Just a bit late to the party, but we finally got there, nevertheless. 75 years ago this past week, Wednesday, 2 November, to be exact, the BBC launched the world’s first regular television service in 1936. Although only a lucky few in the south of England could receive the signal, it was still considered the birth of television as we know it today.
We all know the defining moments of television in the U.S. and where we were at that precise moment such as the JFK assassination, the first color broadcast, Watergate hearings, the McCarthy hearings or Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the Moon, etc. But, what about British television?
Thankfully, Simon Boyle over at the Daily Mirror has put together a brilliant look back at the key moments in the 75 year history of British television. Highlights below, but the full list of unforgettable television memories can be found here. Feel free to amaze your friends at parties in the coming weeks with your knowledge of important dates in television history.
- 1936 – BBC launches first regular public television service from Alexandra Palace, North London, on November 2
- 1937 – Coronation of King George VI is BBC’s first outdoor broadcast
- 1939 – TV service terminates at outbreak of the Second World War, relaunched in 1946
- 1947 – Mary Kay and Johnny – in the US sitcom of the same name – become the first couple to sleep in the same bed on TV
- 1952 – The funeral of King George VI is televised in the UK
- 1953 – Some 22 million watch the Coronation of Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. The event prompts a 60% surge in sales of TV sets, from around 1.8 million to 3 million
- 1956 – The Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast for the first time, live from Switzerland, who went on to win with the song Refrain, by Lys Assia
- 1957 – Queen Elizabeth II broadcasts first Christmas message on TV, live from the Long Library at Sandringham House
- 1958 – Flagship BBC children’s show Blue Peter launches
- 1960 – Coronation Street is launched on ITV
- 1963 – Doctor Who airs for the first time with William Hartnell as the Time Lord
- 1964 – Top Of The Pops airs for the first time, with The Rolling Stones the first band
- 1964 BBC introduces new higher definition “625-line” TV sets, costing £44, which allows access to new BBC2 channel
- 1965 – The word f*** is said for the first time on TV by theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. In an evening arts show he claimed no rational person would “find the word f*** diabolical”. The outburst forced the BBC to apologize, and signalled the end of Tynan’s television career
- 1967 – Color broadcasting begins in UK
- 1971 – ITV unveils acclaimed period drama Upstairs, Downstairs
- 1981 – Around 28 million people in the UK watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
- 1981 – Only Fools and Horses launches on BBC
- 1985 – EastEnders launches on BBC1 on 19 February
- 1997 – Millions tune in around the world for the Princess Diana’s funeral
- 2011 – 24.5 million people watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey
- 2012 – Last analogue signal will be switched off on October 24
Happy Birthday, BBC! Here’s to the next 75!