1997 in British television

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List of years in British television (table)

This is a list of British television related events from 1997.



  • 1 January –
    • New Year's Day highlights on BBC1 include a TV film adaptation of The Mill on the Floss, and Global Sunrise, an 80-minute film presented by Julian Pettifer, and the culmination of a project that saw camera crews at twenty locations around the world on 1 January 1996, recording the rising sun through six continents and all time zones.[1]
    • ITV introduces a third weekly episode of Emmerdale.
  • 2 January – Test transmissions begin for Channel 5 in some areas. Details of these are made available on Ceefax page 698 for a few weeks.[2]
  • 6 January – Channel 4 closes down for the last time with 24-hour transmissions commencing at 6 am the following day. Consequently, after nearly 14 years of transmissions, 4-Tel On View comes to an end.
  • 7 January – Carlton Television presents Monarchy: The Nation Decides, a live studio debate discussing the future of the monarchy in the United Kingdom. The debate quickly descends into a shouting match, while viewers are encouraged to vote on the issue in what is the UK's largest television phone poll. However, Carlton is forced to extend the deadline for calls following complaints from people unable to get through. Of the 2.6million callers who vote, 66% are in favour of retaining a monarch while 34% are against.[3]
  • 8 January – The first episode of the BBC's serialised children's programme The Wild House begins on BBC One.[4]
  • 9 January – The Sun newspaper reports that BT have released an advert featuring Letitia Dean and nine other former EastEnders actors to promote its Friends and Family promotion despite the BBC threatening them with legal action.[5] The BBC subsequently withdraws its threat to sue after BT pays it an undisclosed five-figure amount.[6]
  • 14 January – Viewing figures released for 1996 indicate BBC1 and BBC2 as the only terrestrial channels to increase their audience share during the year.[7]
  • 31 January –


  • 3 February –
    • Trouble launches, broadcasting programming aimed at teenagers and young adults, and Bravo changes its identity.
    • The Family Channel relaunches as a gameshow channel called Challenge TV although Family Late continues to broadcast as an overnight programming block.
  • 5 February – The first Wednesday edition of the National Lottery is aired with the introduction of a second weekly draw.[11]
  • 9 February – The live final of the 1997 Masters is interrupted by snooker's first ever streaker, 22-year-old secretary Lianne Crofts, who invaded the playing area at the beginning of the third frame. After stewards removed her from the arena, Ronnie O'Sullivan amused the crowd by comically wiping the brow of veteran referee John Street, who was refereeing his final match of his career.[12][13][14]
  • 12 February – Channel 5 releases details of its programme scheduling. It will introduce the concept of stripping and stranding to British television, stripping being where a programme is shown at the same time each day, and stranding being where similar programmes are shown at the same time each day.[15] A full schedule is published on 18 February.[16]
  • 14 February – Cable exclusive channel Carlton Select replaces SelecTV, which it acquired when Carlton bought Pearson Television.
  • 19 February – Ceefax ceases to provide information on Channel 5 test transmissions.[17]
  • 28 February – The BBC sells its transmitters and transmission services to Castle Transmission Services for £244 million, to help fund its plans for the digital age.


  • March – The BBC and Flextech agree on a deal to provide BBC-branded channels – BBC Showcase, for entertainment; BBC Horizon, for documentaries; BBC Style, for lifestyle; BBC Learning, for schools, and BBC Arena, for the arts – plus three other channels: BBC Catch-Up, for repeats of popular programmes within days of their original transmission, a dedicated BBC Sport channel and a TV version of Radio 1.[18]
  • 3 March – Dave Spikey becomes the sixth host of the final series of ITV weekday morning game show Chain Letters on the same year as its 10th anniversary.
  • 8 March – ITV takes over the UK television rights to Formula One, after 18 years of coverage on the BBC. It shows full coverage of qualifying as well as the race itself, something that BBC generally did not do.
  • 14 March – Among the highlights of this year's Comic Relief telethon is Prime Cracker, a short spoof crossover of ITV stablemate crime dramas Prime Suspect and Cracker, starring Helen Mirren and Robbie Coltrane as their respective characters.[19]
  • 21 March – Campaign magazine reports that the BBC and Flextech have ratified their joint venture. They will create two new operational ventures—one that will develop and launch subscription channels in the UK and Ireland, and one that will acquire and run UK Gold.[20]
  • 22 March – First screening of the BBC television science documentary The Language Master, in which language teacher Michel Thomas taught French to sixth form students for five days at a further education college in London .[21] As a result of the interest generated by this documentary, UK publisher Hodder and Stoughton commissioned Thomas to produce commercial versions of his courses.[22]
  • 25 March – ITV's Network First strand presents a groundbreaking documentary about Edinburgh's Royal Blind School, a boarding school for visually impaired students.[23]
  • 30 March –
  • 31 March –


  • 1 April –
    • At 4:40 am, Channel 5 begins a rerun of the Australian soap Prisoner: Cell Block H. This is the series' first networked screening in the UK as, during its earlier run on ITV, scheduling of the programme had varied from region to region.
    • Quincy, another series previously shown on ITV, begins airing on BBC1 as part of the network's daytime schedule.[30]
  • 3 April –
    • BBC1 airs Episode 2710 of Neighbours in which the character Cheryl Stark (played by Caroline Gillmer) is killed off when she is hit by a vehicle while trying to cross a road to save her daughter. Scenes involving the accident are censored by the BBC before the episode is broadcast. Five seconds of the episode had also been cut before its transmission in Australia in September 1996.[31][32]
    • Postman Pat returns with another series of 13 episodes on BBC One copyrighted from the previous year. Two special episodes were aired two and a half years prior making another 15 episodes in total.[33]
  • 5 April – The 1997 Grand National is delayed after a suspected IRA bomb threat.[34] The race is run on Monday 7 April at 5:00 pm.[35] It is the last of 50 Nationals (including the void race of 1993) to be commentated on by Peter O'Sullevan.
  • 5–6 April – BBC1 airs a two-part adaptation of The Ice House, the debut novel of crime writer Minette Walters. The series stars Daniel Craig, Corin Redgrave, Kitty Aldridge, and Frances Barber.[36][37]
  • 6 April – Channel 5 airs the British television premiere of Mrs. Doubtfire.[38]
  • 8 April – BBC journalist Martin Bell announces that he is to stand as a candidate against Neil Hamilton in the Tatton constituency on an anti-corruption platform.[39]
  • 9 April – BBC1 broadcasts American Canadian children's animated series Arthur for the first time in the UK.
  • 12 April – Final edition of ITV's stunt-based game show You Bet!.[28]
  • 15 April – Bookmark's documentary film The Thomas the Tank Engine Man airs on BBC2 once again as a tribute to the author and creator of The Railway Series and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends The Rev. W. Awdry who died in his home in Stroud, Gloucestershire after being bedridden and suffering from deteriorating health problems on 21 March of that year.
  • 16 April – The Movie Premiere of The Fugitive on ITV starring Harrison Ford.
  • 25 April – The final edition of ITV's daytime quiz show Chain Letters is aired after 10 years of broadcast.
  • 27 April – The BBC confirms comedy duo Hale and Pace have signed a £1million two-year deal that will see them move from ITV.[40]
  • April – TLC is renamed Discovery Home & Leisure.[41]


  • 1 May – UK General Election night: for the first time, the brothers David Dimbleby and Jonathan Dimbleby anchor rival results programmes on BBC 1 and ITV respectively. The same arrangement will occur for the general elections in 2001 and 2005.
  • 2 May – BBC1 airs Falling Down, a 1992 action thriller starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall and Barbara Hershey.[42]
  • 3 May – Katrina and the Waves win the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Love Shine a Light", the first time the UK has won the competition since 1981.
  • 13 May – Jeremy Paxman speaks to Michael Howard on Newsnight, and the interview becomes the programme's most notorious. Howard, who had been Home Secretary until thirteen days earlier, had held a meeting with Derek Lewis, head of the Prison Service, about the possible dismissal of the governor of Parkhurst Prison, John Marriott. Howard, having given evasive answers, was asked by Paxman the same question – "Did you threaten to overrule him [Lewis]?"  – a total of twelve times in succession (14 if the first two inquiries worded somewhat differently and some time before the succession of 12 are included). Howard did not give a direct answer, instead repeatedly saying that he "did not overrule him", and ignoring the "threaten" part of the question.[43][44][45] Howard finally answered Paxman's question on his final edition of Newsnight in 2014, saying "No Jeremy, I didn't. But feel free to ask another eleven times."[46]
  • 21 May – Serena Martin wins the 1997 series of Junior MasterChef.
  • 23 May – Channel 4 quiz show Countdown celebrates its 2000th edition.[47]
  • 24–26 May – Channel 4 dedicates the Spring Bank Holiday weekend to sitcoms. It features classic episodes, 1970s Spin-off films, and documentaries about the genre's appeal.
  • 26 May – BBC1 airs the documentary Lenny's Big Amazon Adventure, which sees Lenny Henry travel to Peru with survival expert Lofty Wiseman.[48]
  • 31 May –
    • Michael Grade steps down from the role of Chief Executive of Channel 4. He is succeeded by Michael Jackson, who takes over the following day.[49]
    • Channel 5 airs its first international football coverage, a match between England and Poland. The channel experiments with a new presenting format which attempts to recreate the atmosphere of a bar, with presenters providing coverage against the backdrop of chatter from an invited audience. The format draws criticism, with The Independent's Glenn Moore describing it as a "shambles"[50] However, the coverage gives the channel its largest audience so far, with a viewership of five million.[51]



  • 3 July – Peter Snow presents Newsnight for the last time, though he will continue to make occasional appearances as a political analyst until 2005.
  • 4 July – The Battersby family, described by media as a "family from hell", make their debut in Coronation Street.[57]
  • 5 July – ITV screens the comedy pilot The Grimleys. A full series begins in 1999 and airs for three series until 2001.
  • 25 July – Channel 5 announces plans to run an advertising campaign on ITV in order to attract more viewers.[58]
  • 26 July – Midlands Today presenter Alan Towers announces live on air that he is leaving the programme after 25 years in broadcast journalism, describing BBC bosses as "pygmies in grey suits wearing blindfolds".[59]


  • 3 August – Julie Friend wins the 1997 series of MasterChef.
  • 8 August – Popular children's animated series Postman Pat has been snapped up by Premiere 12 for broadcasting transmissions in Singapore.
  • 26 August – It is reported that former Grandstand presenter Helen Rollason has been diagnosed with cancer and will undergo emergency surgery.[60]
  • 31 August –
    • Sky 2 and Granada Talk TV both cease broadcasting.
    • BBC1 continues to air through the whole night, simulcasting with BBC World News, to bring news updates of Diana, Princess of Wales's car accident. At 6am, a rolling news programme, anchored by Martyn Lewis and from 1pm by Peter Sissons, is shown on both BBC1 and BBC2 until BBC2 breaks away at 3pm to provide alternative programming. BBC1 continues to provide coverage until closedown when it once again hands over to BBC World. ITV's unbroken news coverage of the tragedy lasts until well into the evening; the first scheduled program being aired on that channel is Coronation Street. In the days following her death, regular programming is abandoned in order to allow for coverage of events.


  • 1 September –
    • National Geographic Channel is launched.
    • Channel 5's The Jack Docherty Show returns after the summer break with a relaunch, which includes new music and titles. The Friday edition is also dropped at Docherty's suggestion, ending the original five-nights-a-week format.[61]
  • 5 September –
    • Queen Elizabeth II addresses the nation with a special broadcast in which she pays tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, only the second time she has made a special broadcast to the nation. The address is broadcast live at 6pm, ahead of the early evening news broadcasts.[62][63]
    • The former ITV game show Name That Tune returns for a new series on Channel 5, where it is presented by Jools Holland.[64]
  • 6 September – The live broadcast of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales is watched by 2.5 billion viewers worldwide.[65] The ceremony's footage goes down in the Guinness World Records as the biggest TV audience for a live broadcast.[66] In the UK, 32.10 million viewers watch the broadcast. It is the UK's second most-watched broadcast of all time, behind 1966's World Cup final.[67][deprecated source]
  • 9 September – ITV broadcasts the movie premiere of A Perfect World.
  • 10 September – BBC Two begins airing the six-part documentary series The Nazis: A Warning from History which examines the rise and fall of the Nazi Party in Germany.[68] The final part is aired on 15 October.[69]
  • 14 September – Gumby: The Movie is broadcast on The Disney Channel, marking the only time Gumby is aired in the UK.
  • 16 September –
    • The BBC announces a radical shake-up of news and current affairs programming that will see radio and television news services produced by the same production teams.
    • BBC One airs the documentary series Holiday Memories in which presenter Esther Rantzen re-visits Zimbabwe with her daughter.[70] Rantzen became severely ill after filming the episode and was subsequently diagnosed with Giardiasis. She is absent from her BBC Two afternoon talk show Esther for several months while recovering from the condition, returning to television in early 1998.[71]
  • 20 September – First appearance of the BBC promotional film featuring a version of Lou Reed's 1972 song Perfect Day performed by various artists including David Bowie, Bono, Brett Anderson and Laurie Anderson. Due to its popularity the version is released as a single on 17 November, with sales benefiting Children in Need.[72] The song ultimately spends three weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart, and raises £2,125,000 for Children in Need. By November 2016 it has sold 1.54 million copies, despite not being available for download.[73][74]
  • 22–25 September – BBC 1 soap EastEnders airs a series of episodes from Ireland which attract criticism from viewers and the Irish embassy because of their negative and stereotypical portrayal of Irish people. The BBC later issues an apology for any offence the episodes caused.[75][76]
  • 29 September – BBC One airs two brand new animated programmes for children Enid Blyton's Enchanted Lands (based on the book series The Faraway Tree by renowned children's author Enid Blyton) and Noah's Island (made by Telemagination, the company behind The Animals of Farthing Wood). Both of the series first aired in Ireland, prior to airing in their homeland.


  • 3 October – The 'Virtual Globe' ident is seen for the final time on BBC One after six years in use. The BBC logo changes from parallelogram to square.
  • 4 October – BBC One adopts new "hot air balloon" globe identifications to coincide with the introduction of the network's new corporate logo. See BBC One 'Balloon' idents. Also, new idents feature on BBC Two alongside existing one's first seen in 1991 with the new logo.
  • 16 October – Emmerdale celebrates its 25th Anniversary.
  • 19 October –
  • 27 October – UK Living changes its name to Living TV, to distance itself from the forthcoming UKTV network.
  • 30 October – BBC One airs Clive Anderson's infamous interview with the Bee Gees which ends with them storming out of the studio. Anderson repeatedly jokes about their life and career throughout the interview, but they decide to leave after he refers to them as "tossers".[78]
  • 31 October – Queen Elizabeth II opens a £5.5 million interactive visitors' centre, the BBC Experience at Broadcasting House. The venture proved to be loss-making for the Corporation and was closed in 2001.







BBC News 24[edit]


Channel 4[edit]


Channel 5[edit]

Disney Channel UK[edit]

Sky 1/One[edit]

Paramount Comedy Channel[edit]

Sci-Fi Channel[edit]

Nickelodeon UK[edit]

Cartoon Network UK[edit]

Challenge TV[edit]


New channels[edit]

Date Channel
3 February Trouble
30 March Channel 5
1 September National Geographic Channel
1 November UK Arena
UK Horizons
UK Style
9 November BBC News 24
22 November Rapture TV

Defunct channels[edit]

Date Channel
31 August Granada Talk TV
Sky 2 (original)

Rebranded channels[edit]

Date Old Name New Name
3 February The Family Channel Challenge TV
14 February SelecTV Carlton Select
April TLC Discovery Home & Leisure
4 October BBC1 BBC One
1 November Sky 1 Sky One
Sky Movies Sky Movies Screen 1
The Movie Channel Sky Movies Screen 2

Television shows[edit]

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Shows Moved from Moved to
Sale of the Century ITV Challenge
United States Sabrina the Teenage Witch Nickelodeon
Paddington Channel 4 ITV
Blockbusters Sky1 BBC Two
United Kingdom/France Oscar's Orchestra The Children's Channel Nickelodeon
Australia The Adventures of Blinky Bill Cartoon Network
The Prince of Atlantis BBC One The Children's Channel
United Kingdom/France Romuald the Reindeer
Danger Mouse Family Channel
Canada Stickin' Around Nickelodeon Channel 5

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


  • BBC Wimbledon (1927–present)


  • BBC Cricket (1939–1999, 2020–2024)







Ending this year[edit]



Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
11 January Jill Summers 86 actress (Coronation Street)
3 May Hughie Green 77 television presenter (Opportunity Knocks)
19 June Julia Smith 70 television director and producer
26 June Charlie Chester 83 stand-up comedian and TV and radio presenter
24 July Brian Glover 63 actor
12 September Leonard Maguire 73
5 October Debbie Linden 36 actress
6 October Adrienne Hill 60

See also[edit]


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