He Gets It

In early 1994, I was approached by a man named Sir David English, one of the greatest newspapermen and journalists in British history.

He was going to build the first 24-hour TV news channel in London.

It would be called Channel One.

It was going to be all-VJ.

By August 1994, I was in London, taking the VJs through a very intensive 12-week training course to get them ready for air.

No one had ever done anything like this before.  Many of the VJs, while journalists, had no prior TV experience. This was the way we wanted it.  Today, 14 years later, most of them have gone on to very impressive careers.  Rachel Ellison, one of our first VJs, is now an MBE (Member of the British Empire – this is a very big deal), Rachel now runs her own executive motivational presentation consultancy after many years at  The BBC.  Julia Caeasar is a BBC Business correspondent.  Marcel Theroux is a broadcast journalist working with a number of independents for Channel 4. Just last week he reported a special on Art and Russian multi-millionaires.   And Nick Pollard resigned from head of sky News  in 2006.  David Dunkley Gymiah has gone on to become the pre-eminent VJ in the UK.

I have been following David’s career for years, but yesterday I got an email from him.

Julian Aston (who ran Channel One – along with Nick Pollard, who today runs Sky News), had a small reunion of some of the original Channel One VJs.

David wrote about it in his publication Viewmagazine.tv

He also appended a video that I had never seen before.

It’s a rough cut (with time code burn ins) of the launch of Channel One.

Fourteen years ago.

It’s pretty funny to watch.

sort of..


5 responses to “He Gets It

  1. ha ha yep dem days.

    Yes hats off to how well many have fared. But er, I cheated a bit.

    I had already been working for the BBC since 1987, including Newsnight and reporting for BBC’s hip pre-incarnation of current.tv, Reportage – where we unwittingly used hi-8s for drop-in shots [Beep should really do something like this again].

    ABC News (South Africa) Eve of the first all-race election, a bomb is detonated by Right wing factions. Reporting for BBC WS Caribbean Service. Huh multi-skilling eh!

    In 1994, I’d just come off working for ABC News, based in South Africa, as an Associate Producer, as well as a freelance radio reporter for the World Service and Radio 4 when I applied for the C1 VJ job.

    But yes the VJ training you drilled us with and ensuing work was awesome.

    It’s a wonder no one’s replicated the C1 idea, which today would be a fraction of the 100 million dollars it cost back then.

    The fascinating story, though not funny, was how a lot of VJs couldn’t find work or didn’t want to go back into traditional broadcasting after Channel One.

    And it wasn’t because they weren’t good, but to use a phrase they were deemed “suspiciously either over qualified”, or “not quite broadcast material” – no one quite believed what we we were capable of.

    So it’s great to see the success of all the others.

    Now if you really want to have a laugh, here’s Messr Rosenblum singing.

    I’ll hunt down the clean version this tape, which I’m told is around.

    Bit of a throw away fact here, but Julian Aston was classmates with Mick Jagger and recounted some funny stories about those day at his leaving do.



  2. Darn, LOL, I was going to embed a radio report from South africa and pic where it says: “ABC News (South Africa) Eve of the first…..

  3. David
    I cannot believe the stuff you have saved. The singing one was hysterical. Let’s catch up when I am in UK next.

  4. I was at ITN when there was a Memo that went around saying not to hire victims of C1. Too much work to make then any use. A few still make it by not putting C1 on their CV… but C1 was like an albatross around the neck of their career, it always bothered me. You can’t blame the workers for dumb management.

  5. Hi Michael and David.

    What a trip down memory lane! How did you nab those videos? I’m so glad you did. It brought back happy memories.

    It’s true that the Channel One label had something of a stigma, and I found myself saying I was a producer/director after ’97 to get work.

    The irony is of course that I ended up back in various parts of the BBC and Endemol, doing exactly what we’d been trained to do in Charlotte Street.

    I think David is right when he says what Channel One did achieve was prove the viability of a new working paradigm, which was a decade ahead of its time.

    I’m a school teacher now and have been for the last six years. I teach Media Studies, so spend my days showing youngsters how to do what we did. The amazing thing is how comfortable they are with the notion of multi-tasked production. Many arrive knowing basic filming, editing and motion graphics skills. The rise in media literacy and visual grammar is astounding, and it’s wonderful for me to see how that legacy from Channel One has blossomed into something more interactive and profound.

    I’m hoping to bring some students over to NYNY next July, so we should see if perhaps they can spend some time with you, as the guru of accessible film making?

    Have a look at one of my former student’s work to see what’s happening at the 16-19 age group level:

    David – I’ll mail you separately as it would be great to catch up and I’d like to see if you might be available to deliver a keynote to my A level students. I think I have bored them to death with my own stories, and your PhD is very interesting to me, as I’m starting an MA next year in Online and Distance Education.

    It’s strange to think how so much of what we do now leads back to our time with Michael and his team, as well as the visionaries at Channel One. Catalysts for change indeed….

    All the best,


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