MEDIA: NEW YEAR’S EVE TV - Capturing millennium couch potatoes. The world’s television networks are faced with the biggest event in their history - the trouble is they don’t know if anyone will actually tune in to watch

Schedulers face something of a dilemma in putting together programming ideas for millennium eve. On the one hand, the evening is clearly rather special, requiring something momentous to mark its passing - on the other, there is uncertainty over whether enough people will spend the evening watching television to make a big effort worthwhile.

Schedulers face something of a dilemma in putting together

programming ideas for millennium eve. On the one hand, the evening is

clearly rather special, requiring something momentous to mark its

passing - on the other, there is uncertainty over whether enough people

will spend the evening watching television to make a big effort


In Denmark, for example, the channels have decided that, for one night

only, rather than compete, they will collaborate. The same drama,

produced by the makers of cult movie The Idiots, is being broadcast

across a number of different networks, but each will show the action

from a different character’s perspective, allowing the audience a unique

viewing experience flicking between channels.

Some of the world’s other TV companies have decided to go a step

further, and take programming from the one broadcaster that is taking

its responsibilities for the evening very seriously: the BBC.

Unperturbed by the massive threat posed to the world’s transmission

systems by the millennium bug, the BBC will be attempting the most

ambitious live broadcast ever undertaken. 2000 Today will be a live,

28-hour broadcast which will cost pounds 12 million, has taken three

years to plan, and will link 62 of the world’s broadcasters, using 78

satellite paths.

The BBC is actually running two separate broadcasts on the night. There

is a global programme put together by the corporation from co-ordinated

contributions from broadcasters the world over, and a national programme

which will both link into the global programme, and take items from it.

The UK transmission will be an event-led programme showing celebrations

from across the country.

ITV is also taking the evening seriously, with Trevor McDonald fronting

Countdown 2000, a live, all-day programme similarly bringing viewers the

’symbolic events’ from across the country and the rest of the world.

ITV, like the BBC, will broadcast from the normally uninhabited pacific

island group of Kiribati that will be the first place to see in the new


Channels 4 and 5 appear more sceptical about viewer numbers, and have

taken a more irreverent, and less costly, approach. Both are showing

millennium party night versions of existing light entertainment shows:

So Graham Norton, a live, camp chat show, and celebrity karaoke game

show Saturday Night Fever respectively. This will be recorded ’as live’,

with participants faking millennium frenzy.


Position: head of millennium event

Programme title: 2000 Today

Slot: 9.15am on 31/12/99 to 1pm on 1/1/00

’This will be the biggest international broadcast ever attempted: 28

hours long. We want to give viewers the ultimate broadcast experience of

the millennium, playing to our strengths internationally and with the

best of BBC comedy and entertainment.

’Two entirely separate projects are feeding into each other. We have 62

international broadcasters all coming together - in effect creating a

new global channel for a day. The content is coming in from all over the

world and the BBC is putting it together for our international partners

to use. The international projects were chosen following all the

partners’ pitches to our editorial board. There is no political

propaganda and no speeches and it also had to be very visual.

’The UK programme has 250 cameras live across the country, mixed with

the best of the international broadcast and comedy and drama


Each part of the day has a theme and a mood. In Manchester a 30-foot

high millennium bug will be crawling through the street; Derry will be

special with 100 drummers walking round the city wall. It will be very

varied - not all champagne and fireworks. There will also be wonderful

reunion stories. Some places are now very organised, it is just a

question of working out scripts and camera angles; others still have

timing and transport issues to resolve.’


Position: editor

Programme title: Countdown 2000

Slot: 10am on 31/12/99 to ’small hours’ on 1/1/00

’We want a people- and pictures-based show about how people are enjoying

themselves and seeing the new year in, up and down the country. Through

the day we will be doing almost hourly bulletins from each place around

the world as the sun comes up on the new millennium - Kiribati

(uninhabited except for UK TV journalists), New Zealand, Australia,

China, Hong Kong, Moscow - but the main show starts just before


’ITV wants to make sure people don’t miss anything, but that they can

still enjoy their favourite shows earlier in the evening, so we will not

have millennium programming all night. While the BBC is solidly

event-based for 28 hours, we think people might be a bit bored by all


’One of the most spectacular things should be the fireworks and the

sheet of flame which goes down the Thames from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall

in 10.8 seconds, although this will be a nightmare to televise. The

whole thing will be a tricky feat of engineering as cameras can’t be

linked by cable as for a normal outside broadcast; we’ve had to devise a

system of microwave links. The last thing this complicated was Diana’s

funeral. It will be interesting to see how many viewers we get - new

year’s eve is not normally a big time for TV. We think it might be

different this year as people will be worried about transport and so


Channel 5

Position: producer

Programme title: Night Fever Millennium Special

Slot: 9pm on 31/12/99 to 1.05am on 1/1/00

’We will largely keep the format of the show the same as usual: a

celebrity karaoke competition, interspersed with performances by live

bands. The idea is to break the show up into four sections looking at

music from the 1950s and 1960s; the 1970s; the 1980s and 1990s, and then

the present day.

’Suggs, our host, is transported by a karaoke time machine to the

different decades to relive the golden decades of pop music with the

audience and the panel guests in appropriate fancy dress. There will be

no talking, no looking back, there will be no reflective poetry, it will

be very unpretentious, unthinking good fun - in the last hour it will be

a relentless knees-up with little talk.

Obviously, week by week, we have made a list of our favourite songs and

this is the most fun way of putting them all together. With us, people

will leave the old millennium with Night Fever, and see the new one in

with YMCA. All the audience will be drunk, and everyone will be in party

mood - it will be a very lively show.

’If you are a fan of the South Bank Show you should not be watching. It

will be vulgar and in your face - everything the BBC will not be. We

believe that is what people will want to watch if they stay in - and

they might because everything will be very expensive outside.’

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