TV-am was the first company to have the ITV breakfast franchise. Although the history of politics of what happened at TV-am over the years is fascinating, this piece is more going to be about the presentation of the channel and my memories of watching. (Also, because I never tracked down any TV-am clips on old tapes I have the pictures in this piece are taken from TV Ark so credit goes to them.)
With the exception of an experiment by Yorkshire in 1977, TV had not been broadcast at this time regularly in the UK before 1983. TV-am launched in February 1983, earlier than expected. The BBC launched their first breakfast service in January 1983, so the starting date for TV-am was brought forward so that they could compete. They made a lot of promises about what their service would involve, and hired five high-profile presenters. Of them, David Frost lasted the longest, hosting a Sunday politics programme until 1992, and then taking the format to the BBC and carrying on for about another 15 years.
TV-am’s symbol was an odd sun-type thing. Their main programme was Good Morning Britain, and although just about everything else changed the title sequence and the music that accompanied which was composed by Jeff Wayne was never changed in the whole of TV-am’s time on air. Maybe they couldn’t afford to change it or they just wanted it to become familiar to viewers.
A couple of other things that I always found curious about TV-am’s presentation were their analogue clock in the bottom right of the screen which never changed, and also at the end of every edition there was an eggcup which displayed the copyright and year, and more and more of them appeared on screen as the years went by, for example by 1992 you could still see the egg dated 1988 in the background which I always thought was rather odd.
TV-am had lots of problems with advertising in their early days. Having seen a clip of their first day on the air, their first break consisted of only one advert, and it didn’t get much better. TV-am did also provide a news service including the short-lived Daybreak but this was frequently changed and the regulator soon complained about the quality.
TV-am also had financial trouble early on and there were often strikes, which led to things like the tea lady hosting the weather and all manner of odd things, and their programmes starting at almost 7am instead of 6am. However, their fortunes soon picked up when they brought in a new wave of presenters and they also introduced the character Roland Rat who became popular very quickly with younger viewers, and it seemed that there was a market for breakfast TV in this country.
When I was younger around the late-80s and early-90s, I liked to watch TV-am for the children’s programming. Usually on Saturdays and during half-term there would be a lot of shows that I enjoyed including Wacaday and The Wide Awake Club, and I will be writing more about my memories of that show in a separate piece.
I didn’t watch the Good Morning Britain segment of TV-am too often, but I do remember a few presenters who appeared on the sofa including Mike Morris and various guests who took part. By the early-90s TV-am had started to become a big success, but then in October 1991 it was announced that they would lose their franchise to what would become GMTV.
By their final year, TV-am dropped most of their children’s programming and replaced it with lots of old cartoons, had their news coverage produced by Sky, and the final few months seemed a little drab compared to the excitement of Channel 4’s new show The Big Breakfast. But when after a month short of a decade and all those ups and downs the time came for TV-am to go it was still a rather sad moment as it had an impact on me and many other viewers.