As BBC Television celebrates its 75th anniversary this week (and unlike the 50th it’s a low-key affair) I recall the television you would’ve seen back in 1988.
The day chosen to represent One Day in the Life of Television was 1 November 1988. On that day 18,000 viewers kept a diary of their television day and 2,500 people in the industry wrote about their working lives.
The day was a British Film Institute (BFI) initiative originated by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, reminiscent of the 1930s Mass Observation exercises. The 1st of November was chosen as simply a date that was far enough in the future to enable proper planning. The BFI invited viewers to complete a diary and return it to them for analysis and future research. Film crews from Yorkshire Television recorded the event for a documentary shown in 1989 and Sean Day-Lewis compiled a book on the subject.
It was an ordinary enough day in terms of the programmes broadcast. Inevitably the event itself was covered by some programmes, mainly on the BBC. That evening’s programming included a couple of comedy classics – Fawlty Towers and Rising Damp – and BBC1 repeated the Wildlife On One:Meerkats United documentary, otherwise it was business as usual.
Back in 1988 British tv was on the cusp of major change. At the time there were just the four terrestrial channels, Sky Television via Astra started the following year and Channel 5 was over seven years away.
Here’s how British television looked on 1 November 1988 in the form of programme clips that I recorded during the day. Not all the programmes are shown here, I only had the one video recorder, but I hope you enjoy this journey in the television time tunnel.
No 24-hour broadcasting on the BBC in ’88, though it had started on ITV back in 1986 when YTV carried Music Box overnight, so the gap was filled with pages from Ceefax and the test card.
ITV carried the ITN Morning News for an hour from 5 a.m. and then handed over to TV-AM from 6 a.m. Here are clips from The Morning Programme and Good Morning Britain, which followed at 7 a.m., with Richard Keys, Kathryn Holloway, ex-ITN newscaster Gordon Honeycombe, weather presenter Carol Dooley, Lizzie Webb (aka Mad Lizzie), Anne Diamond and Gyles Brandreth. Missing from this recording is Anne’s co-presenter Mike Morris.
Read more about TV-AM
Read more about TV-AM
Over on BBC1 programmes kicked off at 6.35 a.m. with an old Edgar Kennedy film followed at 7 a.m. by Breakfast Time. By now the BBC morning sofa had been ditched in favour of a young Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark, now both on Newsnight, sitting behind a desk. The news headlines are read by the late Jill Dando and the weatherman is Francis Wilson. There’s also the first of the day’s mention of the BFI project when The Schofe talks about his television day alongside Project Director Janet Willis. Look out for some serious shoulder pads and Paxo handling a technical hitch at about 3 minutes in.
Daytime on BBC2 didn’t start until 9.30 a.m. when programmes for schools aired. This is a short clip of the Pages from Ceefax followed by the start of programmes with Inset-Economic Awareness.
Back on BBC1 there was the first of the two editions of Open Air, this one presented by Mike Shaft. Other presenters during the week included Eamonn Holmes, Natalie Anglesey, Mavis Nicholson and Susan Rae. This early edition included criticism of the previous night’s Paul Daniels:Live at Hallowe’en in which Paul was put on a bonfire and set alight. See Mike Shaft on Open Air here (external link).
Open Air was followed by Robert Kilroy Silk’s eponymously titled studio discussion show Kilroy!. Today’s edition was on the difficult subject matter of marital rape.
When TV-AM finished at 9.25 a.m. it would hand ITV back to the regions. This is the start of day on Yorkshire Television with announcer Graham Roberts followed by live programme trails for This Morning and The Time…The Place. You’ll also see a short clip of Anglia TV’s game show Lucky Ladders with Lenny Bennett. The voiceover for the New York holiday prize is, I think, Bruce Hammal.
There was no early morning programming on Channel 4 in 1988. Their day also started at 9.30 a.m. with ITV Schools programmes.
ITV’s daily studio discussion show was The Time..The Place with host Mike Scott. Mike had long been at Granada TV as news anchor, World in Action reporter and the presenter of Cinema. Thames TV is in overall command of The Time…The Place but each regional company takes it in turns to put the programme together. Today’s edition comes from Central TV’s Nottingham studio. Central’s Head of News Steve Clark finds the show “bland, slow and repetitive…Thames had suggested the theme. In future we will politely listen to their ideas, reject them if we have something better and press on”.
Going for Gold was the pan-European quiz with Henry Kelly that ran from 1987 to 1996. This edition was from week 3 of series 2. The programme format is still used for the French tv quiz Questions Pour Un Champion that I occasionally catch here on France 3
This was the classic period of Children’s BBC from the “Broom Cupboard”. Here’s Andy Crane with some birthday messages selected from the 2500+ letters and cards they received each week and then the opening of Playbus. Playbus had only started the previous month replacing the much-loved Play School that had ended earlier in the year.
This Morning was still in its infancy on this day, having started on 3 October. From Liverpool’s Albert Dock here’s Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley.
The second, and longer, edition of Open Air was broadcast at 11 a.m. In this programme Pattie Caldwell and Bob Wellings (both ex-Nationwide) concentrated on The Day in the Life of Television project itself. You’ll see guests Michael Grade, Bobby Davro, Dave Lee, Paul Daniels and weatherman Bill Giles.
Very much in the old Pebble Mill at One mould was Daytime Live. You’ll hear Floella Benjamin and then in-vision are presenters Alan Titchmarsh and Sue Cook. Other presenters during the week were Judi Spiers, Tina Baker and Simon Potter. Yet again we go behind the scenes in what one viewer referred to as “television navel-watching”.
Meanwhile over on ITV you’d catch Rainbow and on Channel 4 The Parliament Programme with Alastair Stewart and Glyn Mathias. At 12.30 p.m. was Business Daily with Susannah Simons (ex-LBC and Radio 4’s PM). The announcer in this clip is Jon Briggs. Business Daily would, a year later, become part of the new early morning news magazine The Channel 4 Daily.
Both the main channels had their lunchtime bulletins at 1 p.m. On BBC1 the newsreader was Philip Hayton and over on ITN was Julia Somerville. Just the headlines from Julia in this clip followed by a YTV-only show called LS3, a postcode in Leeds. The show is presented by Grace Bailey but I can find no further information about her of this programme.
No programme clips from the early afternoon, I must have nodded off! BBC1 apparently replaced a “trash movie” with another showing of The Importance of Being Earnest, though it’s not clear what film had originally been scheduled as Earnest appeared in the Radio Times listings. BBC2 had programmes aimed at younger viewers and then Championship Bowls presented by David Icke. Channel 4 offered the 1929 Douglas Fairbanks film The Iron Mask, a Three Stooges short and then Oprah.
On ITV at 3 p.m. there was a chance to see Lionel Blair doing his stuff on the 10th series of Give us a Clue. I have no recording of that but at 4 p.m. Children’s ITV started with presenter Mark Granger. In this clip you’ll see the opening to Tickle on the Tum.
On BBC1 Sylvester McCoy presented What’s Your Story? in which “the storyline is being evolved with the assistance of telephoned suggestions from the audience”.
Continued in Part 2
Continued in Part 2