The Eighties




The
Eighties

(1979 - 1989)



1979


6th August - At 10.07pm, during "News at Ten" electricians at Thames stop work and switch off electricity, because of an overtime ban by their union.
When management switch power back on technicians on the control desk refuse to continue working and Thames goes off-air.

10th August - The technicians strike spreads, blacking out the whole of the ITV Network.

16th October - Thorn bids 145 million pounds for Thames' shareholder EMI. The bid is rejected, but when Thorn increases the bid to 165 million EMI accepts.

24th October - The ITV dispute is settled and, at 12.47pm the first face to appear is that of Laurie Baker, a Thames Supervisor, who is broadcast live for fifteen seconds while trying out the Continuity Announcers chair, because someone presses a wrong button.
The first sceduled programme is News at 5.45 from ITN.

29th October - Following the eleven week strike by ITV technicians, Euston Films unvails its delayed new series "Minder". It makes an unpromising start, but Verity Lambert believes in its potential and persuades Brian Cowgill (Managing Director of Thames) to fund a second series. Thus it goes on to become "a nice little earner" for Thames.



1980


February Following the success of "The Benny Hill Show" in the USA, a sales team from 'Thames Television International' return to the USA with a package of 100 half hour programmes featuring Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill which they give the billing "After Benny... Thames Presents". They return with sales agreements worth 5 million Dollers

2nd October Thames becomes the first of any UK broadcaster to produce an American Style 'Telethon'. Run only in the London ITV region, 'Thames Telethon' proves so successful (raising 1.25 million pounds for charity in just 10 hours) that the next Telethon - The ITV Telethon - covers the whole country.



1981


Jeremy Isaacs becomes Chief Executive of the new Channel 4, and Richard Dunn replaces him as Thames' Director of Production.



1983


16th August - "Storyboard" presents a 1 hour drama written by Geoff McQueen entitled "Woodentop". A year later this is developed into the long running series "The Bill".



1985


Bryan Cowgill poaches "Dallas" from the BBC by offering the makers 10,000 pounds more per episode. Michael Grade (Controller of BBC1) says it is an "act of vandalism, breaking a gentleman's agreement." Thames is forced to hand the programme back to the BBC at the original (lower) price.
Brian Cowgill resigns and Richard Dunn steps up to become the new Managing Director.

October - Michael Green, a young entrepreneur married to Janet Wolfson (grandaughter of Isaac Wolfson - whose Kemsley-Winnick group had to be replaced by ABC in 1955), makes a take over bid for Thames via his company Carlton Communications. All he requires is the IBA to wave the deal through, as both Thorn/EMI and BET are prepared to sell.
Richard Dunn is astounded. Three months after becoming Managing Director, Thames' two shareholders are selling out to someone with no public service broadcasting experience - Green's main interest, it is claimed, is the 'bottom line'. Dunn persuades the IBA to block the bid and to allow Thames management to make a partial public flotation of the company on the London Stock Exchange.



1987


30th April - David Elstein (Thames' Director of Programmes) announces that following a major break-through in discussions with the unions, Thames will be launching Britain's first all night television in May

September - During a Downing Street meeting on Commercial Broadcasting, Professor Alan Peacock suggests that the Government might consider auctioning off the ITV franchises to the highest bidder.
Margaret Thatcher is quite taken with Professor Peacock's suggestion, and says she believes ITV is "...the last bastion of restrictive practices."



1988


28th April - The Government try (unsuccessfully) to persuade the IBA to halt the broadcast of a "This Week Special" - Death on the Rock - detailing how three IRA terrorists met their death in Gibraltar. The IBA issues a statement saying that "...the programme is a responsibly made documentary."

September - ITV bosses elect Richard Dunn as Chairman of ITVA, the ITV companies trade body.

October - The broadcasting 'White Paper' recommends replacing the IBA with the new Independent Television Commission and awarding ITV franchises by competitive tender.



1989


June - Richard Dunn writes a letter to the Financial Times, stating that under Thatcher's proposals "...big money will out-bid good quality".

6th December - Thames buys an American production company Reeves Communication Corporation (makers of the sit-com "Kate and Allie") for 57 million pounds.


Step this way for the Great Franchise Auction


"Thames Television" is part of Fremantle Media.
Fremantle Media


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