Alternative Christmas message
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 (who, coincidentally, was born on Christmas Day) 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.
|1996||Rory Bremner||As Diana, Princess of Wales|
|1997||Margaret Gibney||A Belfast schoolgirl who broadcast a plea for peace in Northern Ireland|
|1998||Neville and Doreen Lawrence||Parents of Stephen Lawrence|
|1999||Sacha Baron Cohen||As Ali G|
|2000||Helen Jeffries||Mother of a Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease victim|
|2001||Genelle Guzman||Survivor of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center|
|2003||Barry and Michelle Seabourn||A Merseyside couple who appeared on Channel 4 reality show Wife Swap|
|2004||Marge Simpson||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||Jamie Oliver||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||"Khadijah"||A veiled British Muslim, who converted to Islam in 1996 and took up wearing the niqab two years later. She stated during her speech that her great-grandmother was a suffragette.|
This message was due to be presented by Khadija Ravat (b. 1973 in Zimbabwe), a British Muslim teacher of Islamic studies who had worn a niqab for ten years.
The address went out at 3 pm, the same time as the Queen's speech on BBC1 and ITV1. Ravat had stated that she would not be watching her own broadcast in favour of watching the one given by the Queen.
Ravat later withdrew from delivering the speech and her place was taken by another veiled woman, with the first name Khadijah.
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.
|2007||Major Andrew Stockton||A British soldier who lost his arm fighting in Afghanistan|
President of Iran
|The message was given in Persian with English subtitles. 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". The message was considered controversial and received much criticism both before and after its broadcast. Much of the criticism was centred on Ahmadinejad's anti-semitic and homophobic views. However, the message itself was not regarded as inflammatory and did not make any reference to these two issues. 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". The broadcast resulted in almost 300 complaints to the media regulator, Ofcom, but it ruled that there was no breach of the Broadcasting Code.|
|2009||Katie Piper||Katie Piper, a former model and television presenter who underwent surgery after sulphuric acid was thrown in her face, 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 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. The documentary was later 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.
|2010||Midwives||The 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 followed the work of nursing and medical staff and chronicled 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||Max Laird, Susan Campbell-Duncan, Karen Gale and Katie Piper||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 on Channel 4 during 2011: 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.|
|Vic Goddard and Stephen Drew||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.|
|2012||Adam Hills||Comedian Adam Hills, presenter of Channel 4's The Last Leg with Adam Hills, was chosen to give the message following Channel 4's successful broadcast of the 2012 Summer Paralympics. His speech reflected on the success of the games and its "superhuman" promotion and how it changed the perception to disability. The broadcast concluded with the camera panning out to the Olympic Stadium and archive footage of athletes (some quoted in his speech) during the games to the tune of Public Enemy's "Harder Than You Think", the theme tune of Channel 4's coverage.|
|2013||Edward Snowden||Ex-National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden urged an end to mass surveillance. Snowden opened his two-minute message, recorded in Russia, with a reference to novelist George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, 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."|
|2014||William Pooley||Volunteer nurse William Pooley, who attended the University of East Anglia, hit the headlines after contracting Ebola earlier in 2014. After making a full recovery, Pooley decided to return to Sierra Leone to continue his work there as a nurse. He used the broadcast to appeal for support, saying: "I don't want to make you feel guilty, but I would like you to think just for a few minutes about what you could do to help. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be."|
|2015||Abdullah Kurdi||Father of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy whose corpse was famously photographed after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.|
|2016||Brendan Cox||Widower of Jo Cox MP, who had been assassinated by a far-right extremist earlier in the year.|
|2017||Five child survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire||The children reflected on the fire and how it impacted their lives. This was the first time more than one person gave the message since 2011. For the first time, the message was broadcast 30 minutes before the Queen's message.|
|2018||Danny Dyer||Danny Dyer wraps up the year with reference to the "palava" that is Parliament and the shambles that has been the Brexit process. He also makes reference to Donald Trump as "an absolute melt" whilst also calling for people to each have a hero, someone to look up to. For him it was his mother, grandmother and screenwriter Harold Pinter.|
|2019||John Bercow||Reflecting on a divisive year in global and national politics, Bercow says: "All around the world, populism – and the promise of simple solutions to complex problems – has taken hold with a vice-like grip". Bercow also discusses the need to re-establish a "civility of discourse" in UK politics, and states that contrary to public perception, the majority of politicians are simply well-intentioned public servants, trying to do right by their constituents.|
|2020||Debra Stephenson||As a "stark warning" of the dangers of fake news, Stephenson voiced a deepfake version of the Queen (whom she also portrays in the 2020 revival of Spitting Image). The Queen's "message" included a scene of her dancing on her desk "for TikTok", and references to her apparent fondness for "Netflix and Phil", and to the scandal involving Prince Andrew's association with Jeffrey Epstein. The message closed with a scene of an actress's face being mapped on a chroma key stage to develop the deepfake. Ofcom received at least 214 complaints relating to the broadcast.|
|2021||Tom Daley||Daley talked about homophobia in sport, especially in association football, and criticised sporting bodies for sportswashing by holding events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Formula One grands prix in countries where homosexuality is illegal.|
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- Interview: Rick Demarest (mrm) (26 December 2008). "President of Iran Gives Alternative Christmas Message in UK". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
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- Channel 4, The TV Show: Rated/Slated, October 2009
- MediaGuardian – Christmas Day ratings
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- "Orderrrr! John Bercow to deliver Channel 4's alternative Christmas message". Radio Times. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
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- Watson, Eve (25 December 2021). "People 'bawling' after Tom Daley's Christmas message". PlymouthLive. Retrieved 31 December 2021.