diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 02, 2011

OPENING OF THE TELEVISION SERVICE
3.00p.m. - 4.30p.m.
MONDAY 2nd NOVEMBER, 1936

3:00 Opening Announcement - Leslie Mitchell (reserve Announcer, Miss Bligh) - announcement as undernoted:-

"This is the B.B.C. Television Station at Alexandra Palace.

To-day the Television Service is to be opened by the Right Hon. G.C. Tryon M.P., His Majesty's Postmaster-General. Major Tryon will be introduced by Mr. R.C. Norman, Chairman of the B.B.C., and will be followed by the Right Hon. Lord Selsdon, K.B.E., Chairman of the original Television Committee. On the platform with these speakers are the Right Hon. Lord Inverforth, Chairman of the Marconi-E.M.I. Television Company and Sir Harry Greer, D.L., M.P., Chairman of the Baird Television Company.

We have had to make a change in the programme as published in the "Radio Times". The opening programme is to be televised twice; firstly by the Baird system; then, after an interval of thirty minutes, by the Marconi-E.M-I. system.

After the speeches, the latest edition of the British Movietone News will be shown; then Adele Dixon, and after her Buck and Bubbles; both these performances will be accompanied by The Television Orchestra, conducted by Hyam Greenbaum. After this there will be an orchestral interlude in sound only..."


As the plaque at Alexandra Palace says, the world's first regular high definition television service was inaugurated precisely 75 years ago today. It was anything but high definition by current standards - a flickering black and white display, broadcasting to a handful of appropriately-equipped homes in North London. There were two competing systems, Baird and EMI Marconi, battling for future dominance in an epic VHS/Betamax-type tussle. It was already obvious that Marconi's 405-line system was superior to Baird's 240, but broadcasting kicked off on an equitable basis all the same. The toss of a coin decided that Baird would be used to make the first historic transmission from Studio B - details of which appear in the transcribed script above. And then all the performers trooped nextdoor into Studio A to perform the whole thing again, live via the alternative camera set-up. An hour in, and already BBC Television's first repeat.

Alexandra Palace wasn't the BBC's first choice of location. They'd have preferred Crystal Palace to the south, but that would have meant building from scratch and they didn't have either the time or the money. Ally Pally was higher above sea level and (crucially) available for rent, so they whacked up a transmitter tower on the roof and it was all systems go. Good decision, as it turned out, because at the end of November 1936 the old Crystal Palace burnt to the ground. Initially programmes were broadcast for only a couple of hours a day, less on Sundays, all with a prim, proper, stilted, very middle class vibe. Not surprising, given that a television set then cost the equivalent of what a car does now, so nobody on the council estates of Tottenham was watching.

Viewing figures were boosted by the Coronation of George VI the following spring (an estimated 50000 people watched that), though still low enough that the entire service could shut down for three weeks mid-1937 to allow staff to take their summer holidays. World War Two brought an enforced closedown, during which time Alexandra Palace's mast was used to confuse incoming German bombers by jamming radio frequencies. Ally Pally remained the BBC's main TV transmitting centre for London until 1956, then became an important centre for news, and finally the outpost where professors in Arran sweaters made informative broadcasts for the Open University. But since 1981 the old studios have been locked away, slowly decaying, opened only infrequently, at constant risk of redevelopment or worse. Fancy a look inside?
On Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 November 2011 a series of free activities for the public will be staged at ‘Ally Pally’ to encourage the public to explore the past and discover the future of television. Highlights include: -
» tours of the famous BBC Studios where history was made on 2 November 1936
» interactive and immersive audio visual displays featuring rarely-seen BBC footage
» taking centre stage and preparing to go ‘on air’, made up in authentic 1930s TV style (with blue lips and eyes and white pancake facepaint)
» sharing your BBC and ‘Ally Pally’ memories with roving reporters
» 1930s inspired food from the ‘BBC canteen’
» demonstrations of the latest innovations in 3D TV
» become a BBC newsreader! Record a snippet of the news and take the recording home with you as a unique souvenir.

Entry is free, but anyone wishing to take a tour of the BBC studios needs to call 0208 365 4321 to secure a timed ticket.
I've been inside the old BBC studios as part of Open House, and it was fascinating to walk up the narrow staircase into the very place where TV broadcasting began. Every Japanese gameshow, every Brazilian soap opera, every iPlayer catch-up download, has its roots here in a high, dingy room in Haringey. Best visit this weekend while you can, while Alexandra Palace's inner sanctum survives. And I wonder which is more likely to reach its centenary - television itself, or the place of its birth.

Some excellent in-depth BBC75 links
The birth of television at Alexandra Palace
The BBC Story - 75th anniversary of television
Television at 75 - by John Trenouth
TV Studio History - Alexandra Palace
Radio Times - week beginning 23rd October 1936 (full copy - pdf)
Typed script for the opening broadcast, 2nd November 1936
Adele Dixon sings "Television Comes To London" (I could watch this again and again)
Two BBC News reports from today, including a look round Studio A
And Then There Was Television (hour long Imagine documentary from 2006)
Television programme schedules for November and December 1936 (pdf)
Radio Times television supplements from 1937 (28 weekly copies - full scans)


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream