A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1990

Welcome back.  To ease us into this final series, let's have another schedule survey, sticking with the main channel this time.  It's February 1990 and I'm in my fourth year at school (Year 10 in new money), navigating my GCSEs, nursing a few deeply unrequited teenage crushes and rushing home each night in time for Neighbours and whatever cult shows are on BBC Two (assuming there wasn't sport).  February 5th in 1990 was also on a Monday (although it wasn't also a leap year so the calendar falls out of sync after the 28th).

The day begins at 6am on BBC One with half an hour of Pages from Ceefax, then BBC Breakfast News mostly presented by Nicholas Witchell and Kirsty Walk (which replaced Breakfast Time the previous September).  It's described as "the most comprehensive television news programme available in the morning" in the Radio Times listing, perhaps to create a distinction with ITV's sofa bound Good Morning Britain and the segmented experimentation of Channel 4 Daily.

After a separate news bulletin at 9am, there's an initial twenty minute salvo of Open Air with Eamonn Holmes, which was due to end its fourth and final series the following May.  At this point, BBC One spent eighty odd minutes each morning producing live coverage of viewers comments of the previous night's television, the other hour turning up at 11am.  Remarkably, the earlier edition from a week later's on YouTube, in which pensioners shout into the abyss about Ben Elton, a BTS at Emmerdale and a very serious interview with Michael Cockrell about the rebel cricket tour of South Africa.

That's followed by Kilroy (ahem), The Flintstones: The Masquerade Party (s6, e11) and Children's BC with Simon Parkin presenting viewer's birthday cards (a tradition still going strong on CBeebies) in the midst of controversial Play School replacement Playdays and Roobarb.  Then at Five to Eleven, popular poetry show Five to Eleven, this week presented by Catherine Griller on whom I can find little online other than an IMDb page which lists some Armchair Theatre and ten episodes of Crossroads (here's a later episode so you can get the gist).

What's striking is how much new content is driving the schedule during the day, and live.  At midday there's Daytime Live With Sue Cook and Andy Craig (a lunchtime magazine programme from Pebble Mill), Going for Gold, Radio Times Holiday 90 Competition (a daytime iteration of the evening series in which Eamonn Holmes offers clues towards a prize offered in the magazine) and Bazaar (a mix of cookery and DIY) with Neighbours ("Henry returns from Brisbane with a new outlook on life.") and Ironside ("the wheelchair-bound detective investigates a syndicate who specialise in credit card thefts").

At 15:50 we're back in the broom cupboard, this time with Andy Crane aided by Ed The Duck (here's a clip from a fortnight later) in introducing Two By Two (songs about animals with Derek Griffiths), SuperTeb (narrated by Derek Griffiths), Jackanory (Michael Williams narrates Alison Prince's How's Business), BraveStarr (which I'd somehow forgotten had been broadcast in the UK), Newsround and Blue Peter in its Yvette Fielding, John Leslie, and Diane Louise Jordan phase (which I was presumably home in time for but have no memory of) and finally the evening repeat of Neighbours ("Henry returns from Brisbane with a new outlook on life.").

The evening schedule feels very familiar and initially sill live and studio based.  The Six O'clock News presented by Peter Sissons and Moira Stewart, local news, then the night's Wogan which the Radio Times knew far enough ahead would feature Linda Rondstadt, who'd recently hit with Don't Know Much featuring Aaron Neville.  US sitcom import Major Dad is next (and to this day I don't remember the lead actor Gerald McRaney as anything other than Major Dad) then Les Dawson's Blankety Blank with guests Henry Cooper, Caron Keating, Ellie Laine, Jeff Stevenson, Mollie Sugden and one of the reasons there are gaps in the Top of the Pops repeats.

Bracketing the Nine O'Clock News are a nature programme, Survivors (about the locust plague in South Africa), and a Panorama with Gavin Hewitt about the disillusionment in Russia following perestroika and just to show the past really is the past, much of the rest of the evening offers snooker highlights presented by David Icke.  By August of that year, Icke was sacked by the BBC (for impartiality reasons) after refusing to pay the Community Tax in protest (although he paid in the end) and the following May brought the infamous Wogan appearance.  The evening is rounded out with televisual You and Yours, The Advice Shop Hugh Scully and Helen Madden.

The Pips

"This week, the BBC has taken over the 'six-pip' radio time signal from the Royal Greenwich Observatory after 66 years. Plus, the study and measuring of time and why accurate time signals are needed."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"The Greenwich Time Signal (also known as "the pips") was used by many BBC Radio stations between 1924 and 1990."
[Royal Museums Greenwich]


"Review of international and national news as it affected Essex in 1990."
[Essex Record Office]


"After interviewing the great dramatist, I ended up being depicted as an insufferably smug hack in a very minor Potter work."
[The Guardian]


A three part history of the show until 2005 when this was originally posted.
[Off The Telly]

"Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman hear the inside story of Britain’s biggest TV comedies."
[BBC Sounds]

"They were looking for someone who could speak Penguinese. I needed the money."
[The Guardian]

"In one particularly arch episode of Yes, Prime Minister, Jim Hacker is seen lecturing his Private Secretary Bernard Woolley on the options open to an MP seeking to avoid answering a question."
[Off The Telly]

"When I first read the script, I was only 55 and I thought, God, I’m not ready to play old people yet."
[The Guardian]

"This fourth edition features Richard Herring and Sarah Smith looking at radio comedy in the early 1990s, when they were both starting out in - Sarah was the producer who gave Richard his first commission."
[BBC Sounds]

"The 1990s was a time of youthful self-confidence in British culture."
[The Poetry Archive]

"The BBC had a new series to schedule. Star Trek: The Next Generation finally appeared on BBC2 on 26 September 1990; almost exactly three years after Encounter At Farpoint premièred on 28 September 1987."
[Space Doubt]

"Charles Runcie, an editor on Radio 5 Live when it launched 25 years ago, remembers the build-up to what was a brand-new BBC radio concept."
[BBC Archive]


"The year under review has been more eventful and challenging for the BBC than any since I became Chairman at the end of 1986. The reporting of the Gulf war proved a testing experience for the BBC, but one in which television, radio and the World Service provided authoritative, balanced and reliable coverage for our different audiences in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. In turn, those audiences demonstrated their trust in the BBC by turning to us for information and analysis in increased numbers."
[World Radio History] 

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