Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
TV-am was a breakfast television station that broadcast in the United Kingdom from 1983 to 1992. It was the national operator for the ITV franchise at breakfast-time, and broadcast from 6am to 9.25am.
It was nearly the first breakfast-time service in the UK - but the BBC pre-empted it by launching BBC Breakfast Time on January 17, 1983, several months before TV-am was scheduled to start. In response the IBA allowed TV-am to start early on February 1.
TV-am was spearheaded by 'The Big Five' who were not only lined up as presenters on the station but also had a stake in the business - Michael Parkinson, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Peter Jay . TV-am's HQ and studios were in the 'Breakfast Television Centre' on Hawley Crescent, Camden, London. Designed by Terry Farrell and converted from a former Henleys garage, the building includes a number of large plastic egg-cups on its roof. These are still present on the building today despite now being home to MTV's european operations. The 'TVam' logos on the front of the building are obscured, but still partially visable
Programmes originally ran from 6:00-9:15am, with Daybreak and Good Morning Britain filling weekday mornings, followed by engineering announcements before the start of the regional ITV franchises at 9.25. It was not until later that the IBA extended its hours to 9:25 to allow continuous programming, and not until some years after that that the ITV stations extended their hours to 6am to provide 24-hour television. (The engineering announcements were later moved to Channel 4, and cancelled when the IBA was replaced by the ITC.)
Early ratings were disappointing, and chief executive Peter Jay quit, and presenters Anna Ford and Angela Rippon were sacked. Their replacements were Anne Diamond and Nick Owen. The producer Greg Dyke was brought in and slowly ratings improved. A notable gimmick introduced in this time was the puppet, Roland Rat.
In 1987 technical staff at the station went on strike. TV-am called their bluff and locked out the strikers but stayed on air using non-technical staff to broadcast a skeleton service including (among other things) episodes of the American series' Flipper, Batman and Happy Days. Although shambolic at times this schedule turned out on occasions to be more popular than their pre-strike programming (although not what they'd be allowed to broadcast under any other circumstances). Eventually the patience of TV-am's Chief Executive Bruce Gyngell wore thin and all the striking technicians were fired. In the years that followed the station gradually found its feet again and by the early 1990's was the most profitable TV station, in terms of turnover, in the world.
The ITV franchises were allocated in a different way at the next renewal in 1991. Rather than awarding franchises based on merit of programming, cash bidding was introduced. However, nobody had much idea of how much was the 'going rate' for the bids. TV-am bid £14.3m, but were outbid by another consortium, which had put down £36.4m.
The Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, whose government had introduced this reform, famously wrote to TV-am's boss Bruce Gyngell apologising.
TV-am broadcast its last show on December 31, 1992, and was replaced by GMTV on January 1. While TV-am had used an expensive, custom-built studio complex, GMTV hired studio space from London Weekend Television.
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