Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alternative Christmas message

The Alternative Christmas message is a message broadcast by Channel 4 since 1993, lampooning the Royal Christmas Message of Queen Elizabeth II.


Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an "Alternative Christmas message" 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 male homosexual. In contrast to the Queen's message, the alternative lasts only 3 to 5 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

1993 - Quentin Crisp
1994 - Rev Jesse Jackson
1995 - Brigitte Bardot
1996 - Rory Bremner (as Diana, Princess of Wales)
1997 - Margaret Gibney, a Belfast schoolgirl broadcast a plea for peace in Northern Ireland
1998 - Doreen Lawrence and Neville Lawrence, parents of Stephen Lawrence
1999 - Ali G
2000 - Helen Jeffries, mother of a CJD victim
2001 - Genelle Guzman, World Trade Center terrorist attacks survivor
2002 - Sharon Osbourne
2003 - Barry and Michelle Seabourn, a Merseyside couple who appeared on Channel 4 reality show Wife Swap.
2004 - Marge Simpson
2005 - Jamie Oliver
2006 - Khadijah Ravat 
2007 - Major Andrew Stockton, a British soldier who lost his arm fighting in Afghanistan.
2008 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran 
2009 - Katie Piper, television presenter who underwent surgery after Sulphuric acid was thrown in her face.

2004 Alternative message
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 banner supporting Cornwall's secession: "UK OUT OF CORNWALL", while chanting Rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn (Cornish for "freedom for Cornwall now").

2005 Alternative message
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
This message was due to be presented by Khadija Ravat (b. 1973 in Zimbabwe: a British Muslim teacher of Islamic studies who has worn a niqab for ten years.The decision of Channel 4 to have a veiled woman giving the speech is a particularly controversial one due to the media attention that the niqab has received in the UK in 2006.
With regards to the decision, Channel 4 have 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."
The address went out at 3pm, 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. 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.
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
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. 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".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. 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".

2009 Alternative message
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. 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. The Message was produced by Mentorn Media, the production company which had made the earlier programme. Piper's Message was aired at 3pm and repeated at 8.50pm on Christmas Day 2009, the later showing being broadcast following on from a re-airing of Katie: My Beautiful Face. The 3pm screening attracted 500,000 viewers and the 8.50pm broadcast drew 400,000.

2010 Alternative message
The 2010 message will be broadcast 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 will be 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 is believed that a member of nursing staff will be reading the Alternative Christmas Message as part of the Christmas Day afternoon broadcast, which incorporates the traditional 3pm message slot. 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.


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