London — Breakfast television is coming to Britain, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority has asked a commercial company headed by Peter Jay, a former ambassador to Washington, to introduce it.
The authority has also jolted the 15 existing British commercial TV companies by withdrawing the warrants of two of them and making it clear that the remainder must adhere to high program standards.
The IBA decisions taken during the holiday period to avoid panic buying and selling of shares in anticipation of the outcome mean that Mr. Jay, son-in-law of the former Labour prime minister, James Callaghan, has three years to prepare for the advent of breakfast viewing.
He already has assembled a talented team, including Angela Rippon and Anna Ford, the leading female newscasters of the BBC and independent television, plus several male personalities from the BBC and commercial channels.
The shake-up among existing commercial companies means that western and southern television lose their regional franchises and are replaced by new companies.
Other commercial consortia have been told that they will retain their franchises only if they improve their financial and management structures and pursue policies that guarantee high program standards.
The IBA controls all commercial television and radio in Britain. It is the commercial counterpart of the board of governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The awarding and withdrawal of franchise contracts is one of the authority's main means of influencing program standards in the long term.
Its decision to give the go-ahead to the company, TV A.M., to screen programs at breakfast time in controversial. The authority chairman, Lady Plowden, was not required to issue a warrant for morning TV, and some public opinion polls suggest that breakfast audiences will be limited.
Morning radio shows, such as the BBC's Today Programme, have audiences numbering several millions. BBC executives hope they will be able to retain the loyalty of listeners, but Mr. Jay and his supporters, who include the TV impresario and interviewer, David Frost, are confident they can build up big audiences at the breakfast table.
"Ours will be largely a news and current affairs approach, and we shall be conscious that a high proportion of our viewers will be women and childre," Mr. Jay said. Before serving as ambassador to Washington, Mr. Jay was the host of a weekly television program.
He says he is convinced there are new ways of presenting news and current affairs that will make them relevant and instructive to young audiences, even when they are concerned with consuming their cornflakes.
At the root of the IBA determination to restructure commercial television is its belief that the regional character of companies must be strengthened.
When they are awarded warrants, commercial companies are expected to develop distinctive regional approaches to programming. The temptation, however, is to indulge in a lot of networking and thus reap profits without plowing money into local themes.
Lady Plowden's award of two new franchises and stricter conditions for existing companies reflects her belief that a number of commercial operators have wavered in their regional commitments.
The authority is also worried about the financial health of some companies.
Ten years ago commercial television was seen as "a license to print money," but today the prevailing recession has but back profits.
The commercial companies will also be required to contribute heavily from their income to the setting up of a fourth television channel early in the 1980 s.
This means that the management and financial base of each company must be doubly sound.
In Britain, TV commercials are not linked specifically to programs but are interspersed between items. There is no direct commercial sponsoring of programs.