29 APRIL 1989, Page 40


Breakfast titbits

Wendy Cope

The old television set in my bedroom, as I have mentioned before, only receives Channel 4 and BBC 2. Until recently I hardly ever watched breakfast television because to do so meant getting up and eating my cereal in the living-room — an unwelcome change of routine. But now I can take a tray back to bed as usual, prop myself up on five pillows, and take in The Channel 4 Daily. I'm not yet sure if this is going to become a permanent habit but over the last week it has most certainly beaten working for a living.

It seems to me that the programme offers exactly what one wants from break- fast television. Has anything dramatic hap- pened since today's newspaper went to press? Every quarter of an hour there's a chance to find out, from a news bulletin that only lasts a couple of minutes. The fact that the exact times of the news and travel information are a) printed in TV Times and b) easy to remember gives Channel 4 a tremendous advantage over its early morn- ing rivals. On Thursday, the day of the tube strike, I needed to get to Paddington station. By the time it dawned on me that this was going to be difficult, it was already too late to book a mini-cab. Switching on Channel 4 at the appropriate moment, I learned that there were, after all, some trains running on the Bakerloo line. Prob- lem solved. What time is the travel news on Radio 4, BBC 1 or ITV? I haven't the faintest idea.

In between the news/travel/weather spots, The Channel 4 Daily offers a variety of miniature programmes, each of which has something of the charm of doll's house furniture. The arts programme, entitled Box Office, lasts ten minutes — just the right length for me. Every day it lists four or five events in different parts of the country and then gives slightly more ex- tended coverage to one or two others. Monday's edition included a gem of an 'Nowadays one expects to see one's arrival recorded in the Independent.' interview with Gilbert & George, con- ducted by David Roper. 'A good picture will always reveal something of the viewer to himself', said George. 'We believe that our pictures bring out the liberal in the bigot and the bigot in the liberal.' There's an interesting thought for the day.

Streetwise, a little consumer programme, has, in the past week, offered sensible advice about pesticides in food, back seat safety belts, fending off junk mail and numerous other subjects. It's useful, it's entertaining, and it only takes up ten minutes of your valuable time. Business Daily, presented by Susannah Simons, is so brisk and businesslike that I can't under- stand a word of it. But this is as it should be.

I've been trying to think of a suitable name for these diminutive programmes. Proglings? Proglets? Promilligrammes? Anyway, my favourite among them Is Countdown Masters, the word and arith- metic game. My mother has been telling me for years that I would enjoy Count- down but I had resisted the temptation to switch on at teatime.

An excellent edition of Dispatches (Channel 4, 8.30 p.m., Wednesday) looked at the question of obscene and threatening telephone calls. Women interviewees de- scribed how they had been terrified for months or years. Some had been fright- ened into moving out of their homes. The changeover to digital exchanges means that British Telecom could easily trace a quar- ter of these calls but, unlike some Amer- ican companies, it chooses not to. Tracing calls costs money, so the offenders con- tinue to operate with impunity. Last year, according to the programme, British Tele- com made after-tax profits of £1,600 mil- lion.