Wake up to breakfast TV! 

14 October 2019 tbs.pm/69638

A correction to this article was added on 17 January 2020 and can be seen at the foot of the text.

Image: Lynda Grey


From the Radio Times for 15-21 January 1983

Breakfast Time, from Monday 6.30 am BBC1

Rise and shine with ‘Breakfast Time’! Britain’s first television breakfast show dawns bright and early on Monday morning. And, as editor Ron Neil tells Gay Search, the team will have many ways to get you out of bed and switched on…

Don’t be alarmed – the Breakfast Time team have no intention of blasting you out of bed in the mornings with non-stop hard news, or relentless heartiness. They understand that for most of us getting up is a very painful experience, and so even the studio lighting will be subdued when the programme goes on the air at 6.30, getting gradually brighter as the morning progresses.

The keynote, according to editor Ron Neil, is relaxation. ‘It’s the one thing I think we can learn from American television. If we pummel people with facts and analysis at that time of the morning, they just won’t want to know.’

The set will reflect the mood – no desks, just long, squashy leather sofas on which two of the programme’s three presenters, Selina Scott, Frank Bough and Nick Ross, will sit every morning, along with their guests, and often with the programme’s reporters.

‘There is a television technique,’ said Ron Neil, ‘where the presenter tells us that reporter Fred Bloggs has all the details on a story, and in the minute he’s allowed Fred tries to get across all the facts he possibly can, so that they whistle past our ears like bullets with very few actually penetrating the brain! But if you sit him down and say, “You’ve been following the story, Fred, tell me about it,” it comes across as a relaxed conversation.’

Ron Neil and his team are also aware that most of us are too busy dashing round first thing in the morning to sit down and watch for long, so the spoken word will be extremely important. ‘We can’t rely on the picture to carry the information – you won’t hear anyone saying “So, if you look at the chart…” But having said that, the pictures have got to be good, because in the end that’s what will encourage people to switch on to us.’

If Breakfast Time has to be compared with any existing medium, it’ll be more like a tabloid newspaper than anything. There will be news, but there will be lots of regular features too: astrology, cookery, gardening, gossip, consumer affairs, keep fit, star guests, television reviews and previews, competitions, local news, weather and travel.



All the BBC regions will have their own opt-out slots for local information, but Breakfast Time plans to draw on their resources for the main part of the programme too – farming from Norwich, for instance, and gardening from Plymouth – because the team is keen to get out of London as much as possible and give the show the non-metropolitan feeling that made Nationwide such a success.

With over a third of households in Britain already having a second television set, Ron Neil and his team are sure there is potentially a huge audience for Breakfast Time. ‘I think it would be very arrogant at this stage, though, to say that we know what people want to watch. For the first six months, frankly, we will be experimenting, until we find out from the response exactly what viewers do want, and adjust accordingly.’

– Gay Search


Snap, crackle and Selina!


Photograph: Tim Roney


Beating you all to it I broke fast with Selina Scott, in whose company we shall be greeting the new day at Breakfast Time (Monday-Friday, 6.30 am).

Being a lady of immaculate judgment, she selected Claridges as the venue, for there the first meal of the day is as varied and special as the new programme aims to be.

For her, this new assignment will be a reversal of her customary working life: ‘As an evening newscaster, I would arrive in the middle of the afternoon. Now I shall be getting up at three in the morning, and I haven’t decided how to adjust. But I expect I shall go to bed about eight.’

What she relishes most about the venture is that ‘it will give me a chance to do reporting and interviewing which I wasn’t able to do before’, And this journalistic flair, aided by a degree in English and American studies, will not be confined to ‘what are generally considered women’s subjects like cooking and sewing. We have experts for that’.

Above all, she’s delighted to be part of the pioneering team of ‘this great experiment’. And what does she like to eat in the morning? Orange juice, kidneys and bacon, toast, and coffee.

– Robert Ottaway

Russ J Graham writes: The Radio Times celebrates the start of the BBC’s spoiler operation for ITV’s forthcoming TV-am. And that’s all it really was. Even Selina Scott refers to it as an experiment. If TV-am had failed, and it almost did, then it seems unlikely that the programme would’ve continued.

TV-am’s original plan was to come on air in May 1983, a date picked by the Independent Broadcasting Authority as being far enough away from the launch of the new Channel 4 as to not cause one to steal the thunder from the other. Then the BBC announced that they would be starting a breakfast programme – in April. TV-am moved its launch to March. The BBC announced that Breakfast Time would begin in mid-February. TV-am then announced their start as being 1 February. The BBC moved their launch to Monday 17 January 1983. There was no way that TV-am could launch that early – their studios in Camden wouldn’t be complete – so the BBC, using spare current affairs studios in Lime Grove, were able to win that particular battle.

Breakfast Time‘s early launch holed TV-am under the water. The BBC programme was light and fluffy, whilst TV-am planned to have a hard news edge. TV-am’s first hour was to be given over entirely to news with Daybreak, featuring Robert Key sat behind a desk in a busy newsroom, reading the headlines to the masses. Breakfast Time had news headlines read from behind a desk – the Radio Times article suggests they didn’t – but was almost entirely sofa-based. TV-am’s Good Morning Britain was sofa-based, but that programme didn’t start until 7am: the BBC sofa was welcoming early risers from 6.30am, stealing yet another march on the commercial rival.

TV-am responded as ITV companies always have to being beaten by rivals (see also London Weekend in 1968, for instance) by dramatically collapsing financially. The newsroom effectively closed and the Good Morning Britain sofa became the only part of the much-reduced line-up. Defaulting on such bills as those from the electricity board and their local newsagents, TV-am were forced to desperately fill time by reading out the winning bingo numbers from the main tabloids – big prize newspaper bingo being a huge craze at the time – and having the presenters mindlessly chatting.

And it worked. Frank Bough and Selina Scott’s on-screen chemistry wasn’t great, but TV-am’s Anne Diamond and Nick Owen had a real spark. Bough and Scott had come from networked major live programmes, whilst Diamond and Owen had come from the slightly more seat-of-the-pants world of regional television news, both having been at ATV Today. That meant the TV-am pair could fill time effortlessly, whilst the BBC duo seemed uneasy improvising for prolonged periods on a slow news day.

TV-am also introduced features to attract children – famously, puppet wideboy Roland Rat as a presenter – gambling that first thing in the morning, the kids had control of the television set and the adults would leave it tuned to ITV.

Slowly but surely, TV-am’s tabloid approach won over the viewers, with the BBC starting to give up in February 1985 by moving the time slot 20 minutes later, then in November 1986 scrapping the sofa entirely and going to newsreaders behind desks – the harder news format that TV-am had originally tried and failed.

Ironically, the situation is again reversed today, with the BBC’s Breakfast presenting a mix of news and fluffy features from a sofa to the bigger audience, whilst ITV’s unrelated Good Morning Britain has people behind desks.

Oh, and one small point: Breakfast Time was not really the first breakfast time programme on British TV. That accolade goes to the short-lived Good Morning Calendar and Good Morning North [see note below] programmes from Trident Television’s Yorkshire and Tyne Tees ITV franchises.


Note: There seems to be some dispute over what the Tyne Tees Television morning news strand was called, with several sources going for Good Morning Tyne Tees but actual viewers recalling Good Morning North. When this article was first published, we went for the Good Morning Tyne Tees version. On reflection, we think Good Morning North is more likely, and have altered the text accordingly.

You Say

7 responses to this article

Westy 14 October 2019 at 5:23 pm

And the thing in common with Lwt & Tvam?

One David Frost!

ramones1986 18 October 2019 at 12:26 am

Oh, you forgot about a certain David Icke…

Tina King 19 October 2019 at 11:16 am

At least the UK decided to try breakfast television.

In the Republic of Ireland in 1983, their main national channel RTE 1 was still only coming on air each weekday at 3.00pm (during the summer months it would not start some days until 4.30pm) with their second national channel RTE 2 not opening until 6.30pm.

By 1990 RTE 1 still did not have breakfast television, only opening up at around midday each weekday.

From 1992 RTE 1 would kick off around 9.30am, and it was only in 1997 did they start their broadcast day at 7.00am with a simulcast of EuroNews.

Now in October 2019, RTE 1 still avoids breakfast television like the plague, offering Irish viewers who actually pay for RTE through a €160 per year compulsory licence fee with teleshopping, EuroNews, a repeat run of the previous day’s afternoon magazine show, and the rest with cheap imported US and British shows, leaving Irish breakfast television to the commercial Virgin Media One channel with their four hour morning magazine Ireland AM.

Joey 24 October 2019 at 1:09 pm

Does anyone have any recording footage from the brief Tyne Tees early foray into breakfast telly? I’ve seen some of the Yorkshire stuff, but I’d be really interested to find some from Tyne Tees as this totally passed me by at the time because my family put the radio on first thing as we dashed round getting ready for work and school.

Arthur Vasey 24 October 2019 at 8:39 pm

Joey – not sure that any of either programme exists in the archive – I think both Good Morning Calendar from Yorkshire and Good Morning North from Tyne Tees were just breakfast versions of Calendar and Northern Life – they started before I went back to boarding school and had ended by the time I returned – how much, if any, was archived, is a total mystery!

The schedule in both regions was:

8:30 Good Morning Calendar/North;

9:00 Peyton Place

Not sure if they started it from the beginning or screened random episodes or what, as the experiment didn’t last long!

My mam was surprised to see Peyton Place back on telly – we only had a black and white telly at the time as our colour one was spending more time in the rental shop being fixed again, so I didn’t know if they were showing early black and white episodes or later colour ones!

Russ J Graham 25 October 2019 at 12:49 pm

An edition of Good Morning Calendar survives – it’s on YouTube – but there’s no sign of the TTT version having been kept.

Christian Bews 18 January 2020 at 7:37 pm

breakfast time was actually the third breakfast programme on british television.the second one happened up in scotland on the first week of december 1980 as BBC radio scotland’s breakfast magazine ‘good morning scotland’was broadcast simultaneously on BBC one scotland and was done to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the BBC’s queen street studios in edinburgh where it was broadcast live that week.

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