15 Years of Channel Five


Believe it or not it’s been 15 years since Channel Five first hit our screens on March 30 1997 - just a month before Labour’s landmark General Election victory. To celebrate, we take a look back at some of the channel’s most memorable moments...

1996 - Tune in, turn on and fork out
As part of the conditions of winning its broadcasting licence - with a bid of £22m - Channel Five Broadcasting had to spend an additional £145m sending workers door-to-door throughout the country re-tuning people’s VCRs (remember them?).

The re-tuning was necessary because the show’s broadcast frequency clashed with that used by many video recorders, but company chairman Greg Dyke called the process “a burglar’s paradise”.


1997 - Spice up your telly
In a specially-filmed promo - which couldn’t have been any more ‘90s if it tried - the channel launched with The Spice Girls covering Manfred Mann’s ‘5-4-3-2-1’ against a lurid Austin Powers-style multi-coloured backdrop.

This was followed by half an hour of previews introduced by presenters Julia Bradbury (now of ‘Countryfile’ fame) and Tim Vine (yes, the stand-up comic who does one-liners).


1997 - Stand-up news
Before Channel Five came along newscasters had always sat down behind a desk, but the channel was determined to shake things up and made the then-Earth-shattering move of having its newsreaders perch on the front of their desks!

1997 – Pearcey shoots and scores
For years football commentators had all shared a similarly gruff, subdued delivery – but that all changed when Channel Five hired Jonathan Pearce as its lead commentator.

Some found him a bit over the top, but many fans loved his exuberance and enthusiasm for the sport – and he was a perfect match for the brash young channel.

1998 - Unhappy Family Affairs
The channel’s flagship five-days-a-week soap ‘Family Affairs’ was not performing as well as hoped in the ratings, so bosses brought in Brian “axeman” Park – who had overseen a cull of ‘Coronation Street’ characters - to shake things up.

He ‘got rid’ of the show’s two original families, the Gates and the Harts – having Jack Gates murder his wife Elsa before taking his own life and killing all of the Harts in a gas explosion.

1999 - The three Fs
Director of programming Dawn Airey famously described the channel’s output as “the three Fs" - "football, films and f**king".

This was the same year that the channel boosted its late-night ratings by broadcasting such fine shows as ‘The Red Shoe Diaries’ – a soft-porn programme ‘compered’ by David Duchovny of ‘The X Files’ fame – spicing up TV viewing for insomniacs everywhere.

2000 - Cheggers gets nekkid
Two million viewers of game show The Naked Jungle were ‘treated’ to the sight of host Keith Chegwin wearing just his birthday suit and a pith helmet.
The show was a one-off to mark naturist week - and perhaps unsurprisingly, a full series was not commissioned.

2002 - Name change
After five years channel bosses decided it was time to freshen things up, and the channel rebranded itself from Channel Five to just ‘Five’. Unfortunately they didn’t hire the boy band of the same name to sing ‘5-4-3-2-1’.

2004 - Pigging in
If there’s one area where the channel can undoubtedly go head-to-head with the big boys it is in toddlers’ telly – and this is largely thanks to executives having the foresight to sign up the now-phenomenally successful ‘Peppa Pig’ back in 2004.

2004 - 2012 - Go go Gadget Show
One of the channel’s most popular programmes, ‘The Gadget Show’ has gone from strength to strength over its eight-year-existence and has now added a ‘World Tour’ to its name and branched out into live events and magazines – not to mention having an absurdly long list of prizes in its annual giveaway.

2008 - New Neighbours move in
Five had been giving Aussie soap fans their ‘Home and Away’ fix since 2001, but it was the arrival of ‘Neighbours’ in 2008, after the BBC had apparently balked at paying £37.5m per year, that gave the channel the big-name soap it had always wanted.

2009 - Live From Studio Five
Many current affairs shows have a lightweight reporter who does the funny “and finally” pieces, but Channel Five had the bright idea of recruiting three such presenters to front its new early-evening topical show ‘Live From Studio Five’. Launched with Melinda Messenger, Ian Wright and Kate Walsh (from ‘The Apprentice’), few viewers were surprised when the show – which made ‘The Wright Stuff’ look like ‘Newsnight’ – was canned after 18 months.


2010 - Desmond takes over
When Richard Desmond’s Northern and Shell took over the station in 2010 there were fears that the Express owner might merge it with Television X or commission a Princess Diana conspiracy show – but instead he changed the name to Channel 5 and launched into a vigorous campaign of cross-promotion with his newspapers and magazines.

2011 - Big Brother adopted
After Channel 4 opted to let ‘Big Brother’ go in 2010, the show was picked up by Channel 5 and given a new lease of life with a summer series of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ that featured Jedward, Kerry Katona and Amy Childs – among others.

2012 – Denise does a Cheggers
Nobody was very surprised when famously raucous Loose Women presenter Denise Welch decided to take a topless Jacuzzi with Frankie Cocozza in the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ house – but it was still a massive news story - and there were quite a few raised eyebrows when she ended up winning the series. So it’s no surprise that Channel 5 have just announced they are to screen another series of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ this year!