On Monday last, 17th January 1983, the very first ‘Breakfast Time’ morning broadcast had been introduced to the nation. Presented by Frank Bough and Selina Scott, with additional involvement by Nick Ross and Russell Grant, the atmosphere of the set was intended to encourage a relaxed informality – a living-room rather than a studio with Frank & Nick wearing jumpers and open-necked shirts. The programme lasted 150 minutes, initially being transmitted between 6.30 am and 9 am—moving to a 6.50 am to 9.20 am slot on 18 February 1985.
The following week-end – 22nd January – the comments appeared in the press.
The newspaper critics of the time claimed there was no demand for breakfast TV and Richard Ingram’s, writing in The Spectator, said: “There is no earthly reason why anyone of intelligence should want to watch it.” One survey in the morning papers claimed only four out of 10 people would watch the programme. Ron Neil, the Breakfast Time editor, said “That’s an awful lot of people. If four out of 10 are watching, I will be delighted” adding, “It isn’t costing the licence fee payer any more money, the licence fee hasn’t gone up. I think we will give people a very entertaining and informative two-and-a-half hour every morning.”
Families around the country got up especially early to watch the first programme – the BBC saying that it received 1,500 calls from well-wishers phoning to offer their congratulations. TV-am’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ launched two weeks later and the battle for ratings quickly hotted up. However, TV-am faced financial ruin when its ratings had plummeted to 200,000 in May. To stop the slide Greg Dyke was brought in from London Weekend Television to save the programme. He was ruthless and the original presenters were sacked. To fill that gap he promoted a puppet, Roland Rat, to help read the news. His tactics paid off and a year later, the BBC and TV-am were bringing in weekly audiences of 1.5m and 1.2m respectively.
The original BBC programme would roll on until 29th September 1989 when it ‘closed’ and, on Monday 2nd October 1989, the show became Breakfast News’!