16 January 2011

The 1980s TV Revolution

From the "Daily Mirror", December 19, 1980

Back in 1980, things were very different on the TV front. We had three TV channels - ITV and BBC's 1 and 2.

BBC 2 was definitely "minority taste" as far as working class oiks like me were concerned.

Video technology had been around for yonks, but domestic video recorders for only a few years. They were hugely expensive, only 5% of UK homes had them in 1980. TV games, a more recent arrival, were also the province of the fortunate few.

As the Mirror article tells us:

The only big change in the 70s was that more families bought colour sets.

In my family's home in the early 1980s, there was a black and white TV with the horizontal hold so "gone" people on screen looked like eggs on legs. The plastic wood effect was peeling from the outer casing. We had rented a colour set around 1978 (colour had arrived in 1967, on BBC 2), but couldn't afford to keep feeding the meter.

Nobody I knew had a TV in the kitchen or the bedroom.

The 1980s saw a real revolution in our homes as far as TV was concerned. In 1980, the IBA's latest franchise allocations for the ITV companies led to the disappearance of familiar regional companies Southern and Westward and the arrival of TVS and TSW.
Sir Lew Grade's ATV acquired a new board and Central took over in the Midlands. The changes took effect in 1982.

The Mirror articles featured here, all from 19 December 1980, buzz with excitement over future telly-related pleasures - and paint a fascinating picture of the franchise allocations procedures, Lady Plowden and the IBA.

The bosses battle for your TV...


Video, computers and satellites

However much secrecy surrounds the battle for new ITV franchises, one thing is certain. They will all have to take part in a great technological leap-forward in the 1980s.

The only big change in the 70s was that more families bought colour sets.

Now there are video games and computers, video-text and video cassette recorders which can be plugged into home TV sets.

Within five years programmes will be beamed worldwide from satellites.

Pay TV, video disc-players, as well as the new ITV Channel Four and breakfast viewing will all be with us.

Some experts predict that most homes will have two TVs and some three. The family will split up to see different programmes in separate rooms.

With so many new things about to happen in the TV world it is not surprising that one company, which is in danger of losing its franchise, says it will refuse to hand over its studios and know-how to its successors.

They plan to make and market programmes for the new channels and other outlets the big TV technological revolution is expected to produce.
With only 5% of UK households having video recorders in 1980, we find Rumbelows offering an incentive to buy one in this newspaper advertisement from December that year.

By 1980 standards £449.99 was a lot of dosh - and not many people could afford it. Similarly, a lot of people were not keen to make the financial commitment to rent a video. There was a recession on.

The 1981 Royal Wedding caused an upsurge in video sales and rentals. My family rented one in 1983.

And we thought we were very posh.


Anonymous said...

what shows and movies were popular in the 1980s though? more specific like what did they show on the big screen and on telivision

Drew said...

I'll pick up the question and answer it fully in the next Postbag. But, briefly, from an English perspective:

Tenko, Only Fools And Horses, Keep It In The Family, Sorry!, Sorry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself, Shine On Harvey Moon, the Beiderbecke Trilogy, Dempsey And Makepeace, A Very Peculiar Practice, Blott On The Landscape, Brookside, EastEnders, Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, Number 73, Press Gang, Dramarama, Willo The Wisp, Dangermouse, Duckula, Dear John, Edge Of Darkness, Allo Allo, Keep It In The Family, The Young Ones, Never The Twain, Only Fools And Horses, The Comic Strip Presents, Desmond's, The Golden Girls, Kate & Allie, Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, Married... With Children, ALF, St Elsewhere.


Flash Gordon, ET, Blade Runner, The continuing saga of Rambo, Back To The Future, Three Men And A Baby, Romancing The Stone, Tootsie, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Absolute Beginners, Wall Street, Sex, Lies And Videotape, Indiana Jones, The Terminator, The Color Purple, the Star Trek films, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mannequin, When Harry Met Sally, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Fatal Attraction, Full Metal Jacket, Rain Man, Flash Dance, The Goonies, Fame, Shirley Valentine, A Fish Called Wanda, the final two original Star Wars trilogy films.

The tip of the iceberg here. Just Google any of the titles to discover more.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Countdown, Film On Four, Right To Reply, the Channel 4 News, TV-am/Breakfast Time, We'll Meet Again, Minder, A Bit Of A Do, Inspector Morse, Taggart, Casualty, Three Of A Kind, and, of course, The Simpsons started in the USA.

Anonymous said...

And Grange Hill went into what many think of its golden era... we also had old survivors like The Two Ronnies, This Is Your Life, Emmerdale Farm, World In Action, Crossroads...

Anonymous said...

And After Dark!

Anonymous said...

And Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Brass, Birds Of A Feather...

Drew said...

I forgot an awful lot. I think it's my age! :)

Anonymous said...

French And Saunders, Spitting Image, Girls On Top, The New Statesman...

Drew said...

Yes, it was a fabulous era for film and TV!

Stewart said...

Max Headroom was a big favourite of mine. And MTV started in 1981, although it didn't reach the UK until later. The Chart Show was a great alternative to Top Of The Pops.

Anonymous said...