2003 in British television

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List of years in British television (table)

This is a list of British television-related events from 2003.



  • 1 January – The Studio closes after nearly two years on air.
  • 2 January – BBC One airs Dot's Story, an EastEnders spin-off telling the story of Dot Branning's experiences as a wartime evacuee.[1]
  • 4 January – ITV1 airs the first live edition of Blind Date, on which presenter Cilla Black announces she is quitting the role after 18 years. Black later tells ITV bosses the programme should be shelved because of falling ratings, which have dropped from 17 million at its peak to 4 million.[2]
  • 6 January –
  • 11 January –
  • 13 January – ITV soap Crossroads is relaunched under the stewardship of producer Yvon Grace, and with a decidedly camp feel. However, Grace is criticised by fans for her ambivilence towards unresolved storylines from the 2001–2002 run.[6]
  • 15 January – Launch of Ftn and UK Bright Ideas.
  • 31 January – The Campaign Week website reports that TBWA have used characters from the 1970s children's television show Hector's House for an ad campaign relaunching Virgin One bank account as The One account. The campaign has been created on behalf of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which bought the name from Virgin and AMP in July 2001.[7]



  • 3 March – Five airs Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See, the "rebuttal video" issued in response to the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson. Having previously been aired on Sky One, this airing of the programme is watched by 2.4 million viewers, enjoying a 9.8% audience share.[23]
  • 7 March –
    • Singer George Michael makes his first appearance on BBC One's Top of the Pops in 17 years, with a cover of Don McLean's protest song "The Grave", but runs into conflict with the show's producers for an anti-war, anti-Blair T-shirt worn by some members of his band.[24]
    • EastEnders announces the casting of a new family, the Ferreiras, who will be the first Asian family to join the soap for a decade. They will move to Albert Square in the summer.[25]
  • 8 March – Debut of ITV1's Reborn in the USA, a reality show in which ten British pop acts of the 1980s and 1990s tour the United States in the hope of reviving their careers. Those participating in the series include Sonia Evans, Leee John, Michelle Gayle and Tony Hadley. The show has already prompted controversy after Mark Shaw of Then Jericho decided to quit the series shortly before it went on air.[26]
  • 9 March – Teletext's often surreal and acerbic games magazine, Digitiser is published for the final time after ten years on air. The magazine is replaced the following day by GameCentral, which features less of the humour favoured by its predecessor.
  • 10 March – Channel 4 is reprimanded by the Independent Television Commission for showing a documentary in which a Chinese artist appeared to eat a stillborn baby, which the watchdog felt demonstrated a "lack of respect for human dignity". Graham Norton is also criticised for his joke about the late Maurice Gibb.[27]
  • 11 March – The BBC ends the deal with Sky Digital under which BBC channels are carried exclusively by Sky, meaning that satellite viewers will be able to watch BBC content without a viewing card. The changes will take effect from 30 May.[28]
  • 12 March – ITV announce that Cat Deeley will take over as presenter of the junior version of Stars in Their Eyes because regular host Matthew Kelly will be busy touring as part of a stage production when the series is scheduled to be recorded.[29]
  • 14 March – Highlights of BBC One's 2003 Comic Relief fundraiser include Auf Wiedersehen, Pet – the Red Nose Special, and Rowan Atkinson and Lenny Henry in the spoof documentary Lying to Michael Jackson.[30]
  • 19 March – Procter & Gamble announces it is ending its Daz Doorstep Challenge advertising campaign after ten years, feeling it is "old fashioned". It will be replaced with the soap-opera style Cleaner Close.[31][32]
  • 20 March –
    • As the 2003 invasion of Iraq begins many broadcasters abandon regular programming to provide up to date coverage of unfolding events.
    • George McGhee is appointed as Controller of BBC Programme Acquisition, and will take up the position from early April.[33]
  • 22 March – ITN journalist Terry Lloyd is killed while covering the events of the Iraq War after he and his team of two cameramen and an interpreter are caught in crossfire during fighting near the Shatt Al Basra Bridge in Basra,[34] between US and Iraqi forces. His body and that of his Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, are recovered and it is later discovered they were both shot by United States forces.[35]
  • 26 March – BBC Defence Correspondent Paul Adams has criticises BBC News coverage of the Iraq war in a memo to bosses, describing the coverage as painting an untruthful picture.[36]
  • 30 March – Channel 4 News reporter Gaby Rado is found dead in Iraq, having apparently fallen from the roof of the Abu Sanaa hotel in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah. His death is believed to be unconnected to the ongoing military campaign in that country.[37]
  • 31 March – Carlton Cinema goes off air and is the last Carlton channel to close.[38]


  • 5 April – BBC Two launches The Big Read, a nationwide search for Britain's favourite book. The project is designed to encourage the nation to read, while people will be asked to vote for their favourite novel.[39][40]
  • 7 April – Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting seven weeks the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestant Charles Ingram, his wife Diana Ingram and Tecwen Whittock are convicted by a majority verdict of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception". The Ingrams are each given 18-month prison sentences suspended for two years, each fined £15,000, and each ordered to pay £10,000 towards prosecution costs.[41] This is later increased to a joint £65,000 fine, but following another hearing in 2004 this is reduced to £30,00 due to them having financial difficulties. Charles Ingram is declared bankrupt in December 2004.[42] Their quiz deception later becomes the subject of Quiz, a 2017 play written by James Graham.[43]
  • 8 April – Teenage singer Charlotte Church will guest present an edition of Have I Got News for You when the programme returns for a new series, the BBC confirms. At 17, she will become the youngest person to present the show. Other guest presenters in the forthcoming series, which begins on 25 April, will include Martin Clunes and William Hague.[44][45]
  • 20 April – Sky One airs the 300th episode of The Simpsons.[46]
  • 26 April – Former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley wins ITV1's Reborn in the USA.[47]
  • 29 April – The BBC rejects viewer complaints that its documentary, The Virgin Mary, which was aired shortly before Christmas 2002, had tried to undermine religious beliefs. Complaints about a gay kiss in Casualty that aired in January are also rejected.[48]


  • 2 May – The BBC announces that the character of Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) will return to EastEnders later this year, 14 years after departing in an episode where the character was believed to have died as a result of being shot.[49]
  • 10 May – The 2003 British Soap Awards (aired by ITV1 on 14 May) are presented in London by Des O'Connor and Melanie Sykes, during which actor Dean Sullivan is presented with a Special Achievement Award for his role as Jimmy Corkhill in Brookside.[50][51] In a press interview held after the event, Sullivan urges Channel 4 not to axe Brookside, saying it "would be mad" to do so.[52]
  • 11 May – The Observer reports that the BBC is to cut back on the number of self-promotional trailers following complaints from viewers and rival broadcasters. The newspaper also reports that the broadcasting of an ad for the BBC's digital service which featured a character from The Tweenies pulling off her face to reveal June Brown as Dot Cotton from EastEnders had to be put back to a later time slot because some viewers complained it was giving their children nightmares.[53]
  • 12 May – Former cricketer Phil Tufnell wins the second series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me out of Here!.[54]
  • 15 May – Kevin Kennedy is to leave Coronation Street in the autumn after playing Curly Watts for 20 years, it is reported. The character will be involved in a dramatic storyline about police brutality, and the door will be left open for him to return at a later date.[55]
  • 17 May – Following a public vote to find the UK's favourite book, the BBC's The Big Read reveals the top 100 in a special programme on BBC Two.[56][57]
  • 19 May – Bollywood actor Dalip Tahil, who will play the head of the Ferreira family in EastEnders, speaks out against criticism from British Asian actors who said the part should have gone to a UK-based actor.[58]
  • 20 May –
    • Steve Anderson, ITV's controller of news, announces plans to move News at Ten because the programme is losing out on viewers in the 10.00pm slot, where it goes head-to-head with the BBC Ten O'Clock News.[59]
    • During what is meant to be a commercial break, Friendly TV accidentally broadcasts a conversation between members of its News Hound team who make allegations about aspects of Nicole Kidman's private life.[60]
  • 21 May – Five announce a new chat show which it hopes will rival ITV1's This Morning. The Terry and Gaby Show, presented by Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin will debut on 2 June.[61]
  • 22 May – Prompted by their manager, four members of the pop group S Club storm out of an interview on BBC Three's Liquid News when presenter Claudia Winkleman asks them about their earnings.[62]
  • 24 May – Jemini, the UK's entry for the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest receives Britain's worst Eurovision result after failing to attract a single point.[63] The contest is won by Turkey's Sertab Erener with "Everyway That I Can".
  • 29 May – POP is launched.
  • 30 May – ITV1 broadcasts the final episode of Crossroads after the series was axed due to declining ratings. The finale sees hotel boss Angel Sampson (played by Jane Asher) waking up to find she is a supermarket checkout girl and that her tenure as boss of the Crossroads Hotel was all a dream.[64]
  • 31 May –
    • Laura Jenkins, performing as Connie Francis wins the second junior series of Stars in Their Eyes.[65]
    • Cilla Black presents the final edition of Blind Date, having announced her intention to quit the game show in January.[66] A change in the show's format was one of the factors in her decision to leave the show.[67]


  • 3 June – The Ferreiras make their EastEnders debut, becoming the first Asian family to join the soap since 1993 when Sanjay and Gita Kapoor arrived on screen.[68]
  • 4 June – It is reported that former Buck's Fizz singer Cheryl Baker suffered a fractured ankle in a skydiving accident the previous weekend while filming a new series, Drop the Celebrity for ITV.[69][70]
  • 5 June – ITV1 airs the final episode of Night and Day.[71]
  • 9 June – The Muslim Council of Britain has complained about a recent episode of Spooks that featured a mosque at which people are taught to be suicide bombers after Birmingham's Central Mosque was defaced following the episode's transmission. The BBC says it has received no evidence that the incident is linked to the programme.[72]
  • 10 June – Bruce Forsyth is confirmed as the host of the final episode of the latest series of Have I Got News for You. Since adopting its guest presenter format last year, the series has enjoyed a ratings boost, meaning the BBC has put plans to find a permanent replacement for Angus Deayton on hold.[73] The episode presented by Forsyth famously includes him playing a game of Play Your Iraqi Cards Right, a twist on the format of the game show presented by him, but using a pack of Iraqi playing cards instead of a traditional deck.[74]
  • 11 June –
  • 12 June – A storyline involving the Coronation Street character Todd Grimshaw, who rejected a place at Oxford University because his girlfriend said she would not follow him there, is criticised by the Sutton Trust, an organisation that encourages children from poorer backgrounds to apply to top universities. The Trust says it is disappointed as the storyline sends out the wrong message to children watching the soap. The issue also highlights the small number of soap characters who attend university.[76]
  • 19 June – Actress Laura Sadler, who plays Sandy Harper in Holby City, dies in hospital after she fell from a block of flats in west London a few days earlier. She sustained extensive head injuries as a result of the fall and had not regained consciousness.[77] A subsequent inquest held at West London Coroner's Court records a verdict of accidental death.[78]
  • 20 June – Final edition of Play Your Cards Right to air on ITV with Bruce Forsyth as presenter. This edition also marks the end of the final series of the game show to air on ITV. It has returned for one-off specials, presented by Ant & Dec on 15 October 2005, and Vernon Kay on 26 May 2007.[79]
  • 22 June – ITV1 announces that it has axed the Saturday night game show Blind Date.[80]
  • 25 June –
    • Channel 4 Director of Television Tim Gardam announces he will step down from the job after five years, departing at the end of the year.[81]
    • A viewer complaint about an edition of Channel 4's V Graham Norton in which Dustin Hoffman told a joke which included a taboo word is upheld by the Broadcasting Standards Commission. ITV's Tonight is also censured after airing an interview with a pregnant teenager which was perceived to have been of an exploitative nature because her predicament had largely come about because of a lack of knowledge.[82]
  • 28 June –
  • 29 June – ITV1's holiday series Wish You Were Here...? airs for the last time.


  • 2 July – Lawyers representing Michael Barrymore, who was dropped by London Weekend Television in September 2002 confirm he will take legal action against the broadcaster for unpaid salary. He has largely been absent from television since news concerning the death of a man during a party at his property broke in 2001, although a series of My Kind of Music aired in February 2002.[85]
  • 7 July – Mastermind returns to television for the first full series since 1997, with John Humphrys taking over the role of quizmaster.[86][87]
  • 8 July – The Independent Television Commission rejects complaints from the relatives of a victim of Dr. Harold Shipman that ITV's 2002 film about the serial killer was factually inaccurate. The Commission finds that although artistic licence was taken in some scenes, these had been "sympathetically presented", and were therefore not detrimental to the victim's family.[88]
  • 9 July – ITV1 drops two recently launched programmes from its primetime schedule because of poor ratings. The game show Judgement Day and comedy series Fortysomething, starring Hugh Laurie will air elsewhere in the schedule.[89]
  • 17 July –
    • The Communications Act 2003 receives Royal Assent.[90]
    • In its final annual report, the Broadcasting Standards Commission reveals that an episode of BBC spy drama Spooks in which a character's head is pushed into a vat of boiling oil was the most complained about television programme during the past year.[91]
    • Trevor Hyett steps down as editor of Five's The Terry and Gaby Show to work on other projects. His post will be taken over by the show's producer, James Winter. The programme has struggled in the ratings since its launch, but Five, which has commissioned 200 editions of the series, says it will not cancel the show.[92]
  • 18 July – Sky News reporter James Forlong resigns following allegations a story shown in March involving the Iraq conflict was faked.[93]
  • 20 July – The BBC confirms that Dr David Kelly, found dead from suspected suicide two days ago, was the main source for a controversial report that sparked a deep rift with the government.[94]
  • 25 July –
  • 28 July – Tabloid television station L!VE TV is relaunched on Sky Digital.[97]


  • 8 August – The BBC regains the broadcasting rights to show Premier League Football highlights from ITV after signing a three-year deal with the Premier League. The deal will take effect from the start of the 2004–05 season.[98]
  • 18 August – In an interview with Radio Times, presenter Noel Edmonds says that he is partly responsible for the decline in the standards of British television after his BBC One show, Noel's House Party, went downhill after budget cuts.[99]
  • 21 August – ITV announces that its Saturday morning children's entertainment series SMTV will end after five years because of falling ratings, and be replaced by a new series in early 2004.[100]
  • 27 August – The BBC defends its decision to spend £10 million on the broadcast rights for the first Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, saying that its rivals were unprepared to invest in family viewing at Christmas. The film is part of a ten film package agreed with Warner Bros.[101]
  • 29 August – Research by Human Capital indicate that Saturday night television is now the least watched evening of television in the UK, with Monday nights being the most popular.[102]


  • 2 September – Laura Sadler's final scenes as Holby City nurse Sandy Harper are screened on the BBC One drama. Her character's exit from the series, devised by her mother and the show's producers, sees Sandy secretly leaving the hospital for Australia after winning the lottery.[103]
  • 18 September – Peter Amory makes his final appearance as Chris Tate in Emmerdale after 14 years.
  • 19 September – Channel 4 confirms that its breakfast show RI:SE will finish in December, having been axed because of low ratings.[104]
  • 21 September – BBC One airs Perfectly Frank, an EastEnders spin-off episode featuring the character Frank Butcher establishing a nightclub in Somerset.[105][106][107]
  • 25 September – The Daily Telegraph newspaper is first to announce the return of popular sci-fi drama series Doctor Who after a 14-year break.[108]
  • 27 September – EastEnders is aired for the last time on BBC America. The programme was axed because of poor ratings that were losing the channel most of its viewers.[109]
  • 29 September –
    • Den Watts makes his return to EastEnders in an episode watched by 16 million viewers.[110]
    • EastEnders wins best soap at the Inside Soap Awards.


  • 2 October – ITV is given permission by the Independent Television Commission to move its 10.00pm news bulletin to 10.30pm. Since returning in 2001, News at Ten has aired on at least three nights a week, but analysts have noted that not having a fixed time for a weekday news bulletin is unsettling for viewers and advertisers. The ITC feels a regular news bulletin at 10.30pm will be in viewers' interests.[111]
  • 4 October – Alex Parks wins the second series of Fame Academy.[112]
  • 5 October –
  • 6 October – After BBC America axed EastEnders due to "abysmal ratings", almost 9,000 people have signed a petition calling on the channel to reinstate the show, BBC News reports.[115]
  • 8 October – Delivering the Bafta Annual Lecture, ITV's head of programming, Nigel Pickard says that he is prepared to "bite the bullet" and drop poorly performing programmes and ageing presenters from the schedule, stating that "the days when you can tuck something into a little corner of peak against Panorama and hope it grows an audience" have gone.[116]
  • 10 October – Just over a year after returning to EastEnders, Sid Owen, who plays Ricky Butcher in the soap, is to leave again, it is announced.[117]
  • 10 October–22 November – ITV airs coverage of the 2003 Rugby World Cup from Australia. England eventually emerge as champions after Jonny Wilkinson scores a dramatic last-minute drop goal against Australia.
  • 15 October –
    • BBC Two airs the documentary When Michael Portillo Became a Single Mum in which former Defence Secretary Michael Portillo assumes the mantle of Merseyside single mother Jenny Miner for a week.[118][119]
    • Plans are announced for the DVD release of Brookside: Unfinished Business, a film that will continue storylines from Channel 4's Brookside, which ends on 4 November. The DVD will be released two weeks later.[120]
  • 18 October – The UK's top 21 favourite books are revealed by the BBC's The Big Read. Celebrity advocates will put their case for each of the books over the coming weeks before the winner is decided.[121]
  • 20 October – Cheryl Tweedy is found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after claiming self-defence during her trial, but cleared of racially aggravated assault.[122] She is sentenced to 120 hours of community service and ordered to pay her victim £500 in compensation, as well as £3,000 prosecution costs.[123]
  • 22 October – Longtime broadcaster on the BBC and ITN, and latterly news anchor on Sky News, Bob Friend announces his retirement.[124]
  • 30 October –
    • ITV1 screens a special live episode of The Bill to mark the show's 20th year.[125]
    • The Broadcasting Standards Commission upholds 30 viewer complaints about comedian Jonathan Ross's use of the F-word during the live broadcast of Red Nose Day 2003. Although the word was used at 10.30 pm, after the watershed, the Commission felt it was likely children would still be watching.[126]


  • 3 November –
  • 4 November – Channel 4 airs the final episode of Brookside, ending a run of 21 years.[129] The episode is watched by two million viewers.[130]
  • 6 November – ITV confirms GMTV's Jenni Falconer as the main presenter of its new holiday series, How to Holiday. The programme, a replacement for Wish You Were Here...? will begin in early 2004.[131]
  • 11 November – BBC current affairs series Panorama, launched in 1953, becomes the first UK television show to reach its 50th anniversary on air.[132]
  • 12 November –
    • The BBC issues a statement in response to a newspaper report that actor Dalip Tahil faces being axed from EastEnders due to not having the correct work permit. The report in the previous Sunday's edition of The People had suggest that after Tahil joined the show from appearing in stage musical Bombay Dreams, neither he nor the BBC obtained proper authorisation from the Home Office to make the switch of employment legal.[133] The BBC says "We are considering any potential problems with a view to resolving them as soon as possible."[133]
    • UK Gold 2 is replaced by UK G2, a channel aimed at the 16–34 audience demographic.[134]
  • 14 November – The Office of Fair Trading gives Carlton and Granada the go-ahead to merge after the two companies agreed to adopt a new advertising sales system for ITV, and to protect the interests of the smaller companies in the network, including SMG plc and Ulster Television.[135]
  • 16 November – BBC Three airs the spoof documentary Sex, Lies and Michael Aspel which "unmasks" the mild mannered television presenter Michael Aspel as an international womaniser who fathered several children through a string of affairs.[136][137]
  • 21 November – BBC Three Controller Stuart Murphy confirms that the channel's entertainment news programme Liquid News will end in April 2004.[138]
  • 22 November – ITV's coverage of the Final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in which England beat Australia 20–17 is watched by more than 10 million viewers, a record figure for Saturday morning television.[139] End of year figures produced by BARB place it as the ninth most watched television programme of the year with 12.3 million viewers.[21]
  • 23 November – 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who.
  • 27 November – The BBC unveils a revamped version of its news channel in an attempt to make it appear more dynamic to viewers. Changes include a new studio set and redesigned branding and graphics.[140]
  • 28 November –
  • 29 November – Pop Idol judge Pete Waterman is deluged with unwanted phone calls after fellow judge Simon Cowell gives out his mobile phone number during an edition of ITV2's Pop Idol Extra. Cowell says he did it because Waterman revealed his home address on the previous weekend's show.[144]




Date Debut
6 January Kerching! begins on BBC One
8 January Politics Show begins on BBC One and Two
Daily Politics begins on BBC Two.
12 January This Week begins on BBC One.
4 February Posh Nosh premieres on BBC Two
18 May State of Play, a six-part serial, directed by David Yates and written by Paul Abbott, begins its run on BBC One, concluding on 22 June.
9 June Comedy Connections premieres on BBC One.
1 September Sergeant Stripes premieres on CBeebies.
11 September QI premieres on BBC Two.
16 September Little Britain premieres on BBC One.
11 November Rich Hall's Fishing Show premieres on BBC Four.


Date Debut
11 January Netherlands Miffy and Friends
19 January Diggin' It replaces Diggit
The Royal, a spin-off Heartbeat
3 May MIT: Murder Investigation Team, a spin-off of The Bill
15 November Junior Eurovision Song Contest

Channel 4[edit]

Date Debut
12 January The Salon
21 May How Clean Is Your House?
19 September Peep Show
Born to Be Different


Date Debut
6 January Japan Beyblade
14 April 99 Things to Do Before You Die (until 2 June)
2 September At Home with the Eubanks (until 28 October)
10 November 19 Keys (until 5 December)

Television shows[edit]

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

22 February – After Dark returns to British television on BBC4 (last on Channel 4 in 1997)
16 October – Superstars returns to BBC One (1973–1985, 2003–2005)

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Show Moved from Moved to
Robot Wars BBC Two Five
Don't Try This at Home ITV Challenge
Thomas & Friends Cartoon Network ITV
United States The Flintstones BBC One
Canada What About Mimi? Sky1
Canada/Germany/Sweden Pippi Longstocking Channel 4 Pop


New channels[edit]

Date Channel
15 January Ftn
UK Bright Ideas
9 February BBC Three
29 May Toon and Tunes
8 September Toonami
Pop Plus
16 December VH2

Defunct channels[edit]

Date Channel
9 February BBC Choice
31 March Carlton Cinema
8 September CNX

Rebranded channels[edit]

Date Old Name New Name
1 June Toon and Tunes Pop



  • BBC Wimbledon (1927–present)







Ending this year[edit]



Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
9 January Peter Tinniswood[172] 66 radio and TV comedy scriptwriter, and author
13 January Elisabeth Croft[173] 95 actor (Edith Tatum in ATV soap Crossroads)
11 March Kevin Laffan 80 writer and author (creator of Emmerdale)
15 March Thora Hird[174] 91 actress (Edie Pegden in Last of the Summer Wine)
22 March Terry Lloyd 50 news reporter, killed during Iraq War skirmish
30 March Gaby Rado 48 news reporter, killed during Iraq War
16 April Danny O'Dea 91 actor (Eli Duckett in Last of the Summer Wine)
19 June Laura Sadler[77] 22 actress (Sandy Harper in Holby City)
24 August Kent Walton[175] 86 television sports commentator and presenter
11 September Stuart Golland 58 actor (George Ward in Heartbeat)
23 September Sarah Parkinson[176] 41 producer and writer of radio and television programmes
23 October Tony Capstick[177] 59 comedian and actor
8 November Bob Grant[178] 71 actor (Jack Harper in On the Buses)
22 December Rose Hill[179] 89 actress (Madame Fanny La Fan in 'Allo 'Allo!)
29 December Bob Monkhouse[180] 75 comedian and entertainer (The Golden Shot, Celebrity Squares, Family Fortunes, Bob's Full House, Wipeout)

See also[edit]


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