How television broadcasting had to change

Televisions in the UK first started appearing in the 1920s. They were not a common sight in the average home, remaining the domain of the rich. Broadcasts were universally sent out via an analogue relay system generated from the Broadcasting house and, later, BBC television centre. An aerial was needed to receive the images and sound, and a TV aerial installation Bristol based company like would come and attach a unit to the roof. For the most part, people listened to the radio or went to the cinema. TV was seen as an elitist item and a flash in the pan. The Radio, Cinema, and Print media provided all the news and comment needed; the channel was barely on anyway, so the populace didn’t feel like they were missing out on much. Early TV’s were housed in large units with a record player and a radio. The TV was  inside a cabinet so you could shut the vulgar item away should guests come round. The BBC stopped all TV broadcasts over the war years of 1939 to 1946 to concentrate on Radio as this was deemed more critical to providing information to the public. By that point only, 18,999 tv sets had been purchased.

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For the most part, the output in the ’20s and ’30s followed the example of the Radio. It mainly was News, current affairs (but not political charged), cartoons and the weather. All of the accents were clipped, and precise Queens pronounced English without a trace of the regional diversity that the country had. A Highlander, a Geordie, a Devonian,  Welsh and Northern Irish people were faced with a monotone English poshness that made them feel excluded and talked down to. This was precisely what Lord Reith, the first controller wanted, as he sought to set a tone to “improve” the nations speaking.

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The turning point for TV broadcasting came with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Such events had been private affairs in the past and held been behind closed doors, much to the nation’s chagrin that they couldn’t share in the celebrations. The Queens new and dynamic young Husband argued strongly for the event to be televised. He correctly realised that it had to be relevant and open to the public for the Royal family to remain. Rather than wait weeks for an “edit highlights” package at the Cinema (not necessarily in colour either), listen to it on the radio or read about it, the public could watch live. It would be a celebration of Britains survival from War, and the sudden demand for a TV set (they could be rented rather than owned) soared before and afterwards. For the first time, the public saw what TV could do as they went around to houses that owned one to watch, showing the power of TV to drag us together.

Three years later, Independent Television was created and changed the face of broadcasting in Britain forever.

Richard Brown


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