Breakfast Time was British television’s first national breakfast television programme, broadcast from 17 January 1983 until 29 September 1989 on BBC1 across the United Kingdom. It was broadcast for the first time just over two weeks before TV-am, the commercial breakfast television station, started its service with the programme Good Morning Britain.
The show was revolutionary for the time. It mixed hard news with accessible features, creating a cosy feel, with sofas and bright colours — a stark contrast to the Open University programming that had previously been broadcast during that timeslot. The presenters typically wore casual clothes instead of formal suits, in contrast to the regular news broadcasts. Frank Bough, Selina Scott and Nick Ross anchored the show, with regulars such as Russell Grant (astrology) and Diana Moran, also known as the “Green Goddess” due to the colour of her leotard (fitness). The news was read by Debbie Rix. The weather slot (known as Window On The Weather) was presented by Francis Wilson, and reflected the rest of the show in having a more laid-back feel. Window On The Weather actually introduced modern, projection-style graphics some two years ahead of the transition from the old-style magnetic boards used in the BBC’s main weather bulletins. Whilst Wilson was the resident weather presenter on the show, other presenters such as Michael Fish, Bill Giles and Ian McCaskill stood in during Wilson’s absence.
For around the first two years of Breakfast Time, when other regions opted out for short regional news bulletins, viewers in London and the South East were provided with their regional news not by their dedicated regional news team but by one of the main Breakfast Time presenters. This changed by the autumn of 1985 when the new London and South East regional news programme “London Plus” started to provide the regional news opt-outs during the programme.
Breakfast Time was an unexpected success. A rival commercial breakfast show, TV-am, was headed by a star line-up and almost everyone assumed it would trounce the BBC, but Breakfast Time got on the air first and the format and presenters proved supremely popular.
Breakfast Time aired only on Mondays to Fridays on BBC One, compared to a seven-day-a-week service offered by their rivals TV-am on ITV. Breakfast Time would air from 6:30 am until 9:00 am each weekday morning. However on Monday 18 February 1985, the programme changed time slots and moved later, to 6:50 am until 9:20 am.
One of Breakfast Time’s most notable episodes was on the morning of the Brighton bombing when Nick Ross in the studio presented continuous live coverage of the IRA’s attack at the Conservative Party conference in 1984, including live pictures of the rescue of senior politicians such as Norman Tebbit.
In time TV-am simply copied the BBC’s approach, and Breakfast Time became less sure-footed, losing some of its friendly accessibility as it strained to be more serious in tone.
Breakfast Time adopted a more formal news format on Monday 10 November 1986. The new look Breakfast Time lost its cosy, informal format, and was replaced with a news desk and presenters in suits. Hardened journalists such as Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark joined the team as the programme shifted its tone to analysis of the morning’s news stories, especially politics. The new look programme also started later, running from 7:00 am until just before 9:00 am each weekday morning.
On Monday 2 October 1989 the show became Breakfast News.
- Frank Bough, 1983–1987
- Sue Cook, 1983–1986
- Jill Dando, 1988–1989
- Fern Britton, 1983–1984
- Debbie Greenwood, 1985–1986
- Sally Magnusson, 1985–1989
- John Mountford
- Jeremy Paxman, 1986–1989
- Nick Ross, 1983–1986
- Mike Smith, 1983–1986
- Selina Scott, 1983–1986
- John Stapleton, 1988–1989
- Kirsty Wark, 1988–1989
- Francis Wilson, 1983–1989
During Breakfast Time’s first broadcast, letters and telegrams were sent from different breakfast shows around the world to wish Breakfast Time good luck such as Network Ten for Australia, CTV for Canada, CBS and ABC for the United States, TVB for Hong Kong and NHK for Japan.
Among the in-studio guests on the first “Breakfast Time” on 17 January 1983 was Jane Pauley, presenter of NBC News “Today” in the United States.