Promax UK
Industrial Disputes
Strike action blacks out TV services in the 60s, 70s and 80s
UK TV services were regularly affected by industrial disputes during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. On this page, we present examples of the captions that were broadcast when normal services were blacked out.
Above: 1978 BBC strike [December 1978] [left]. The infamous ITV strike during late-summer and early-autumn 1979 [right].
The BBC Two apology caption above was shown in place of 'Film of the Week', which was blacked out as a result of a wildcat strike in December 1978. Consequently, BBC Two was forced to close down earlier than usual that evening (just after 10.50pm). This was one of a series of short strikes that preceded the 24-hour stoppages on December 21 and 22 which crippled the BBC.

The ten-week-long ITV blackout of 1979 became the most famous strike in television history. It was triggered as a result of a pay claim by the ACTT union. Public sector workers had won pay awards of up to 20 per cent following the Winter of Discontent. The ACTT wanted a similar amount for its ITV staff. However, the ITV stations refused. On August 06 1979, an overtime ban came into force. Technicians at Thames walked out on strike late that night. On August 10, the ACTT instructed its members around the country to walk out on strike in support of a 15 to 20 per cent pay increase.
Above: 1983 BBC strike [left]. 1984 BBC strike that blacked out BBC One [right].
Above: caption broadcast on Thames in 1984.
The 'IBA London' caption shown above was transmitted in place of output from Thames for a time during the industrial disputes of August 27 - September 03 1984 (LWT broadcast over the weekend as normal), and again between October 17 and 19 1984. When the dispute started, Thames was blacked out for a day. However, management and administration staff then stepped in to provide an emergency service. However, that service didn't come on air until the afternoon; so, between TV-am and the afternoon start, programme menus and music were transmitted. The dispute prevented Thames from selling advertising airtime on Channel 4 at the time.
Above: BBC journalists strike in 1985 [left]. Apology caption shown in place of TV-am in 1985 [right].
As a result of a one-day strike by members of the NUJ, all BBC TV and radio news output was disrupted on August 07 1985. BBC Two's in-vision 'Page from Ceefax' was also affected, as shown above. The strike - which also impacted ITN programmes - was triggered by the British government and BBC Northern Ireland decision to ban the documentary 'Real Lives: At the Edge of the Union', which followed the day-to-day lives of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and the DUP's Gregory Campbell. The strike led to the BBC World Service being taken off the air for the first time. TV-am's output was also blacked out that day and was replaced by the caption shown above.
Above: a power failure takes Channel 4 off the air in the 1990s.