Jeux Sans Frontières ran in Continental Europe until 1999, when it was dropped for the second time in its history (it had previously endured a five year hiatus after the 1982 series). In Britain, the Channel 5 revamp of It's A Knockout limped to a conclusion a year later, the good reviews it received not being reflected in viewing figures.

On the Continent, things were looking extremely positive for a new series commencing in the summer of 2007, with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announcing that Jeux Sans Frontières was finally to return. As many as thirteen countries expressed an interest in being involved, with eight countries shortlisted to have been involved - Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. The games were planned to be held in one country as per the 1996-1999 competitions, presumably as a cost saving measure. Unfortunately, around Christmas 2006, cracks in the plan started appearing, as the Greek television station ERT announced that they were pulling out. Four months later, in April 2007, the EBU announced that the series was not to return after all. The reason given was, not exactly unexpectedly, financial. Just as it was in 1982 and 1999, Jeux Sans Frontières was, once more, too expensive to stage.

While the EBU stated that the cancellation of the 2007 series was definite, their announcement did include a ray of light in that they have not ruled out the possibility of their plans being re-evaluated in 2008. Whether this is merely a bit of 'spin' to soften the blow for JSF fans remains to be seen. Quick to react, fans started a 'Bring Back Jeux Sans Frontières' campaign, including an online petition, which JSFnetGB supports and encourages visitors to sign. It can be found here - Bring Back Jeux Sans Frontières Online Petition.

In the meantime, it looks as though after the elation of the announcement of the return of  JSF, reality has kicked in. JSF has always been an expensive programme to stage. This may, in the end, be the reason that as an annual television series, JSF may well not ever return and be consigned to television history.

It's ironic that Jeux Sans Frontières was produced originally at a time when Europe was still recovering from a conflict that tore it apart. Recent events have seen splits in the United Nations, with European countries again falling out with each other. Back in the 1960s, there is no doubt that Jeux Sans Frontières was responsible (in a small way, of course) for encouraging friendship among European nations - and through whimsical games, it allowed Europeans to see their neighbours without prejudice, as real people, much the same as themselves. It helped teach us how to get on with each other - and have a whale of a time while we were doing so.

It must be said that in many respects, the day of JSF is past. Television today is forever looking at the dark side of human nature, for sensational, often unpalatable contests which will grab modern audiences who seem to voyeuristically revel in the suffering, discomfort and embarrassment of others. It's A Knockout and Jeux Sans Frontières were, in essence, basic good fun - a bit of light-hearted slapstick mixed with sporting prowess - and there seems little room for such fare these days. Maybe it's best for both these programmes to rest in peace and take their place in television history's hall of fame and live in the fond memories of viewers?

by Alan Hayes