The opening of the BBC Television Service 

3 July 2003

BBC press releases from October and November 1936


The B.B.C. regular television service will begin on November 2. It will be opened by the Postmaster General and Mr. R.C. Norman, the Chairman of the B.B.C., and Lord Selsdon, Chairman of the Television Advisory Committee will also take part in the ceremony, which will be televised.

Regular programmes will thereafter be given twice a day, from 3.0 to 4.0 p.m. and from 9.0 to 10.0 p.m. except on Sundays.

The choice of transmitting system to be used at the opening has been decided by the toss of a coin and has been won by Bairds.

With compliments from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W.1. 9th October, 1936


The opening ceremony being broadcast from the Baird studio. The camera on the left appears to be a Farnsworth (see text). (courtesy of Ray Herbert)


Following the speeches by Mr R.C. Norman, Major Tyron and Lord Selsdon during the first inaugural television transmission this afternoon, by the Baird system, Sir Henry Greer, Chairman of the Baird Company, said:-

“To me the inauguration of this high-definition Television Broadcasting Service is an occasion for rejoicing.

“All of us who have been closely associated with this new field of endeavour are gratified that our judges, the Television Committee, have had sufficient faith in this new art to launch it upon the public.

“We now look forward with confidence to the development of the industry to which we have given so much anxious thought. We are proud of the part we have played, and above all we are glad that our pioneer work opens up new avenues for the skill and brains of our countrymen.

“Finally, I want to thank the Postmaster General, the Members of the Television Committee, and the B.B.C. for the encouragement and assistance they have given us in bringing our hopes to fruition.”

With compliments from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W.1. 2nd November, 1936


The opening ceremony was broadcast for a second time immediately afterwards,

this time by the Marconi-EMI system (EMI)

While the plan was to transmit the opening solely via the Baird system, as described in the press releases printed above, the decision was taken at the last minute to repeat it using the Marconi-EMI system. As a result, the published programme given in the Radio Times (which was printed before the decision was taken) was incorrect.

The two photos show views of the respective studios during the opening ceremonies. Interestingly, the Baird camera on the tripod is too compact to be the Intermediate Film system (which was bulky due to its associated high-speed processing capability and therefore could not be placed out in the open in this way: it was in its own booth).

This, and the overall shape of the camera, suggests that we are looking at an almost unique and previously undocumented example of Bairds using an “Electron Camera”, based around Philo T. Farnsworth’s electronic Image Dissector tube, of which Bairds may have had only two. However it has been noted that the speakers are facing directly ahead and not at the electronic camera – they are looking towards the IF camera in its booth, which the Programme as Broadcast (PasB) log shows was used for this broadcast: it is possible that Baird engineers are experimenting with the Farnsworth device or using it as a backup. However the Intermediate Film system suffered from air-bubbles during the transmission, and as a result the film was re-broadcast later in the day.

Marconi-EMI, on the other hand, are able to deploy three Emitron cameras (one of them is out of shot to the left of this picture), one covering the whole platform while another goes for a close-up on the speaker.

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