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The World`s Oldest Television Channel

Updated on June 8, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 25+ years successful experience in Medicine; Health- and I/O Psychology; STEM courses, and Aerospace Education (CAP).

The BBC in 1936
The BBC in 1936 | Source

London, 1936

I have lived just 10 miles away from a small and growing privately-owned museum of television and television history and found it fascinating.

I've listened to stories from The Greatest Generation of older folks who went home one day after school to hear strange people talking in the living room -- It was the new-fangled TV set!

In my parents' attic I once found a television from the late 1930s with a 6-inch diagonal screen set into a 4-foot tall birch wood cabinet and outfitted with push buttons instead of a dial. It was weird, but the current set had only three channels, weird by 21st century standards.

People I've interviewed have different memories of the events surrounding the first commercial broadcasts. However, the big official Grand Opening of the first TV Station after years of experimental broadcasts in America, France and UK was most likely on November 2, 1936 in Alexandria Palace, London, England.

Although the development of television foundation technology dates back to 1872, the first television broadcasting station was located at Alexandria Palace.

A markerAlexandria Palace, London UK -
Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7BB, UK
get directions

History and Popularity

The concept of scanning a picture by mechanical means was proposed by Alexander Bain in 1843. By the 1920s, amplification technology made television practical to use. At this time, the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird used the Nipkow disk in his video systems. On March 25, 1925, he made the first public demonstration of televised moving silhouette images and this was done at Selfridge's Department Store in London UK. In the 2010s, a TV series about Selfridge's was very popular.

First Commercial Broadcasts

Some folks recall the first commercial broadcast as being aired in February 1936, but this could be incorrect or a memory of an earlier experimental broadcast. It is all documented in a BBC film tilted Television Comes to London, produced by Dallas Bower and Gerald Cock [BBC archives].

The broadcast reportedly lasted for 18 minutes, from 9:05 - 9:23 PM local time on either February 11 or November 2, 1936 depending on the memory. It could also have been 3:00 PM by some accounts. Adela Helena Dixon (from the later film Banana Ridge) performed with the television studio orchestra. She was also a star of Broadway and British stage and played opposite Sir John Gielgud in Romeo and Juliet.

She sang in the 1936 BBC opening on a show called Variety and this is where the term "variety show" originated for TV.

The location of TV station had to be high in the air because the VHF waves used required line-of-sight reception nothing could block them or they would not get through. Some 30,000 square feet inside an old Victorian entertainment complex, Alexandra Palace, in London was ideal.

The BBC mounted a 215-foot mast with antennas for sound and picture vision, along with a sound transmitter. Intended to transmit over a line of 25 miles radius, the signal occasionally reached into continental Europe.

The opening of the BBC Television Service using Marconi-EMI technology held its Grand Opening for about 400 "viewers" who saw and heard speeches by the Postmaster General, the BBC Chairman, and Lord Selsdon.

World War II

Broadcasting was interrupted by the war in 1939, when the station cut off in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon until 1946, when the cartoon supposedly resumed and an announcer apologized for the 7-year interruption.

BBC on August 26, 1936: The first artist to appear on the screen was Helen McKay. Petula Clark, a 1960s pop star, sang on the BBC in 1946.

Lyrics for "Television" - BBC Archives & Museum

A mighty maze of mystic, magic rays is all about us in the blue,

And in sight and sound they trace living pictures out of space

To bring a new wonder to you

.

The busy world before you is unfurled - Its songs, its tears and laughter, too.

One by one they play their parts in this latest of the Arts

To bring new enchantment to you.

.

As by your fireside you sit, the news will flit, as on the silver screen.

And just for entertaining you with something new

The stars will then be seen. So...

.

There's joy in store, the world is at your door -

It's here for everyone to view, conjured up in sound and sight

By the magic rays of light - That bring Television to you.


TV test picture pattern
TV test picture pattern

America and RCA

Early in 1930s America, RCA experimented with black and white television broadcasts in the laboratory.

In RCA mounted antennas atop the Empire State Building for commercial TV broadcasts.

In 1928, the US federal government, FCC, issued call letters "W2XB" to what is now WGY Television in New York City. This is the first established Television Station in America, broadcasting on old Channel 1, which is no longer used due to calibrations changing on the TV dials.

However, WX2B did not receive a commercial license apparently until 1942 when it was renamed WRGB.

They claim to be the first TV Station in the world, but seem to base this on experimental laboratory broadcasts back on January 13, 1928. It broadcast only in kHz and not MHz and had limited range, but issued farm reports three times a week.

I think it could be considered as still experimental tellevision broadcasting , but this is open to question.

Television Timeline

Sources:

  • Albany NY: CBS Channel 6 - Channel WRGB. This CBS affiliate is one of the the first experimental television stations anywhere, first broadcasting in early 1928 (before the Wall Street Crash) and delivering the first daily programs ever on the air. Next came commercial broadcasting during WWII, but London UK was first in commercial TV. WRGB at cbs6albany.com/ Retrieved June 6, 1017.

Additional Sources:

Ohio's Early Television Museum

The Early Television Museum is a local museum of early television receiver sets. It is located in Hilliard, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Early Television History

A marker5396 Franklin St, Hilliard, OH 43026 -
5396 Franklin St, Hilliard, OH 43026, USA
get directions

FCC Allocations 1938 - 2000s

From the TV history museum in Hilliard, Ohio.
From the TV history museum in Hilliard, Ohio.

© 2007 Patty Inglish

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    • profile image

      corey anderson 9 years ago

      You are great.....................

      If you ever want to be our blogger and make great money, contaxt me!

      Corey Anderson

      www.luxuryandcompany.com

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thank you thank you thank you!

      And Corey, I will email. Thanks.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Patty this is definitely a perfect HUB. But then they all are.

      I really enjoyed this one. We used to have two channels only in Belgium when we got our first TV in 1963. The only reason why I remember the date so well is because the whole neighborhood came to our house for the broadcasting of the unfortunate and tragic event of JFKs funeral.

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      I just noticed myself that the pictures are mostly black and white. Fitting, isn't it?

      It seems in 1963, tragedy became able to speed around the globe.

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

      Great Patty great history

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      We had only two hours of black and white tv everyday when I was 14; in those days, everything came to India rather slowly!

      Wonderful hub, I learnt a lot from it.

      I was also delighted to recognise that test pattern we used to stare at before they started broadcasting!

      We had it without the big chief here, of course!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      What a wonderful comment, Kenny. We had 3 channels in Ohio but they played from 6 am to 10 or 11pm, I think. I only watch 2 hours every couple of days NOW. LOL :)

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Good stuff! I appreciate the breadth of subject matter you cover. While I have only recently become a fan, I most definitely am one.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks Peter!

    • Prince Maak profile image

      Prince Maak 9 years ago from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY

      Hi Patty, How are you?

      once again you`ve done it. keep it up.

      I must say you are a great Hubber, I guess, U work very hard to produce superior quality of hubs. And also your hubs encourage me to ask more questions.(requests).

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Greetings Prince Maak - Complements of the Season! The questions you ask have become a very imporatnt part of Hub pages I believe. Great work!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      This is a fabulous hub, Patty. Brings back some old memories. An uncle of mine worked for DuMont after the war and I spent a lot of time at his home watching an 8-inch TV which looked like the 1947 DuMont Clifton. I remember watching the New York Yankees and Joe DiMaggio playing a rained out game in which the Yankee Clipper hit a home run. I remember it because the game was called because of rain and the homer didn't count. Also, the announcers hardly said a word in those days (not even enough to tell you who was at bat!) I also enjoyed watching "Uncle Weathby" on that TV set. Thanks for the memories!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      WOW William - Great stories! Thanks for adding them in.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      This just in:

      Breaking news at CBC News:

      _______________________________________________ 

      The federal broadcasting regulator is imposing tighter rules on media  ownership.The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications  Commission said Tuesday thata single company or person can own only two  radio stations, television stations or newspapers in a single market.  It was not immediately clear whether the rules mean current owners will  have to sell off operations if they own more than that.

      Visit http://links.cbc.ca/a/l.x?T=jncickedoedfchehkdkedi... for the latestdevelopments and check back later for updates.

    • goez40 profile image

      goez40 9 years ago from florida

      Great hub, I don,t remember first tv show I seen but our first tv screen could be made round or flip lever and make it rectangler. Kind of neat

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      goez40! - That is a very good piece of information to have on this Hub. Thank you for something I have never as yet seen. Amazing!

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 9 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Wonderful info + loved reading the comments attached!

      Great hub!

      Smiles and Light

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks Aura. Do you have a television museum anywhere in OZ? We have a small one in my town that is gaining contributions.

    • profile image

      Mian Tahir 8 years ago

      Very good for first televion channel founder

      Mian Tahir

    • Paki Web Fighter profile image

      Paki Web Fighter 8 years ago

      gud hub

    • profile image

      Fiona 6 years ago

      Wonderful Article! I have bookmarked this page and I love to share this with my friends and circle of influence.Its a great pleasure reading your blog. The blog content is powerful.Very Good.

      world tv

    • bluebird profile image

      bluebird 5 years ago

      Very interesting, the lyrics you shared about "Television". They made it sound so thrilling...

      and it was. At first. But now we see the results

      of eighty or so years of broadcasting and the

      programming of people's minds. And that is what

      stinks...

      Nothing against you or your informative hub, but all I can say is...

      All that glitters is not gold.

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