Videojournalist in England

In 1993, on the heels of NY1, I was invited to London to help build the London version of NY1, Channel 1.

It was the brainchild of the very far-thinking Sir David English and his Associated Newspaper group.

We hired, equipped (with Hi8) and trained 42 British VJs.

Their work was great. London had no local TV news channel. But it also lacked something else – cable penetration, which was too bad, because the idea was a good one. Cable was then in competition with satellite (the English footprint being a good deal smaller than the US, (or even New England, Satellite made more sense – if you could get people to buy the dishes and install them!)

At that time, there was even competition between two different satellite providers – Sky and something called British Broadcasting. One had a round antenna the size of a dinner plate you were supposed to affix to your window. Murdoch’s Sky had the ‘squariel’ – you get the idea. In the end, they merged and formed BSkyB, and cable was squeezed out, taking with it both Channel1 and LiveTV.

However, not before we had trained and fielded our first generation of British VJs. Most of them are still in business, but none so strongly as David Dunkley Gyimah, whose video is above.

5 responses to “Videojournalist in England

  1. Of cause another reason Channel 1 and Live TV failed could be they were really, really awful. The two top rating programs on them being Topless Darts and the stripping weather presenter… after a few disasters at ITN we were told that we were not to consider any of the cable refugees for any positions unless they had other experience working with a real broadcaster. I know guys who left their CV blank rather than admit they were at Channel 1. Talk about career death.
    Glad to see someone made it through.

  2. Let’s not confuse the two. It was Live TV (under Janet Street Porter no less) that ran with Topless Darts and the stripping weather presenter. Not Channel 1. I often see the alumni of Channel 1 on UK TV, not least of which the rather oddly named Julia Caesar who does biz news for the ITN

  3. hahaha🙂 Yep I’m still here.

    History has a way of catching up on the future, in some cases even teaching us a thing or two.

    So yes, 1993 and some years on with ideas kneaded, mashed up and passed through some home made “blue Peter” memex, here we are.

    Sadly, Channel One has more or less been airbrushed from its contribution to Brit video journalism.

    And that’s a disservice to many, none more so than Sir David; MD, Aston and Dir of Progs Nick Pollard, who’d go on to become head of Sky News.

    Sir David would come bounding through the office, pulling us over, eager to know what we were doing and some.

    I met Stuart Purvis ( then Chief Exec of ITN)soon after its demise. His words have stuck with me: “Channel One”, he said “was too ahead of its time, but had taught the industry a lot of what it knows”.

    Many of its old guard have now glittering careers e.g. Julia Ceaser ( BBC Busines); Chris Hollins ( BBC Breakfast); John Gilbert, ITV and so on.

    There’s a wee article I have compiled about this.

    Before I got to C1 I already had some industry miles under me from starting off in 87 e.g. Newsnight, BBC Reportage and 18 months freelance reporting from South Africa for the BBC WS, but Channel One still remains one of the most exciting times in my career.

    I went on to regularly freelance produce at Channel 4 News and undertook some interesting jobs working as one of Lennox Lewis’ two vjs during his Tyson fight, diving expeditions, and working in the ad world in Soho.

    Hi pencilgod, Channel One never did the shows you mentioned. I know the point you’re getting at, but in part that was the rub between Vjs then and traditional media, and VJs/Citizen Journalism now and traditional media.

    Traditional media then, as now, has a good idea of what constitutes acceptable standards. Channel One was trying something new.

    It may not have always worked, but it produced some excellent shows on shoe string budgets e.g Paint it Red ( Entertainment), Food Shows and Car progs.
    Phunk, I still have the tapes – looking at TV screen now (how sad!)

    Here’s a classic C1 VJ-made- for-TV report by Mark Hadley, which should be of interest to any media student or pundit, as it explores Brit newspapers going online.

    Chuckle at the thought that the Times is chuffed that it’s atracting 30,000 readers.

    (I’ll repost this soon on Brightcove and redo the codec so anyone can grab it)

    One of the most outstanding VJs at the time, hugely talented, was a chap called Dan Rowland.

    That Dan is not star today, all things considering, ( he did do some BBC Holiday pieces) gives a tad weight to my point.

    Anyways the future for VJs or a name I use Integrated multimedia VJs (IM6 VJs) looks bright.

    And the paardigm is being pushed further and further. I’m at Reuters tomorrow for the ONA gathering where they’re talking about their Mojos.

    The next few years should prove mighty interesting.

    Who knows Channel One might just get a mention in google that talks about what it did or try to do.

    Experiment or expire, to borrow and repurpose an old MIT phrase🙂

  4. I know the shows I mentioned were from Live TV I just couldn’t remember anything from Channel 1 except all cameramen were band from the lifts of quite a few buildings because of a “show” Channel 1 had shot in the Lifts of London.

    I remember John Gilbert well. He came to us a minor star from Channel 1, he is a very talented performer but very nearly crashed and burned at ITN. For him the change to a more traditional form of media was nearly terminal for his career. He didn’t know any of the basic things a journalist should. He had to work damn hard and have a lot of help but after a few major cock ups (the time he transposed the names of the murderer and victim in a stand up leaps to mind) and a lot of tolerance he made it. I am very glad to hear he is doing ok. He had such a lot to learn and Channel 1 had done him no favors.

    I’m not saying good people didn’t work there just if you learn to drive a bus don’t be surprised that you don’t get offered a job as an airline pilot. You still need to learn to fly

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