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Introduction
1986

Ghosts in the Machine, 6 part series of artists' film and video, Channel 4

The first series, screened in 1986, consisted of existing works from Europe and America purchased for broadcast by producer John Wyver and a team of consultants. The programmes drew an audience of up to a million viewers for a late-night slot with artists such as Max Almy, Peter Campus, Joan Jonas, Les Levine, John Sanborn and William Wegman having works broadcast.

The relative success of Ghosts in the Machine - the series received a glowing write-up in the Financial Times - led to Wyver being given a £300,000 budget to commission new works for television for a second series. Of the twenty slots available for Ghosts in the Machine 2 in 1987, ten pieces from the UK were funded via an open submissions scheme, with four of the resulting works selected for broadcast: The Hidden Wisdom (Michelle Macintosh & Patricia Diaz, produced during a 16mm film course for black women organised by the Sankofa collective); Waterwork (Tony Hill); The Man in the Crowd (George Snow) and Valtos (Patrick Keiller).

The second series coincided with the appointment of Michael Grade as chairman of Channel 4, and the beginning of a changed attitude to arts programming: Grade moved the programmes from a prime time slot of 10.30pm on Fridays to 12.30am on Tuesdays after a few weeks.

Tom Roberts

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Still from Valtos by Patrick Keiller (1987)

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