First day of BBC television

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The first scheduled, high-definition (as then defined; meaning 240-line) television programmes were broadcast on 2 November 1936 by the British Broadcasting Corporation. They had been preceded by a number of low-definition BBC test broadcasts, as well as a 180-line Deutscher Fernseh Rundfunk service, from Berlin, since March 1935.



The British Broadcasting Corporation, already an established radio broadcaster, began making low definition (30-line) test television transmissions under government licence in August 1936. These included short ad-hoc performances by musicians, with the duration limited as "lookers in" (as viewers were called) were found to experience eye strain through looking at the small screens then in use. [1]

The first regular electronic television service in Germany began in Berlin on 22 March 1935, as Deutscher Fernseh Rundfunk. Broadcasting from the Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow, it used a 180-line system, and was on air for 90 minutes, three times a week.


Blue plaque at Alexandra Palace Alexandra palace plaque.jpg
Blue plaque at Alexandra Palace

The BBC Television Service officially launched on 2 November 1936. [2] [3] The BBC's official publication, The Radio Times , listed the opening one-hour schedule – the first ever, on a dedicated TV channel – starting at 3 pm, as: [2]

From 9 pm to 10 pm, pre-recorded films and more news were screened. [2] The films included Television Comes to London, a pre-made fifteen-minute documentary about the launch, shot on 35mm film. [1] It was the BBC's first television documentary. [1]


The first person heard and seen was the announcer, Leslie Mitchell. [1]

According to advance publicity in The Radio Times, the opening was then to be: [4]

by Major the Right Hon. G.C. Tryon, M.P., H.M. Postmaster-General

Mr. R.C. Norman (Chairman of the BBC) and the Right Hon. the Lord Selsdon, K.B.E. (Chairman of the Television Advisory Committee) will also speak.


The Radio Times billed the Variety performers as: [2]

however, in the event The Lai Founs did not appear. [1]

Dixon performed a specially commissioned song, "Television", written by James Dyrenforth and Kenneth Leslie-Smith. [1] The event made Buck and Bubbles (Buck Washington and John W. Bubbles) the first black people to appear on television. [1]

The musicians were billed as The BBC Television Orchestra, led by Boris Pecker and conducted by Hyam Greenbaum. [2] The producer was listed as Dallas Bower. [2]


The broadcast was made from a converted wing of Alexandra Palace ("Ally Pally") in London, [2] using the 240-line Baird intermediate film system, [1] on the VHF band.

BBC television initially used two systems on alternate weeks: the Baird system and the 405-line Marconi-EMI system. The decision to use the Baird system for the first week was made on a coin toss. [1] The use of the two formats made the BBC's service the world's first regular high-definition television service; it broadcast from Monday to Saturday between 15:00 and 16:00, and 21:00 and 22:00. [5]

Alexandra Palace housed two studios (one for each system), various scenery stores, make-up areas, dressing rooms, offices, and the transmitter itself.

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The year 1936 in television involved some significant events. Below is a list of television-related events during 1936.

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The first regular electronic television service in Germany began in Berlin on March 22, 1935, as Deutscher Fernseh Rundfunk. Broadcasting from the Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow, it used a 180-line system, and was on air for 90 minutes, three times a week. Very few receivers were ever privately owned, and viewers went instead to Fernsehstuben. During the 1936 Summer Olympics, broadcasts, up to eight hours a day, took place in Berlin and Hamburg. The Nazis intended to use television as a medium for their propaganda once the number of television sets was increased, but television was able initially to reach only a small number of viewers, in contrast to radio. Despite many technical improvements to camera technology, allowing for higher resolution imaging, by 1939, and the start of World War II, plans for an expansion of television programming were soon changed in favor of radio. The production of the TV receiver E1, that had just started was cancelled because of the war. Nevertheless, the Berlin station, along with one in occupied Paris, remained on the air for most of World War II. A special magazine called Fernsehen und Tonfilm was published.

This is a list of events related to British television in 1936.

Deutscher Fernseh-Rundfunk was a German television service that first aired on 22 March 1935. It used an early electro-mechanical system, based around the intermediate film technique and the Nipkow disk, at a resolution of 180 lines.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Television's Opening Night: How the Box Was Born". 19 May 2020. BBC Television . Retrieved 7 June 2020.Missing or empty |series= (help)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Variety". The Radio Times (683). 30 October 193. p. 88. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  3. "History of the BBC". BBC.
  4. "Variety". The Radio Times (683). 30 October 1936. p. 88. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  5. Burns, R.W. (1998). Television: An International History of the Formative Years. London: The Institution of Electrical Engineers. p. ix. ISBN   978-0-85296-914-4.