1st Broadcast of Channel 5
The 30th of March 1997 AD
The launch of Britain’s last terrestrial TV station, Channel 5, was not all the government and the company’s management would have wished, but generated better than expected viewer numbers on the night.
Five years previously the idea had been mooted, with invitations invited to apply for the channel’s licence. Only one company threw its hat in the ring, and ITC for the government declined their offer, putting the project back to broadcasters to reapply.
Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd was awarded the franchise in October 1995, with programmes due to start according to their contractual terms on New Year’s Day 1997. Problems with having to retune video recorders because of technical difficulties, in order that people could receive their broadcasts, didn’t help the company image one bit, and led to the opening broadcast being put back to March 30 that year – Easter Sunday. And only about 80 per cent of British people could receive the station's signal.
The first broadcast, other than test transmissions, was at 6pm on March 30 1997: the then ubiquitous Spice Girls singing a revamped version of the old song 5-4-3-2-1 opened things, followed by a half hour of previews, perhaps on reflection not the most dazzling station opening in history. But the station’s management will have been pleased with the number of viewers attracted to witness the opening moments – just short of two and a half million, far better than the figure achieved by most recently launched rival Channel Four.
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