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17 November 2016 tbs.pm/9400

From the BBC Handbook for 1961

underconstruction61 FCBBC Television began in 1936 as the world’s first public high-definition television service, but it was not until June of 1960 that it acquired the first studio specifically designed for television production. The studio was one of two that came into use during the year with the inauguration of the BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, West London: until these two studios became available television production took place exclusively in buildings converted from film and theatre use. The Centre will ultimately have seven major production and two presentation studios. The five studios in Lime Grove, Shepherds Bush, the two Riverside studios on the Thames at Hammersmith, and the Television Theatre on Shepherds Bush Green will continue to be used, with some of them being given up progressively as the new studios come into operation.

The BBC Television Service began at Alexandra Palace in North London, and today the studios there are still in use as the home of BBC Television News. In the years since 1936 — despite the interruption of the war years 1939-46 — the service spread throughout the United Kingdom with studios and facilities in all the main centres; and the erection of the Television Centre, the largest building of its kind in the world, followed as a necessary development to a service which has had such a rapid growth.

The Television Centre, opened June 1960. An aerial view.

The Television Centre, opened June 1960. An aerial view.

Today, BBC Television is available to 98.8 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom, and transmission time amounts to about fifty-five hours of television programmes a week, fifty of these being the basic hours permitted by the Postmaster General (the extra hours being extensions for outside broadcasts, religious programmes, and broadcasts in national languages other than English). The programmes are predominantly ‘live’, and about half of those to be found in the peak viewing hours are concerned with information, ideas, and culture.

The Television Centre, opened June 1960. Main entrance.

The Television Centre, opened June 1960. Main entrance.

The BBC is recognized as the main instrument of broadcasting in this country, so the Television Service, in planning its programmes, must be aware of the minority as well as the majority interests; at the same time, it endeavours to interest large audiences in subjects of a worthwhile nature and of national importance. It includes, therefore, programmes dealing with current affairs, science, and arts, all of which command impressive audiences. The service also offers a very wide choice of programmes of a popular nature and in the field of light entertainment. In addition to such general daily programmes as plays, variety, outside broadcasts, music, and news there are programmes of special interest to young people and women, religious broadcasts, a full range of school television broadcasts, and weekly programmes for farmers and gardeners.

Television Centre Presentation Control Room - this desk is the focal point of production control during the transmission of the programmes

Television Centre Presentation Control Room – this desk is the focal point of production control during the transmission of the programmes

At important events including State occasions, the Television Service provides complete pictorial coverage and, in the year under review, an outstanding example was the coverage of the marriage of Princess Margaret. The BBC then established a new step in television communication by feeding pictures to all the Eurovision countries and networks and sending videotape recordings by the speediest transport available to the countries of the Commonwealth with television services and the United States. The BBC makes use of the resources of Eurovision for news items and other programmes.

The new Centre is equipped to make some fifteen hundred hours a year of electronic programme material. From other studio and outside sources, from the BBC’s own film-making units, which produce the equivalent of one hundred and forty full-length feature films a year, another fifteen hundred hours of programme material are made up, and although the BBC buys a certain number of ready-made programmes from sources outside the Corporation and the United Kingdom, the BBC makes more programmes and buys less from outside sources than does any other television authority.

To sustain this output of three thousand programme hours a year, every encouragement is given to creative writers in the drama, documentary, and light entertainment fields. At the same time, experimental work by teams of producers, writers, and designers is going on to develop new forms of television presentation and there is a constant search for new talent.

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