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Channel 4 is to become the first UK broadcaster to put its back catalogue online completely free of charge – giving viewers the chance to watch every episode of homegrown shows such as Brass Eye, The Camomile Lawn and Father Ted without having to buy a DVD box set.From July, more than 4,000 hours of the channel's archived content – about 10,000 programme titles – will be added to the 4oD catchup service.Other much-loved series to be made available include Queer As Folk, Shameless, Vic Reeves Big Night Out, Ali G and Teachers, as well as old episodes of lifestyle and property shows such as Location, Location, Location and Grand Designs.There will be a selection of episodes of the now defunct soap Brookside, featuring what it calls its "most important storylines", including the infamous body under the patio and the first lesbian kiss to be shown before the 9pm watershed. Six million viewers tuned in to see Anna Friel's character, Beth Jordache, lock lips with Margaret Clemence, played by Nicola Stephenson, for eight seconds in 1993.The catchup service currently offers viewers programmes for 30 days after they broadcast, but Channel 4's decision to put such a huge amount of older content online represents a major development, as more viewers choose to watch online at a time that suits them.It echoes the views of the communications minister, Lord Carter, who is leading the team producing the final report into the UK's digital future. Earlier this year, he said Britain was on course for a "different world" of media use away from scheduled programming. "In less than 10 years, we will be in a complete 'on demand' television world," he said.The move could put pressure on the BBC, which offers programmes via its iPlayer service for only seven days after they air.The appetite for internet video content is soaring. One in every 35 UK internet views in February was to a video site, according to the internet traffic monitor Hitwise, up from one in 50 a year earlier. The BBC's iPlayer service was the 22nd most popular website in the UK in February and the second most visited video site after YouTube.The ad-funded video site Hulu, which streams primetime US shows such as Family Guy, Heroes and The Simpsons, is now the second largest web video site in the US. It served 350m streams from February to March, despite being only a year old.Hulu, which is jointly owned by NBC Universal and News Corp, is talking to potential partners about a UK rollout.Some of Channel 4's content will not be made available online because of rights or legal issues. US shows such as Friends will not be included, nor will Channel 4 News, because some bought-in news clips form part of a rights agreement which only allows the broadcaster to show them up to midnight on the day of transmission.The 4oD service was revamped in April, and since then has recorded an 111% month-on-month increase in viewing, with shows such as The Inbetweeners, Hollyoaks and Come Dine With Me performing particularly strongly.The archived content will be made available to PC, Mac and Linux operating systems users on a free, streamed basis.Jon Gisby, the director of future media and technology at Channel 4, said: "We were the first broadcaster to launch a comprehensive video-on-demand service in 2006, and since that time 4oD has become one of the UK's most popular VOD brands. We are extremely proud of the improved service and think the combination of fantastic content that's easy to find and view will prove compelling for all users."