The first South Bank Show featured feminist author and English literature professor Germaine Greer, satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, and singer/songwriter Paul McCartney, setting the tone of the programme as bringing both high art and popular culture to a mass audience. It was broadcast early 1978 and attracted 6.7 million viewers.
It is the longest continuously running arts programme on television. It remains firmly rooted to Sunday night on ITV1, broadcast on the best performing channel on one of its strongest nights of the week.
It has a bigger remit than any other arts programme. It sets its own agenda and tackles an extremely wide range of topics from specialist to populist. The show has won more than 110 awards, including 12 BAFTA's, six Emmys, five Prix Italia, four RTS awards and many more. Most recently, the two-part programme on Gilbert and George was winner of the BAFTA Best Arts Programme and the RTS Arts Award, and the programme on Dolly Parton was a winner at the New York Festival.
The show was originally broadcast on ITV but was canceled in 2010. It was revived by Sky Arts in 2012