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.



  • 5 January – The first episode of Channel 4's comedy series Desmonds is shown.
  • 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 –
  • 20 January – BBC2 airs live coverage of the inauguration of George Bush as the 41st President of the United States.[3]
  • 22 January – ITV launches an omnibus edition of Coronation Street, which airs on Sunday afternoons. But the repeat is not stranded across the network, with different regions airing it at different times. Some regions, including Central Television, later move the episode to a Saturday afternoon slot, and the omnibus is dropped in some areas from September 1990.


  • 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.
  • 12 February – ITV launches its Find a Family campaign to find permanent homes for youngsters in care.
  • 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.[4]
  • 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.[5]


  • 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.
  • 6 March – Debut of the three-part ITV drama Winners and Losers starring Leslie Grantham; the series is Grantham's first post-EastEnders role.
  • 10 March – On the second Red Nose Day, BBC1 airs the eight hour telethon, A Night of Comic Relief 2.[6]
  • 15 March – BBC1 airs John's Not Mad,[7] 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.[8]





  • 10 July –
    • The first edition of the music magazine programme The O-Zone airs on BBC1.[13]
    • ITV introduces a second daily showing of Home and Away.
  • 12 July – A special edition of Question Time from Paris, France, is the last to be chaired by Robin Day. Panellists on the programme are |Leon Brittan, Chantal Cuer, Denis Healey and Yvette Roudy.[14]
  • 19 July – The BBC programme Panorama accuses Shirley Porter, Conservative Leader of Westminster City Council, of gerrymandering.
  • 25 July – ITV airs "Don't Like Mondays", an episode of The Bill featuring a storyline in which several characters are caught up in a bank robbery. The episode sees the exit of PC Pete Ramsey (played by Nick Reding), who is shot in the chest by one of the robbers while protecting a colleague. The fate of the character is left unresolved.
  • 30 July – Sky Channel is rebranded as Sky One, and confines its broadcasting to Britain and Ireland.



  • 1 September – The first ITV generic look is introduced.
  • 10 September – BBC1 debuts Screen One, an anthology of one off dramas. The first film is One Way Out, directed by Mick Ford, and starring Bob Peck, Denis Lawson, Samantha Bond and Enn Reitel.[16]
  • 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.[17]
  • 14 September – Peter Sissons takes over as presenter of Question Time as the series returns after its summer break.[18]
  • 15 September – The ITV national weather bulletin is launched.
  • 25 September – BBC2 airs The Interrogation of John, Malcolm McKay's 1987 screenplay, starring Dennis Quilley, Bill Paterson and Michael Fitzgerald. The film, about the police questioning of a murder suspect and first shown in 1987, now forms the first of a three-part series titled A Wanted Man, which further develops the story. The second part of the trilogy, The Secret, airs on 27 September, while Shoreland concludes the series on 28 September.[19][20][21]
  • 26 September – Debut of Capital City, a series about investment bankers produced by Euston Film for Thames Television. Thames spend an estimated £500,000 to run newspaper and billboard advertisements to promote the series' launch, believed at the time to be the largest advertising spend for a program in the history of ITV. Full-page advertisements are taken in six national newspapers including The Financial Times, The Times and The Independent, promoting Shane-Longman, the fictitious company of the series, and featuring images of cast members in character.[22]



  • 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.[24]
  • 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.
  • 22 November – The Stone Roses are invited to appear on BBC2's The Late Show. During their performance the electricity is cut off by noise limiting circuitry, prompting singer Ian Brown to shout "Amateurs, amateurs" as presenter Tracey MacLeod tries to link into the next item.
  • 25 November – Helen Sharman is selected as the first Britain to travel into space in a live programme aired by ITV. She was one of 13,000 people to apply for the chance to become an astronaut after responding to a radio advertisement, and journeys to the Mir space station in 1991.[25]






Channel 4[edit]


New channels[edit]

Date Channel
5 February Sky News, Sky Movies, Eurosport
1 April Discovery Channel Europe

Defunct channels[edit]

Date Channel
July Premiere (TV channel)

Rebranded channels[edit]

Date Old Name New Name
31 July Sky Channel Sky One

Television shows[edit]

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Shows Moved from Moved to
Camberwick Green BBC1 Channel 4
Captain Pugwash
Mary Mungo & Midge
The Adventures of Sir Prancelot

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






Ending this year[edit]



Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
21 February Robert Dorning 75 musician and actor
12 April Gerald Flood 61 actor
1 July Joan Cooper 66 actress
4 July Jack Haig 76 actor ('Allo 'Allo!, Crossroads)
11 July Laurence Olivier 82 actor, director, producer and narrator of the landmark documentary series The World at War
4 October Graham Chapman 48 comedian, actor, writer, physician and one of the six members of the Monty Python comedy troupe


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  2. ^ "BBC Two England – 16 January 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "US Presidential Inauguration – BBC Two England – 20 January 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "A Night of Comic Relief 2 – BBC One London – 10 March 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  7. ^ John's Not Mad at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "Q.E.D. – BBC One London – 15 March 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "I Love Blue Peter – John Leslie". BBC Online. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  10. ^ "First Tuesday: Four Hours in My Lai". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  11. ^ "London Broadcasting Ban On Ulster Militants Upheld". The New York Times. The New York Times Companye. 27 May 1989. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Question Time – BBC One London – 22 June 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  13. ^ "BBC One London – 10 July 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  14. ^ "Question Time from Paris – BBC One London – 12 July 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ "Screen One: One Way Out – BBC One London – 10 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  17. ^ "Hayward banned from Wogan show". The Herald. Newsquest. 14 September 1989. p. 1. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Conference Question Time – BBC One London – 14 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  19. ^ "A Wanted Man – BBC Two England – 25 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  20. ^ "A Wanted Man – BBC Two England – 27 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  21. ^ "A Wanted Man – BBC Two England – 28 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  22. ^ Cochrane, Hugh (4 October 1989). "A great gamble as the full-page ads run on". The Glasgow Herald. Glasgow: Herald and Times Group. 
  23. ^ "Dutch Channels | RTL 4". TVARK. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
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  25. ^ "Meet the first Briton in space: Helen Sharman". ITV News West Country. ITV. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2015. 
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  27. ^ "BBC One London – 25 December 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  28. ^ "The Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  29. ^ "Broadcast ban". The Law Gazette. The Law Society of England and Wales. 10 January 1990. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  30. ^ "The Eighties". BFI. Retrieved 2009-10-30.