By Ian Jones

First published April 2000

“You sit in the drawing-room and see the Derby at Epsom. You see the Test Matches, the Cup Final. You lean forward in your chair, feint and strive with the sport of it. Your pulse, your breath accelerate. Television has got you! You see Mr Chamberlain step out of his aeroplane back from Munich. He takes a sheet of paper from his pocket. Peace, it means Peace! These things are unique. We shall tell our grandchildren of such days.”
BBC television publicity leaflet, summer 1939

OTT, though concerned with the construction and commemoration of television from the past, is above all a site for engaging with contemporary TV. A concern for the nature of today’s television underpins much of what appears on OTT, manifesting itself most obviously in the Reviews section. But watching television has never been a matter of selecting and mediating programmes in isolation; the act of viewing the TV has always involved engaging with the network itself (even if this only extends to catching the end of a previous transmission by mistake) and forming a lasting relationship – no matter how stormy – with each respective channel. This ultimately influences and dictates how, when and why we decide to watch television itself.

OTT considered it important, therefore, to try and attempt a review of contemporary broadcasting with such wider and fundamental considerations in mind. To this end, five OTT writers watched a whole day’s worth of television output on Britain’s terrestrial networks. What follows are their various observations, commentaries, criticisms and conclusions on 24 hours in the life of UK television broadcasting from 6am on Thursday 9 March 2000 through to 6am the following morning.

As the exercise was conceived to offer a unique but comprehensive insight into the condition of TV “as it is”, it resembles not only a compendium of over one hundred individual micro-reviews, but will in time become a valuable archive document, offering factual as well as subjective narrative and analysis.

It took place at a significant moment in the history and development of British terrestrial TV. All the networks, save Channel 5 (still in its infancy), are at crisis points in their existence; all are facing immediate concerns over short and long term funding, output, audience and purpose. These contextual concerns are sketched in greater detail in each of the overviews which accompany the respective set of reviews. Suffice to say, TV24, though completely random and arbitrary in its choice of date, constantly reflects those concerns and delineates both hopes and fears for the future of free-to-air television in Britain in the future.

Whilst filing their dispatches on the state of contemporary TV, OTT also kept records of various statistics and data pertaining to the quantity of repeats, imports, live programmes, onscreen sponsorship and other information in evidence during the day. These, together with expanded reviews, analysis and associate features, all appear in a special spin-off TV24 publication, details of which can be obtained if you email OTT.

OTT is keen to hear any responses you have to TV24 and welcomes any comments via the usual channels. In the meantime, it’s 6am on the morning of Thursday 9 March 2000, and another day’s television is about to begin.