The world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), begins daily transmissions on November 14 1922.
In 1922, the British public lobbies for the provision of regular radio broadcasting services in the country. Up to this point, such broadcasts had not been permitted because of the risk that they might interfere with essential services like those performed by the armed forces. The popularity of radio transmission in the United States prompts UK authorities to establish the BBC, and stations are set up in eight cities around the country.
More than a million licences are issued even before the daily transmissions begin on November 14. A corporate restructure in 1927 sees the BBC transform into the public corporation that we recognise today. At this point, two forms of communication collide, as John Logie Baird continues to develop his blueprint for the television (in competition with developers at EMI and Marconi).
In 1934, the UK Government establishes a committee to explore the merits and feasibility of a public television service. It is decided that the two TV models – that of Logie Baird and the set designed by EMI/Marconi – will share broadcasting responsibilities until it can be established which is the superior system. A transmitter is built and placed on Alexandra Palace, from where it can cover the capital city and surrounding counties.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to the magic of television,” says Leslie Mitchell two years later as he presents Britain’s first high definition television programme to be broadcast to the public, on August 26 1936. Through this magic broadcasting device, the public is able to watch Radiolympia – the National Wireless and Radio Exhibition – as it is beamed to screens set up at the exhibition itself, as well as to viewing sets erected at Waterloo Station.
In November 1936, the world’s first regular high definition service begins broadcasting, with transmissions for two hours every day, bar Sunday.
A series of landmarks and ‘firsts’ follows in the ensuing years, with cameras covering the coronation of King George VI in May 1937, while the Wimbledon Tennis Championship in June that year is the first sporting event to be covered by television. The first football match is also televised in 1937 when the BBC arranges a special fixture between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves. Before this, the only live coverage of a football game was via radio broadcast, with commentators and listeners using a numbered grid published in the Radio Times as a reference point for where on the pitch the action was taking place. In the political sphere, a momentous broadcast comes on September 30 1938, when UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returns from an historic meeting with Germany’s Adolf Hitler in Munich and delivers his “peace in our time” speech, channelling Benjamin Disraeli’s statement of 1878. As the next entry on this contextual timeline shows, however, Chamberlain’s words soon came to be remembered ironically.