1987 in British television

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This is a list of British television related events from 1987.


  • 16 January – The Zircon affair becomes public knowledge when The Guardian reports that the government ordered the BBC to shelve a documentary in the Secret Society series about the Zircon satellite. Two days later documentary maker Duncan Campbell is subject to an injunction preventing him from discussing or writing about the programme's content, but subsequently writes an article about the episode for the New Statesman.
  • 29 January – Alasdair Milne is sacked by the newly appointed Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Marmaduke Hussey. He is replaced by a senior BBC accountant, Michael Checkland.
  • 5 February - Princess Anne appears on sports quiz A Question of Sport, a matter of weeks after team captain Emlyn Hughes famously mistook a picture of her on a horse for jockey John Reid. The episode gains a record audience of 19 million viewers.
  • 21 February – An apparently inebriated Oliver Reed appears on the ITV chat show Aspel & Company, where he stumbles and lurches around the set.
  • 24 February – The sitcom Hardwicke House makes its debut on ITV. The series is badly received by critics and viewers and is cancelled after just two episodes (the second broadcast the following evening). The remaining five episodes of the series have never been transmitted.
  • 26 February – Michael Checkland succeeds Alasdair Milne as Director-General of the BBC.
  • 9 March – Debut of Central Television's Intimate Contact, a drama dealing with the issue of AIDS.
  • 25 April – The Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H makes its debut on Central Television in the Midlands. This is believed by many viewers to be the series debut on British television, but in fact it had been running in the Yorkshire region since 1984. Central were the first region to conclude the series, however, in December 1991.
  • 26 April – Channel 4's The Tube airs for the last time after five series.
  • 22 May–20 June – Television coverage of the first Rugby World Cup from Australia and New Zealand.
  • 9 June – Debut of the Tyne Tees produced chart show The Roxy, presented by David Jensen and Kevin Sharkey. The programme is intended as a stablemate for the Independent radio hit parade The Network Chart Show, following a similar format to the BBC's Top of the Pops, but its Newcastle-upon-Tyne location impinges on its ability to secure live performances. The show also suffers from poor ratings because it does not have a regular slot on the ITV network, and is cancelled in April 1988.
  • 11 June–12 June – Coverage of the results of the 1987 general election is broadcast both on BBC1 and ITV.
  • 19 June – Television debut of The Grand Knockout Tournament, an It's a Knockout special featuring members of the British Royal Family alongside sporting and other celebrities. Also known as It's a Royal Knockout, the event attracts much media derision and is deemed to have been a failure, although it raised £1 million for charity.
  • 20 August – In the wake of the previous day's Hungerford massacre in which 16 people were shot dead by gun enthusiast Michael Ryan, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 pull several forthcoming films and programmes containing violence from their schedules. Among them are the 1966 western Nevada Smith, an episode of The Professionals and the 1982 post-apocalyptic film Battletruck. A showing of First Blood is also cancelled.[1]
  • 7 September – Sylvester McCoy becomes the seventh actor to play the Doctor in BBC One's long-running Doctor Who.
  • 14 September – After 30 years on ITV, the schools service ITV Schools moves to Channel 4, allowing ITV to concentrate on building a fully commercial daytime schedule.
  • 15 October – During a weather forecast, BBC meteorologist Michael Fish reports "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France.".[2] Hours later, Britain is hit by the worst storm for 284 years.[3] Fish later drew criticism for the comments, but has since claimed that they referred to Florida, USA, and were linked to a news story immediately preceding the weather bulletin, but had been so widely repeated out of context that the British public remains convinced that he was referring to the approaching storm.
  • 16 October – As a result of the Great Storm of 1987, electrical power to TV-am's studios is lost and an emergency programme has to be transmitted from facilities at Thames Television's Euston Road centre using reports from TV-am's own crews and those of ITN, TSW and TVS. The BBC's Breakfast Time, which would usually come from Lime Grove and was able to broadcast as the studios were without power, as was most of BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane. The early part of the programme was broadcast from the continuity suite at TV Centre usually used for Children's BBC presentation as this area had generator support, before a larger studio was able to be brought into use.
  • 4 November–18 November – Damon and Debbie becomes the first 'soap bubble'. It was a miniseries which took two characters from Brookside into new locations and their own story.
  • 17 November – The BBC sees the first appearance of The 999 Programme from S4C Fireman Sam first voiced by John Alderton in the early years.
  • 23 November – The TV-am strike begins after members of the technicians' union the ACTT walk out in a dispute over the station's ‘Caring Christmas Campaign’. What is meant to be a 24-hour stoppage continues for several months when staff are locked out by Managing Director Bruce Gyngell. TV-am is unable to broadcast Good Morning Britain, the regular format is replaced with shows such as Flipper, Batman and Happy Days. By December a skeleton service that sees non-technical staff operating cameras and Gyngell himself directing proceedings, begin to allow Good Morning Britain to start broadcasting again. The strikers are eventually sacked and replaced with non union staff. Viewing figures remain high throughout the disruption, which continues well into 1988, although normal programming gradually resumes. Other ITV stations later follow Gyngell's example.
  • 28 November – Ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley wins New Faces of '87, coming just ahead of comedian Joe Pasquale, who is second.
  • December – Thamesside TV, a pirate TV station set up by Thameside Radio, goes on air in the same city. There were only two known broadcasts in December 1987.[4][5]
  • 25 December - ITV enjoys a record-breaking audience when more than 26 million viewers tune in for the Christmas Day episode of Coronation Street, in which Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) makes her last appearance in the show after 23 years.
  • 31 December – In an unusual move, the Chimes of Big Ben are integrated into an episode of EastEnders on BBC 1. Character Den Watts brought a television into the bar of the Queen Vic, 'watched' the chimes in their entirety, and the episode resumed.
  • Unknown – Network 21, a Pirate television station in London, broadcasts for around 30 minutes on Friday evenings.





Channel 4[edit]

Television shows[edit]

Returning this year after a break of one year or longer[edit]






Ending this year[edit]




  1. ^ Harper, Timothy (13 September 1987). "Britain Shoots Down Tv Shoot 'Em-ups Many Blame August's Massacre On Violent U.s. Programs, Films". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "YouTube footage of Michael Fish". Youtube.com. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Lessons learned from Great Storm". BBC News. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "Special Events - do you remember these?". Thameside Radio. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Thameside Radio story". Thamesideradio.net. 1983-05-15. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "Eamonn Andrews, 64; British TV Personality". New York Times. 7 November 1987. Retrieved 2 January 2012.