4 is hoping to build on its acclaimed coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics by bringing its coverage of disability issues into the mainstream.
Channel 4’s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said the broadcaster wanted to “escape from the idea that disability issues are niche”.
She was speaking at a party at the broadcaster’s central London headquarters, held to mark its attempts to “lead a fundamental change in the way we feel and talk about disability”.
The party was co-hosted by the disabled TV presenter and former model Katie Piper, who said that being given the opportunity to work with Channel 4 – on programmes such as My Beautiful Face, and The Science of Seeing Again – had been “genuinely life-changing”.
Hunt announced a string of new commissions of disability-related programmes, including a second full series of The Last Leg, which features disabled comedian Adam Hills and rising star Alex Brooker.
There will also be a third series of the reality show The Undateables in 2014, following more single disabled people as they look for love, and a second series of I’m Spazticus, the prank show written by and starring disabled people.
Ade Adepitan, one of the London 2012 presenters, who also fronted last month’s Dispatches documentary on disability living allowance reform, will travel to Cuba as a reporter for the foreign affairs strand Unreported World, to investigate why some of the country’s sports stars are still defecting to the US.
And Arthur Williams, one of the disabled presenters trained by Channel 4 for its 2012 coverage, and himself a pilot and plane-restorer, will present The Wooden Wonder, a documentary about the wooden fighter plane, the Mosquito, described as the “unsung hero of World War Two”.
Hunt told the party that there had been a “bit of a quiet revolution” in Channel 4’s disability programming.
She said it had “gone further than any other broadcaster” in putting disabled presenters at the centre of what it does, including the “extraordinary achievement” of having two disabled presenters – Hills and Brooker – fronting a “highly successful entertainment show” on a Friday night.
She said: “It isn’t tokenism – it’s about great presenters telling amazing stories in every genre from current affairs to history, science to entertainment. It just so happens those presenters are disabled.”
Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, said Channel 4’s coverage of London 2012 had “changed public acceptance” of disabled people, and she called for a “fair representation” of disabled people “right across the media”.
Channel 4 also announced this week that it had commissioned the first autobiographical documentary about the disabled theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.
The documentary will be told in his own words and by those closest to him, is being co-produced by PBS in the US, and will be shown in UK cinemas and later screened on Channel 4.