TV-am

Mind the Gap

Graham Barnard explains how decisions about TV-am transmission times made in 1983 are still active in 2018

IBA Slide

ITV 09.15 - 09.30am

TV-am was unique among ITV companies because the breakfast time franchise entitled it to broadcast to the whole of the UK, rather than a specific region. As David Frost said on the very first edition of Good Morning Britain, TV-am was a new national network.

But in its first few months TV-am would closedown at 9.15am meaning there was a gap in programmes before the local ITV station would come on air, usually at 9.25.

A year before TV-am launched there was much correspondence about the gap between company chairman Peter Jay and the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

IBA TV-am Letter

Although it seemed odd that ITV should, as late as 1983, effectively close down during daylight hours, there was a good reason why the "glorious network" (as Mr Frost would often describe it) needed this short breathing space.

Until the process was automated, engineers would have to manually connect ITV transmitters to the TV-am studios at around 5.45 each morning, and then switch them back to the local ITV company during the break at 9.15. An on-screen IBA caption would tell viewers to consult their copy of the TVTimes for more information while all this was happening. You can see this here, courtesy of Transdiffusion:

In May 1983 the gap was closed. TV-am could now stay on air until exactly 9.25, at which point viewers at home would often notice the picture 'roll' as their ITV transmitter was instantly reconnected to their local ITV station.

When ITV began to broadcast around the clock, transmitters were handed back to TV-am at exactly 6am again with a roll in the picture.

Until this day ITV's breakfast service runs between 6 and 9.25am, a throwback to TV-am's eventual broadcasting hours, and the way its programmes were beamed around the UK.

Below, a TV-am start up routine from later in 1983:

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