24 January 2011

1989 - Sky - The Satellite TV Revolution

A newspaper advertisement - 10/1/1989. 26 DAYS TO GO, it promised and one of the first big attractions was to be the Bruno V Tyson fight, LIVE! from Las Vegas.

In the UK, we thought we were very lucky indeed to get Channel Four in 1982. Imagine - FOUR TV channels!

But, far more obscurely, this was also the year that another new UK-based TV channel was launched -
Europe's very first satellite and cable TV service. Wondrously beamed in from outer space and simply called "Satellite Television", it had begun a trial service in October 1981, and was launched on April 26, 1982 - beaming mainly UK programmes to Europe for two hours per night.

"Satellite Television" is not something that I, nor anybody else I know, remembers hearing about at the time. If me and my friends and family are anything to go by, Mr/Ms UK Average Person never even dreamt of having satellite TV back then.

But Channel Four, well that was something worth getting excited about - something for us!

As a related aside, whilst MTV had launched in America in 1981, quite frankly, I'd never heard of it in 1982. Nope, that old faithful 1960s innovation Top Of The Pops was still our weekly dose of TV pop heaven in 1982 here in the UK.

Rupert Murdoch's News International Group took control of the loss-making Satellite Television company in 1983 - according to modern internet sources for the grand sum of £1, plus outstanding debts - and renamed it Sky Channel in 1984.

It's Tuesday March 4, 1986 - the launch day of Eddie Shah's "Today" newspaper, the UK's first colour daily national newspaper, and the TV listings feature details of the cable and satellite broadcasts available. The Sky Channel features such delights as '80s Australian soap "A Country Practice" and the "Pat Sharp Show". As the vast majority of us didn't have satellite, we weren't bothered.

In 1986, BSB, British Satellite Broadcasting, won the Independent Broadcasting Authority's franchise and in 1988 Rupert Murdoch announced plans to relaunch Sky Channel as Sky Television.

And now the fun really began. In 1989, satellite TV was making waves in the UK as the brave new Sky era began.

Were we, the average punters, looking forward to Sky? Let's take a look at a local newspaper to get the vibe "down on the ground" in January 1989...

From the Cambridge Evening News, 6/1/1989

Satellite TV fans are making sure they are tuned into the right wavelength when the viewing revolution hits the screens next month, say city centre stores in Cambridge.

Scores of people have been popping into shops to find out more - and be first in their street to have a dish on their roof.

The first satellite station, Sky, owned by newspaper tycoon Mr Rupert Murdoch, will start broadcasting on February 5.

And most of Cambridge's stores expect to get their first stocks of dishes within the next few weeks to cash in on the revolution.

The manageress of Rumbelows in Petty Cury, Christine Nickson, said: "We have had a lot of inquiries and requests for brochures, but relatively few firm orders so far."

A spokesman for Dixon's in Lion Yard painted a similar picture. He said: "We are taking a few deposits at the moment, but we hope to install a working dish on the roof in two weeks and expect orders to really take off then."

The manageress of Radio Rentals in Lion Yard, Mrs Debbie Jamieson, also reported strong customer interest. She said: "A lot of people have been quite surprised at how small the dishes are."

The first of the new satellite stations comes onstream next month, when Rupert Murdoch launches his four-channel Sky TV. Sky programmes will be relayed from the European Astra satellite.

Three of Sky's channels will be specialist services, one each for news, films and sport. A fourth channel will offer a mixed bill of drama, quiz shows and comedy. Sky will be paid for by advertising and will be entirely free to the viewer.

Sky's main competitor is likely to be British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB), a consortium including Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Anglia TV, which will launch a rival service in the autumn.

Another group, headed by publisher Robert Maxwell, plans to launch six channels later in the year.

Experts predict four million British homes will be tuning into up to 50 satellite channels within five years.


Apparently, there was "loadsa" choice on Sky TV, including Sky Channel - with quiz shows, soaps, action, comedy, news and sport for all the family; Sky Movies - the ultimate home box office; Eurosport, with 18 hours of sport every day and Sky Arts - concerts, ballet, opera and performance arts.

Hmmm again...

Sky TV listings from the "Sun", 1/5/1989. I'm not that impressed myself, but at least there was MTV... And it was early days...

1 comment:

Mad about the 80's said...

Thanks for this post - really well researched - I didn't realise that satellite TV was live in the 80's - I can't remember anything about it until well into the 90's. Saying that, I do remember music video's like Dire Straits Money For Nothing (which actually mentions MTV) so I guess if MTV was around so was satellite TV.