1989 in British television

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List of years in British television (table)

This is a list of British television related events from 1989.


  • 8 January – Original airdate of the Only Fools and Horses episode Yuppy Love during which Del Boy falls through a bar. A 2006 poll named the scene the most popular of the entire programme, while it was also named 7th Greatest Television Moment of all time in a 1999 Channel 4 poll.
  • 16 January –
  • February – Anglia and Central Television reschedule Emmerdale Farm to 19:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • 5 February – The world's first commercial DBS system, Sky Television, goes on air.
  • 11 February – Australian soap Home and Away makes its British television debut on ITV.
  • 14 February – Debut of Channel 4's Out on Tuesday, the UK's first weekly magazine programme for gay and lesbian viewers. Later changing its name to Out, the programme aired for four series before being axed in 1992.[1]
  • 23 February – Some 23 million viewers tune in to watch the exit of the hugely popular character Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) from EastEnders. Grantham filmed his final scenes in the show in the autumn of 1988 but his exit was delayed into 1989 to avoid the show suffering the double blow of losing Den so soon after his former wife Angie (Anita Dobson) exited in April 1988. The character falls into a canal after being shot, but the character's exact fate is left unconfirmed.
  • 25 February – The long-awaited WBA Heavyweight title fight between Britain's Frank Bruno and America's Mike Tyson is held at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Because of the time difference between Britain and the United States, the fight is televised in the UK in the early hours of 26 February. Tyson wins after the referee stops the bout in the fifth round.[2]
  • 2 March – After much publicity, a two-minute advert for Pepsi featuring Madonna's single Like a Prayer is shown during a commercial break on ITV, 12 minutes into The Bill.
  • 15 March – BBC1 airs John's Not Mad,[3] an edition of the QED documentary strand that shadowed John Davidson, a 15-year-old from Galashiels in Scotland, with severe Tourette syndrome. The film explores John's life in terms of his family and the close-knit community around him, and how they all cope with a misunderstood condition.
  • 3 April – Channel 4 launches its breakfast television show The Channel Four Daily. The programme is based heavily on news and current affairs, with segments focusing on sports, finance, lifestyles, arts and entertainment, and discussion. It is axed in 1992 after failing to gain enough viewers and was subsequently replaced by The Big Breakfast.
  • 15 April – The date of the Hillsborough Disaster. BBC Television's cameras are at the Hillsborough ground to record the FA Cup semi-final clash between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest for their Match of the Day programme, but as the disaster unfolds the events are relayed to their live sports show, Grandstand, resulting in an extreme emotional impact on the general British population.
  • 20 April – John Leslie becomes the first Scottish presenter of Blue Peter.[4]
  • 24 April – The BBC's Ceefax teletext only runs as a partial service due to a strike by broadcasting unions.
  • 2 May – ITV airs an edition of the First Tuesday documentary strand investigating the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. Four Hours in My Lai is later shown in the United States as part of the Frontline series with the title Remember My Lai.[5]
  • 26 May –
  • 22 June – John Craven signs off for the last time on the children's news programme John Craven's Newsround. The show continues under the name Newsround.
  • 13 July – Robin Day chairs his last edition of Question Time after ten years as the show's presenter.
  • 19 July – The BBC programme Panorama accuses Shirley Porter, Conservative Leader of Westminster City Council, of gerrymandering.
  • 30 July – Sky Channel is rebranded as Sky One, and confines its broadcasting to Britain and Ireland.
  • 25 August – Rupert Murdoch delivers the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in which he launches an attack on the narrow elitism within the British television industry.[7]
  • 27 August – Launch date of the first Marcopolo Satellite, which will serve as a platform for British Satellite Broadcasting.
  • 28 August–3 September – BBC1 airs News '39, a week of news-style programmes presented by Sue Lawley, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II. Each edition is presented in news bulletin format, reporting on events as if they were occurring in the present.
  • 1 September – The first ITV generic look is introduced.
  • 13 September – The BBC is accused of censorship after banning an interview with Simon Hayward, a former Captain of the Life Guards who spent several years in a Swedish prison after a drug smuggling conviction, just hours before he is due to appear on the Wogan show. The decision, taken by BBC1 Controller Jonathan Powell followed protests from several MPs. The BBC says the subject is not appropriate for a family programme, but will be discussed on other shows.[8]
  • 14 September – Peter Sissons takes over as presenter of Question Time as the series returns after its summer break.
  • 15 September – The ITV national weather bulletin is launched.
  • 2 October –
    • Launch of RTL Veronique, a Dutch private commercial television station broadcasting from Luxembourg. The channel aired to Europe via the Astra Satellite, and attracted attention in its early days due to its late night line up of erotic programmes. The station changed its name to RTL 4 in 1991.[9]
    • The BBC breakfast programme Breakfast Time is relaunched as Breakfast News.
  • 4 October – Jeremy Paxman makes his first appearance as presenter of BBC2's Newsnight.
  • 20 October – ITV introduces a third weekly episode of Coronation Street which airs on Fridays at 7:30pm.
  • 1 November – ITV air One Day in the Life of Television, a documentary filmed by 50 camera crews looking behind-the-scenes of British television on 1 November 1988.[10]
  • 2 November – The Final Episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, "Goodbyeee" is broadcast on BBC1. With one of the most moving endings ever seen on British television, it is broadcast nine days before Armistice Day.
  • 9 November – The Last Episode of Emmerdale Farm.
  • 14 November – Yorkshire Television soap Emmerdale Farm changes its name to Emmerdale after 17 years.
  • 19 November–26 November – Prince Caspian becomes the second Narnia book to be aired as a television serial by the BBC in two parts.
  • 21 November – Television coverage of proceedings in the House of Commons begins.
  • 3 December–24 December – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, another Narnia story, is aired as a four-part serial by the BBC.
  • 6 December – The last episode of the 26-year original run of Doctor Who, Part 3 of Survival, is broadcast on BBC1. This also marks the end of Sylvester McCoy's era as the Seventh Doctor.
  • 8 December – Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) is fatally run over by a Blackpool tram on Coronation Street, getting the programme's biggest ever audience at almost 27 million viewers, a record that remains to this day.
  • 24 December – ITV airs the original television film adaptation of Susan Hill's novella The Woman in Black.
  • 29 December – Deirdre Barlow confronts her husband Ken on Coronation Street before throwing him out, ending their decade-long television marriage.
  • December – The controversial Broadcasting Bill is introduced into Parliament by the Government. It will pave the way for the deregulation of commercial television.[11]
  • December – A hearing at the Appeal Court upholds the broadcasting ban.[12]





Channel 4[edit]

Television shows[edit]

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Shows Moved from Moved to
Camberwick Green BBC1 Channel 4

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






Ending this year[edit]




  1. ^ Paul Burston; Paul Burston Nfa; Colin Richardson (26 July 2005). A Queer Romance: Lesbians, Gay Men and Popular Culture. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-134-86482-9. 
  2. ^ INM (23 February 2009). "David Ashdown's Classic Sports Picture Diary: Frank Bruno v Mike Tyson 1989". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 10 April 2009. 
  3. ^ John's Not Mad at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ "I Love Blue Peter – John Leslie". BBC Online. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  5. ^ "First Tuesday: Four Hours in My Lai". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  6. ^ "London Broadcasting Ban On Ulster Militants Upheld". The New York Times (The New York Times Companye). 27 May 1989. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Shaps, Simon (24 August 2009). "Rupert predicted the future but will James be such a visionary?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2009-09-04. Retrieved 29 August 2009. 
  8. ^ "Hayward banned from Wogan show". The Herald (Newsquest). 14 September 1989. p. 1. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "Dutch Channels | RTL 4". TVARK. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Jane Harbor & Jeff Wright (1992). 40 Years of British Television. London: Boxtree. p. 111. ISBN 1-85283-409-9. 
  11. ^ "The Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  12. ^ "Broadcast ban". The Law Gazette (The Law Society of England and Wales). 10 January 1990. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "The Eighties". BFI. Retrieved 2009-10-30.