Fourth time lucky? 

21 September 2003 tbs.pm/834

BBC News on end of RI:SE

Poor C4. The Channel Four Daily, The Big Breakfast, an unexpected interregnum, and RI:SE (in two flavours).

The Channel Four Daily (C4D) was an excellent idea. You could have a mixture of the BBC’s Breakfast News, TV-am and C4’s popular fair (Countdown). All of this in convenient lumps, constantly repeated so you could dip in and out according to how late for work you were.

The flaw in this early televisual version of the Metro ‘news’ paper was that the format pleased nobody. The news wasn’t hard enough or often enough. And who needs arts reviews at 7am? Even Newsnight Review once a week at 11pm is hard enough to cope with. The adverts – at that time sold by TV-am – were repetative, with a type of horrible French wine getting the lion’s share.

The replacement, with good reason, had newcomer Sunrise TV worried. It complained to the ITC that the terms of its licence hadn’t allowed for a youthful competator for TV-am being born before it came on air. The plans of Sunrise – later GMTV – to take the TV-am programme upmarket were, to everyone else, obviously a receipe for disaster. C4’s Big Breakfast (BB) could only make things worse. And did.

The bright and loud BB forced the new GMTV to revise its plans back to the pale immitation of TV-am we know and love today. Well, that and disasterous viewing figures, profits, and PR (the F-Factor, anyone?).

But all things run their course. And BB was suddenly felt to have lost its edge and needed replacement. The relacement was much more like the old C4D, without the odd structure. An alternative, yes. But an alternative to BB, rather than what GMTV and BBC Breakfast had to offer. In fact, it reminded us of C5’s morning show: great… for C5. With the bonus of being short, too.

RI:SE had the job of throwing off the old audience, rather than attracting a new one – this being something of a flaw in British TV thinking, historically. The new concept didn’t attract the BB audience (they fled to CBBC Channel – or BBC2 and C5 – and the like). It didn’t take the old 5 audience as 5’s programme had already died sometime before.

RI:SE didn’t take audiences from GMTV (housewives and people who need help changing channels) or the BBC (viewers of Breakfast being the type of people who would watch programmes like BBC Breakfast. I know, I’m one of them.)

So they were to carve out a new audience. From… er… well, that’d be the flaw in the plan, then.

A relaunch made the show more watchable (or at least did something with that awful clock). But the days of television companies waiting 3 years for a programme to settle down have passed. TV-am reach the heights of popularity because of the strike service some years in. The BBC has had 3 goes and still isn’t sure it’s got the best formula (clue: you had it with Jeremy and Sophie. Now you don’t. Work with me on this) but has the much-needed ‘luxury’ of the licence fee to cushion the attempts.

C5 has given up and Milkshake, Shake! and various kids strands now dominate. Pre-schoolers have BBC-2.

I’ll be fascinated to see what C4 comes up with next.