In the news: ITV goes on strike
Not a single car commercial was shown on mainland British TV for 75 days in 1979 – and it wasn’t because our ailing manufacturers were too embarrassed about what they had to offer.
In fact, no adverts were shown at all, as ITV went off the air on 10 August, following a technicians’ dispute. At the time Britain had just three television channels: BBC 1, BBC2 and ITV. The latter was a network of regional contractors with a total monopoly on TV advertising, becoming very rich in the process.
Inflation stood at 13.4% and the technicians’ union ACTT wanted a 25% pay rise. ITV offered 9% and the resulting industrial action meant viewers were denied new episodes of Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm and, in an especially callous act, Crossroads. No screaming Capris either, because The Professionals was on ITV. Viewers could only watch BBC TV, listen to the wireless or give their Chrysler Sunbeam an extra polish.
ITV eventually returned with some terrible theme music and, with deep irony, the first programme after the news was The Muppet Show. Oh well, at least Minder made its debut a few days later.
Every aspect of the above makes 1979 seem like the Stone Age. The thought of being limited to three TV channels when you can now spend the entire day watching back-to-back episodes of Storage Wars on one of the dozens of free digital channels or else spend an entire weekend watching a non-stop marathon of all five series of Breaking Bad on blu-ray is hilarious.