It seems like breakfast TV programmes have been around forever, but in fact, until early 1983 there had never been breakfast television in the UK.
All that changed at 6.30 am on January 17, 1983 when presenter Frank Bough uttered the words: “You’re watching the first edition of BBC Television’s Breakfast Time, Britain’s first ever regular, early morning television programme. Very good morning to you all.”
With that, a jaunty theme tune, and a logo designed to look like the rising sun, the BBC’s Breakfast Time was launched. The 150-minute show had been launched two weeks earlier than planned to get a head start on rival broadcaster ITV’s TV-am offering Good Morning Britain. The show cost the BBC a reported £6 million a year.
Before Breakfast Time – and apart from static ‘Pages from Ceefax’ - there was no TV at all at that time in the morning. The BBC’s normal broadcast started at around 9.30 am with dedicated school programming which ran until midday. Breakfast Time was on for two and a half hours every weekday – from 6.30 to 9am.
With a set decorated as a living room – complete with leather sofas, coffee tables and potted plants – the idea of Breakfast Time was to combine lighter fare with news topics in a magazine-style show. Breakfast Time was also notable for interviewing guests in the studio – a direct forerunner of today’s breakfast show formats.
The programme’s main presenters were Frank Bough, Selina Scott and weatherman Francis Wilson. Future Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross was also a reporter for the show. Russell Grant provided the horoscopes and Diana Moran – dubbed ‘The Green Goddess’ (pictured below) - gave viewers keep-fit tips.
The informality of the show was a shock at the time, even for some of its presenters. “I was doing serious programmes on BBC2 and the idea of lurching from the heavyweight to frothy was bewildering but it worked triumphantly,” Nick Ross has said since.
“There is a certain pomposity about news in broadcasting but we brought in a real relaxed informality – jumpers became our sartorial signature and we addressed the viewers as friends.”
At the time, some critics were unsure whether there was a market for breakfast TV at all. Richard Ingrams of The Spectator said: "There is no earthly reason why anyone of intelligence should want to watch it."
Others were keener. The Daily Telegraph said the first show “sped along with exemplary smoothness and panache”.
“It was a huge risk,” admits Ron Neil, then Breakfast Time’s editor. “So many people were against the notion of Breakfast TV and were willing it to fail.” Despite this, the first show had an estimated two million viewers.
Breakfast Time ran until September 29, 1989 when it was replaced by a more news-focused show.