One Day in the Life of Television: 25 years on

The One Day in the Life of Television programme documented the UK TV industry on one day, 1 November 1988. Watch the complete film here.

The two hour film, One Day in the Life of Television, is a fascinating snapshot of an industry about to undergo immense change. A British Film Institute (BFI) initiative, and filmed by more than fifty crews across a wide variety of programming, it is a behind-the-scenes look at the production, reception and marketing of British TV.

Watch One Day in the Life of Television here:

The programme marks a period in British television that could be considered as the end of the “gentlemanly old order”, before the 1990 Broadcasting Act changed the nature of the industry with the insertion of market ideology. The film features Greg Dyke and Jeremy Paxman both talking about their concerns for the future of British TV, if the proposals in the Government’s 1988 White Paper, “Broadcasting in the 1990s: Competition Choice and Quality” become law.

British TV at that time was dominated by the BBC and ITV (this film was produced by ITV’s Yorkshire Television) and both Dyke and Paxman voice their fears that the “multi-channel” satellite future will be stuffed with low-quality programming.

Lucky Ladders - One Day in the Life of Television

Lucky Ladders – One Day in the Life of Television

But One Day in the Life of Television does not simply bang the drum for the existing order, it was edited by Peter Kosminsky, a serious documentarian who wants the viewer, I think, to question industrialised story-telling and television’s relationship with power. The film, for example, lingers on interminable BBC meetings about budgets, has a director from “Scottish Action” talking about exploiting interviewees, and appears to show the presenter of game show Lucky Ladders assisting the contestants by giving them the correct answers.

Jeremy Paxman - One Day in the Life of Television

Jeremy Paxman – One Day in the Life of Television

Twenty five years on, the Conservative government is still interested in broadcasting. “BBC could lose exclusive right to licence fee, minister warns” is today’s top story on the Daily Telegraph website, as apparently: “BBC is “frittering away Auntie’s public trust” and could lose the licence fee if it does not tackle secrecy, waste and unbalanced reporting…”.

And 25 years on, Greg Dyke is still around, too, to respond.

“This is so predictable – 18 months from an election and the government decides to start pressuring the BBC,” he said.

“It’s an attempt to intimidate the BBC which is what governments do, and it’s the BBC’s job to resist”.

See also

One day in the life of television – the book
Great Peter Kosminsky interview
Clips from TV shows, 1 November 1988
The 1990 Broadcasting Act
White Paper debated: Broadcasting in the ’90s: Competition, Choice and Quality
Book: The Dream That Died: The Rise and Fall of ITV

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