|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)|
|Based in||Camden Town, London, United Kingdom|
(Breakfast at 6am until 9.25am
|First airdate||1 February 1983 at 6am|
|Closed||31 December 1992 at 9.25am|
TV-am was a breakfast television station that broadcast to the United Kingdom from 1 February 1983 at 6am until 31 December 1992 at 9.25am. It made history by being the first national operator of a commercial television franchise at breakfast-time (and the first and only national commercial television station), and broadcast every day of the week for most or all of the period from 6am to 9.25am.
February 1983: The beginning
The Independent Broadcasting Authority awarded the breakfast franchise to TV-am on 28 December 1980.
Although the initial launch date was set for June 1983 the Independent Broadcasting Authority allowed the station to bring forward its start-date to 1 February 1983 in response to the launch of the BBC service Breakfast Time two weeks earlier.
This hurried start affected the company in two ways. Firstly, ITV had failed in its negotiations for royalties and rates for advertising on the new Channel 4 and the breakfast service with the actors' trade union, Equity. The union instructed its members to boycott the new station, which meant there was little or no advertising, or revenue from advertising, in the early days.
Secondly, it was believed that the BBC's breakfast service would be highbrow, focusing on news and analysis, so TV-am had developed its new service to copy that. However, the BBC launched a lightweight, magazine-style programme that mimicked the style of United States breakfast television. With the launch of the BBC's Breakfast Time brought forward at short notice this gave little time for TV-am to redevelop its plans.
TV-am was spearheaded by 'The Famous Five' who were not only lined up as presenters on the station, but were also shareholders — Michael Parkinson, David Frost (1983–92), Angela Rippon (1983), Anna Ford (1983) and Robert Kee. Esther Rantzen had originally been one of the station's 'star' line up of presenter/shareholders, but she was persuaded to remain with the BBC. Rantzen later presented a regular spot on the BBC's Breakfast Time.
There had been many difficulties for the other presenters in the run-up to the station launch. When the franchise was announced in 1981 Angela Rippon's contract with the BBC was about to expire, and was not renewed as a result of her new employment, leaving her seeking freelance work before TV-am went on air. Anna Ford was dismissed by ITN, which had been part of another consortium bidding for the breakfast contract. ITN had presented Ford as their female programme anchor as part of their bid, unaware that she was planning on defecting to TV-am. ITN heavily criticised her disloyalty and that her dishonesty had made their bid seem 'ridiculous' to the IBA. ITN replaced Ford with Selina Scott, who herself landed a double blow to ITN when she defected to the BBC to present Breakfast Time towards the end of 1982. Michael Parkinson did remain with the BBC who hoped to persuade him to stay as they had with Rantzen, but he finally left the corporation in 1982.
TV-am's headquarters and studios were at 'Breakfast Television Centre', Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London. Designed by Terry Farrell and converted from a former car showroom, the building included a number of large plastic egg-cups on its roof.
Programmes originally ran from 6am to 9.15am, with Daybreak (not to be confused with the post-2010 ITV breakfast show of the same name) then Good Morning Britain filling weekday mornings, followed by a 10 minute interval before the start of the regional ITV franchises at 9.25am. The IBA later extended TV-am's hours to 9.25am to allow continuous programming, and some years after that the ITV stations extended their hours to 6am to provide 24-hour television.
The summer of 1983: troubled times
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While the BBC's Breakfast Time was a huge success, TV-am's early ratings were very disappointing. Its high-minded and somewhat starchy approach, summed up in chief executive Peter Jay's phrase "mission to explain", sat uneasily at that time of day, and was easily upstaged by Breakfast Time's sure-footed and accessible magazine style, which effortlessly mixed heavy news and light-hearted features (famously moving cabinet ministers, after a serious interview, to help with a cookery demonstration).
Peter Jay was forced to resign when he refused to dismiss some of his star presenters. His replacement, British politician Jonathan Aitken, fired Angela Rippon and Anna Ford and threatened to dismiss Michael Parkinson (whose weekend show was the only success the station was having, largely because the BBC did not broadcast on weekend mornings). All three had given support to Jay on air, which infuriated the station's management. David Frost was moved from the main show as part of the shakeup. Angela Rippon was not a hit with viewers, who complained when she was 'rude' and 'belittling' to sports presenter Nick Owen. Anna Ford refused to be moved, leading to her dismissal and when she encountered Jonathan Aitken at a party some months later she threw her glass of wine in his face. Their replacements were Anne Diamond (1983–1992) and Nick Owen (1983–1986). Greg Dyke was brought in as director of programmes, and slowly ratings improved. To save money the show spent the summer on the road, in a show coming from various seaside resorts and presented by Chris Tarrant. A notable gimmick introduced at this time was the puppet Roland Rat; this attracted large audiences of youngsters and pushed up overall viewing figures.
The low audiences brought financial problems. The company was close to having its power supply disconnected: a London Electricity official arrived during a press conference with a warrant to cut off power for non-payment. Elsewhere, a local newsagent stopped supplying the station with newspapers for the same reason.
The cost-cutting was brought sharply into focus in the Brighton hotel bombing on the British Cabinet in 1984. The night before the terrorist attack, TV-am sent the production team home as they could not afford to pay for hotel rooms. When the blast occurred in the early hours, the BBC and ITN provided immediate coverage. TV-am's response was limited to a caption of reporter John Stapleton reporting over the phone (as seen here from TV ARK), while the BBC were showing graphic coverage of the attack. Trade union agreements at the time meant that technical staff at the local ITV station TVS would not provide cover for another commercial television company, and TV-am's previous conflicts with ITN meant that the latter would not share their footage with them.
The whole affair earned the company a severe rebuke from the Independent Broadcasting Authority, who told the company to invest and improve their news coverage, or they would lose their licence.
1984-1991: Recovery and success
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In 1984 Australian business tycoon Kerry Packer took a substantial minority interest in the company, and in May appointed his own Chief Executive, Bruce Gyngell, who had run Australian networks and previously worked in the UK for ATV in the 1970s, and later ran Yorkshire Television. Greg Dyke left to take a new position with TVS, but Gyngell pursued the same lightweight, populist approach that Dyke had forged to establish the station's viability, a model parodied later in a Guardian newspaper headline as 'Snap, Crackle and Pap'.
In an echo of the changes which had occurred in newspapers, Gyngell was determined to make use of technical developments in television in order to reduce staff and save money. He believed that the ease of use of modern video-recording and other broadcasting equipment meant that staffing levels could be reduced: ENG crews would no longer require a separate lighting technician (following a pattern familiar in Gyngell's native Australia), and technical personnel could be virtually eliminated. This brought him into conflict with the broadcasting trade unions, but gained him support from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her government.
In 1987 technical staff at the station went on a 24-hour strike. Management locked out the strikers, but stayed on air using non-technical staff to broadcast a skeleton service including (among other things) episodes of the American series Flipper, Batman and Happy Days; while secretaries manned cameras, Gyngell himself directed the show. Although shambolic at times, this schedule turned out on occasions to be more popular than former programming (although not what they would have been be allowed to broadcast under any other circumstances). In the hurricane-force storms that hit England in October that year electrical power to TV-am's studios was lost and an emergency programme had 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. All this withstanding, the programme continued to thrive. Eventually, Bruce Gyngell fired all of the strikers, replacing them with non-unionised labour from around the world.
In the years that followed, the station gradually found its feet again, and by the early 1990s, operating with a significantly reduced staff, it was the world's most profitable TV station in terms of turnover. During this period the station became the most popular breakfast television service in the UK, as the BBC's Breakfast Time lost viewers. In 1989 the BBC replaced the magazine-style Breakfast Time with a more in-depth and analytical news format called Breakfast News, reminiscent of TV-am's original format.
1991/2: Franchise loss
In 1990 changes in the law meant that commercial television franchises were no longer allocated on merit or potential but rather through a blind auction, the results of which were made public on 16 October 1991. TV-am bid £14.3m, but were outbid by another consortium, Sunrise Television (which changed its name to GMTV when it launched), which had bid £36.4m. Ironically, in the years following GMTV's launch, the group approached the ITC to retrospectively obtain a reduction in this fee, reducing it to a level below TV-am's original bid.
By February 1992 the first on-screen effects of the licence loss became obvious, with TV-am closing its in-house news service and contracting it out to Sky News for a one-off payment. Children's programming also suffered, with fewer appearances of Timmy Mallet, and 'Wacaday' replaced by 'Cartoon World' on Saturdays from 8am (extended to 7.30am later in the year).
Margaret Thatcher, whose government had introduced the change to the allocation of commercial television franchises (but who had by then been replaced as Prime Minister by John Major), famously wrote to Bruce Gyngell, apologising for being partly responsible for the loss of the TV-am's licence. It read, in part: "I am ... heartbroken. I am only too painfully aware that I was responsible for the legislation." The letter was private but Gyngell made it public, which drew criticism from friends of the former Prime Minister.
The station's broadcasting finished on 31 December 1992 at 9.21am with a caption over a black-and-white still of the station's cast and crew in the studio at the snapshot to portraits as the screen fades to background in grey the screen fades to black and the television station ends:
"TV-am: 1 February 1983 - 31 December 1992"
This was then followed by a final commercial break in which there was no final appearance by the famous eggcups, although they made their last appearance on Wednesday 30 December 1992. Instead the final commercial was for GMTV.
The next day of GMTV began at 6am. Their opening studio segment included a tribute to TV-am in the form of a painting similar to their ident visible on the set behind the presenters. While TV-am as an independent station had used an expensive of custom-built studio complex at Camden Lock, GMTV used studio space at The London Studios owned by one of GMTV's shareholders, LWT.
Breakfast Television Centre in Camden Town was sold to MTV Networks in 1993, with the famous eggcups still standing on the roof of the building beside the Regent's Canal. As well as being used by MTV for the production of its programmes, MTV Studios, as they were now known, were available for commercial hire within the TV industry. In 1999 a fire broke out in a video suite, causing extensive damage to the first floor and roof of the building. Production studios and offices were undamaged, as were the eggcups. In August 1993, TV-am plc became Crockfords plc, since 1995 known as Capital Corporation Ltd, a gambling company which is currently non-trading. The TV-am logos on the front of the building were obscured but were still partially visible. In 2012, plans were released to demolish the former TV-am studios.
"TV-am", the TV-am logo, and fifteen registered trade marks are now owned by journalist Ian White. The archive of TV-am programmes made between 1983 and 1992 was taken over by Moving Image Communications Ltd.
- Anne Diamond, 1983–90, Good Morning Britain (Anne Diamond on Sundays)
- Maya Even 1989-1992 - began her television career at TV-am in 1987, first as a researcher in the political unit and then as a producer and reporter from 1989, mainly from Westminster. In 1990 she took over from Richard Keys as regular host of the early show and began deputising for Lorraine Kelly on "Good Morning Britain". She also fronted the revamped "First Report" and covered for David Frost with "Even on Sunday", which ranged across politics, the arts and sport
- Anna Ford, 1983, Good Morning Britain
- Georgey Spanswick, now presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield
- David Frost, Good Morning Britain: 1983-1984,(The Sunday Programme: 1985-86), (Frost on Sundays: 1986-92)
- Angela Rippon, 1983, Daybreak, Good Morning Britain
- Kathy Tayler, 1989–1992, Good Morning Britain, After Nine
- Kathy Rochford, 1988–1992, Good Morning Britain
- Mike Morris, 1983–1992 ;Good Morning Britain; ;Sport;
- Richard Keys, 1984–1990 ;Good Morning Britain; ;Sport; ;The Morning programme
- Lorraine Kelly, 1984–1992 ;Reporter;Good Morning Britain;
- Rustie Lee, also consistently appeared on the show in the cooking segment.
- Ulrika Jonsson, presented the weather.
- Tania Bryer, 1992, weather presenter.
- Michael Hastings, 1988–1992, Good Morning Britain presenter.
- Jayne Irving, 1984–1989 ;News, Good Morning Britain, After Nine
- Wincey Willis, 1983–1987, presented the weather.
- Nick Owen, 1983–1986, presented Good Morning Britain alongside Anne Diamond.
- Gordon Honeycombe, 1984–1989, Newsreader.
- Henry Kelly, 1983–1987, weekend Good Morning Britain presenter.
- Diana Dors, 1983–1984, diet and later agony aunt
- Lizzie Webb, aka 'Mad Lizzie', fitness guru.
- Anneka Rice, 1985–1987, guest presenter, Good Morning Britain.
- Lisa Aziz, 1989–1992, Newsreader.
- Gordon Thomson, guest presenter, celebrity reporter
- Kathryn Holloway, 1988–1992, presenter, The Morning Programme, Good Morning Britain.
- Adrian Brown, reporter, newsreader, presenter Good Morning Britain.
- Peter Coë, 1984–1992, reporter, financial correspondent, newsreader, presenter First Report.
- Caroline Righton, April–October 1987
- Kay Burley, 1985-, reporter, newsreader, presenter.
- Geoff Clark, Saturday Sport
- Sally Eden, Reporter
- Louise Bevan, Reporter
- Gary Champion, sports reporter.
- Michael Parkinson and Mary Parkinson, 1983–1984, weekend programmes.
- Robert Kee, early presenter, 'Daybreak'.
- Lynda Berry, 1983–1984, reporter, Daybreak, Good Morning Britain.
- Commander David Philpott, Weather.
- Moya Doherty, reporter, presenter, After Nine.
- Gyles Brandreth, host 'Postbag'.
- Paul Reizin, reporter, host 'Pick Of The Week'. "Reizin's Horisons"
- Derek Jameson, newspaper reviewer.
- Eve Pollard, showbiz reporter.
- Martin Frizell, reporter, presenter.
- Charles Golding, contributor, host 'What's News?'.
- Jimmy Greaves, TV reviewer, presenter.
- Dr Hillary Jones, resident doctor, host 'After Nine'.
- Chris Tarrant, roving reporter and host.
- Jeni Barnett, host 'Pick Of The Week', 'Postbag'.
- James Baker, presenter, 'Wide Awake Club'. (Saturdays)
- Arabella Warner, presenter, 'Wide Awake Club'. (Saturdays)
- Tommy Boyd, presenter, 'Wide Awake Club'. (Saturdays)
- Timmy Mallett, presenter, 'Wacaday'. (School Holidays)
- Michaela Strachan, presenter, 'Wide Awake Club'. (Saturdays) 'Wacaday' (School Holidays)
- Dick King-Smith, presenter, 'Rub a Dub Dub' (Sundays)
- Leapman, Michael. Treachery: The Power Struggle at TV-am. Unwin Hyman 1984. ISBN 978-0-04-791041-8
- Maggie Brown (1992-12-31). "Anxious breakfast times ahead for TV-am's successor - UK - News". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Andy Fry (1999-01-01). "GMTV gets budget boost by rebate". Kidscreen.com. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
- Morning Glory - The History Of British Breakfast Television'
- Robins, Jane (2000-09-09). "Bruce Gyngell, pink-thinking TV pioneer, dies aged 71". London: Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
- Maggie Brown (1993-01-02). "Sense of injustice remains as TV-am signs off: Maggie Brown was the only outside journalist allowed in for the last show - UK - News". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- "Fire hits MTV studios". BBC News. 15 April 1999. Retrieved 26 May 2010.