History of TV-am

Welcome to our section about the history of TV-am


TV-am were the first company to hold the ITV Breakfast franchise, they remained on the air for a little under ten years but that time would be full of ups and downs for the company in what would be a very eventful decade.



The then regulator of commercial television, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), announced at the beginning of 1980 that there was to be a new franchise created for a national breakfast franchise which would operate seperate of the other ITV companies in their own dedicated timeslot. This would ultimately be decided as part of the franchise awards for the rest of the ITV network later that year.

On the 28th December the results were announced that TV-am had been sucessful in being awarded the breakfast franchise. This news was overshadowed by other results in the existing ITV companies with Southern and Westward Television loosing their franchises and ATV having to restructure making the headlines instead.

TV-am started work getting ready to go to air, they purchased a former garage in Camden Town which they would convert into studios. The architect behind the conversion was Terry Farrell and the building would be very distinctive with TV-am lettering on the frontage and egg cups on the roof (which are listed and remain to this day).

The news about TV-am being awarded the franchise was not welcomed by all, one such group was ITN who had lost out nly to find out that one of their newscasters, Anna Ford, was actually part of the TV-am team. Ford was subsequenty dismissed from ITN.

The TV-am team worked towards a start date of June 1983, they were in regualar discussions with the IBA wanting to move that date forward however the authority were reluctant to do this as they were busy with preperations for the launch of Channel Four in November 1982. The pressure was put on when it was announced that the BBC were planning to launch a rival service and the IBA gave in slightly giving TV-am the green light to launch in February 1983 instead.

The early start did give the company some issues because this did not give them enough time to sort out relations with the unions in regards advertising revenue, this caused the unions to getting its members to boycott the station in its first months. This was the first but certainly would not be the last time that TV-am came to blow with the unions.




TV-am launched on the 1st February 1983. This was a couple of weeks after the BBC had launched its Breakfast Time programme


  Play Video
The Launch of TV-am
1st February 1983
Moving Image Communications / TV-am.org

The first day started with the titles to its main programme Good Morning Britain. These titles would remain until the end of TV-am nearly ten years later. David Frost was the first person to speak as he welcomed viewers to the new station followed by the other members of what had been nicknamed the famous five (Anna Ford, Robert Kee, Michael Parkinson and Angela Rippon).

 After the first ad break it was onto a programme called Daybreak which that day was presented by Robert Kee although the role would alternate between him and Angela Rippon. Daybreak was a heavly focused news programme which also had slots for weather, sport, city news and even a slot for farming news

At 7am it was time for Good Morning Britain presented by David Frost and Anna Ford who took a trip into the archives looking at the famous five in earlier times. David Philpott did the weather and Nick Owen the sport before all five of the main presenters were back on the sofa for the end of the show.

First day over but there were problems for TV-am, big problems. The earlier issue with the unions meant that there was very little advertising revenue coming in, the company had promised the revenue from its first ad break to charity however this was so small the company ended up topping it up.

Another issue for TV-am is that they had misjudged their programme, they had gone high brow thinking thats what the BBC was doing but actually Breakfast Time was a sofa driven approach and in contrast TV-am looked rigid and actually rather dull in comparison.

Changes were needed and fast, one fo the first changes would be with Daybreak and this was shrunk to half an hour with Good Morning Britain starting at 6.30 instead. Ultimately this was the beginning of the end for the Daybreak programme which would end up being axed entirely. A month after launch and the viewing figures were less than 300,000



With all the issues at TV-am there was a change in management when Peter Jay decided to leave before he was pushed and this put Jonathan Aitken in charge. This all happened suddenly and caught some people out, in particular Anna Ford and Angeal Rippon who put their support towards Jay not knowing he had left. The pair were subsequently sacked the following month, they subequently took the company to court before reaching a settlement. This was all publicity the company didn't need. Jonathan would not stay in charge for long due to IBA rules about who could run a company (Jonathan Aitken was an MP so could not run the station on the grounds of impartiality)

Michael Parkinson and Robert Kee would not be far behind them in leaving although Parkinson would end up on the board of directors as a result. David Frost would be the only one of the five to remain with the company right up until the end.

To make much needed changes Greg Dyke was bought in to revamp the stations output. One of the changes he made was the introduction of Roland Rat who would ultimately be seen as the companys saviour. This brought in much needed viewers bringing them up to the million mark. During this time David Frost was moved to the weekend slot while Nick Owen, who had presented the sports news, became one of the main presenters alongside Anne Diamond. The chemistry between them was obvious and would last many years both with TV-am and later the BBC.

While things were looking up for the company the financial problems continued due to the relatively low viewing numbers (remembering at the time that neither BBC 2 nor Channel Four were on air that time of the day at this point). Things came to a head when during a press conference the electricity board turned up to disconnect them due to the bill not being paid, they also had issues getting hold of the newspapers due to the money owed to the newsagent.



Following an investment by business tycoon Kerry Packer there would be another change in management. Greg Dyke would leave to be Director of Programmes at the South and South East ITV company Television South and in his place came an Australian callled Bruce Gyngell.

Gyngel was a no-nonesense kind of guy and would very much change the direction the company was going. One of the first steps was to sort the companys finances out with a series of cost cutting. This cost cutting would bring problems for TV-am when it come to covering news events and one in particular the 1984 Brighton bombings. The company had no overnight crews to save costs so when it came to reporting this was all done with Jonathan Stapleton reporting on the phone (due to the rules in place at the time they would have been unable to get the footage from Television South and they had burnt their bridges with ITN so they would not supply footage either), this did not impress the regualtor who threatened to take TV-am's franchise off them unless they invested in their news service.

Gyngell saw technology as the answer and invested in Eelctronic News Gathering to reduce manning further, this was unpopular with the unions when he said that a lighting crew was no longer required. While unpopular with the unions this approach did please some especially the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher who felt the unions had too much power.



One of the major events at TV-am happened on the 23rd November 1987 when technicians at the company went on a 24hr strike, rather than give into their demands Gyngell locked the out the building. The strike continued with neither side backing down, Gyngell decided he would run things himself ans was often seen directing programmes from the gallery. Things were chaotic with all hands on board to keep the programme on the air and replacing much of TV-am's live output with cheap imports such as Batman which actually helped to improve the channel's viewing figures. Ultimately those technicians that were locked out would end up getting fired.

The station carried on with the new lower staffing levels and over time settled down. TV-am became very popular with viewers and with its new reduced costs it became very profitable, actually it was the most profitable of all the ITV companies for the number of hours it was on the air.



It was franchise time again and there was a new sherrif in town. Thatcher was unhappy with the way that ITV was being run (well most of it anyway the exception being TV-am) and wanted there to be more control of it. This came about after a documentary by Thames Television called Death on the Rock which had been critical of her government over the handling of the war in the Falklands. The Independent Broadcasting Authority would be replaced, split up into several new bodies. The bit that regulted commercial television would be the Independent Television Comission or ITC. The ITC had the task of awarding the new franchises to start from January 1993 and developed a new system. Initially this system was that any company that wanted to run one of the franchises would need to put in a sealed bid (an amount they would have to pay the government each year) and the highest bidder would win, this was later changed to include a quality threshold that any bidder would need to pass first.

All the existing companies passed the quality threshold (which was to be expected) however the bidding processes would be an issue as some would be outbid while some of them had their bids considered too high.

On the 16th October 1991 the ITC announced the results, TV-am had been outbid by a group naming themselves Sunrise Group (they would later become GMTV following a legal challenge by Sky over the use of the word Sunrise which was one of their news programmes). Other loosers in this franchise auctions were Thames Television, the text provider Oracle as well as TVS and TSW (both were considered to have bid too high).

The process was seen to be a shambles leading to some of the ITV companies and new bidders bidding too high including HTV which had nearly bankrupted itself with its bid. Most of these companies subsequently had their bid amounts lowered.

The news was not well recieved at TV-am who were very unhappy with the result with Gyngell publically slating the desicion as well as director David Frost and now Good Morning Britain presenter Mike Morris

Another person not happy with TV-am loosing the franchise was Margaret Thatcher who was friends with Gyngell. She wrote to Gyngell privately stating her unhappiness that TV-am had been a  victim of the system. Enraged Gyngell called a press conference and read out the letter.

With the result out TV-am started preparing for its end, the first change on screen was the news being outsourced to Sky News to save costs.



The 31st December 1992 was the last day for TV-am with an emotional last show, Lorraine Kelly strugging to keep it together towards the end of the show. Many of the presenters would go onto GMTV including Kelly, Dr Hillary Jones and later Mike Morris.

The show featured montages of memorable moments with the presenting staff and also a montage those behind the scenes. The final moments were Mike Morris wishing viewers a happy new year with the presenters behind the sofa before the image going to black and white rather than the egg cups endcap that was normally shown.



The TV-am archives are now property of Moving Image Communications which are managed by AP Archive. The TV-brand is owned by journalist Ian White

The Breakfast Television Centre building was aquired by MTV Europe and major changed have been made to the building and its frontage following a major fire and refurbishment. The TV-am lettering on the sides of the front of the building was covered up by discs and remained in place until 2012 when they were removed  As well as MTV Europe, Comedy Central and Nickeloden also come from here. The eggcups on the roof of the building remain albeit painted grey.




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