It is 30 years this month since Channel 4’s first attempt to break the mould of breakfast television came to an end.
The Channel 4 Daily included a high quality world news service, arts coverage, business bulletins and even a mini version of Countdown.
Launched in a wave of publicity its initial ratings were dismal but, as was typical of Channel 4 at the time, the channel persevered. The programme won a loyal audience albeit one much smaller than the BBC’s and TV-am’s.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Channel 4 Daily: first edition (3rd April 1989).
It came to an end months before Channel 4 started to sell its own advertising and lost its direct subsidy from ITV. The timing was not coincidental.
Channel 4 was not prepared to subsidise this particular venture with the ad money from Brookside or Countdown. It had much more important things to support.
In its place came The Big Breakfast – a show aimed at a different audience which soon became very popular and commercially successful but was also in keeping with the quirky side of Channel 4’s personality.
When Channel 4 announced it was to move into breakfast television, the channel was clear that it would not take resources away from the rest of the schedule.
Just as the regional ITV companies sold Channel 4’s advertising time in their areas, so TV-am sold the time between 6am and 9.25am.
TV-am then paid a “fourth channel subscription” agreed by the IBA – this effectively meant TV-am was subsidising The Channel 4 Daily. In turn, The Channel 4 Daily was not aimed at TV-am’s target audience and did not compete against it.
However, as far as we are aware, TV-am was not responsible for playing out the adverts and the Channel 4 signal was not rerouted through TV-am.
At all times the Channel 4 signal continued to pass through the regional ITV companies on its way to the transmitters.
It is thought – but not confirmed – that ITN played in the ads. ITN was also responsible for the coordination of the whole programme. The whole package – programme and ads – then passed through Channel 4 Presentation on its way to the network.
It is perhaps sad to think of the failure of The Channel 4 Daily. Did the market not exist? Or was it simply overshadowed by the two big programmes on the two big channels? In particular was it sufficiently different to BBC Breakfast News?
Still nobody can say Channel 4 didn’t try.
For years now Channel 4’s early mornings have simply been filled by repeats of American comedies. The slot seems to have been written off.
The Big Breakfast was recently revived but in a late-morning Saturday slot.
Will Channel 4 ever try to make waves in the early mornings again?
PICTURED: The Channel 4 Daily opening titles. COPYRIGHT: Channel 4 Television Corporation.