Seventeen for one 

9 May 2022

A remarkable individual achievement in receiving Television from other countries is that of Bertil Pettersson of Sweden. Roy Duffell of the European Service translated this article by Gits Olsson, which is reproduced by permission of the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation.



Ariel cover

From Ariel for November 1960

The Swedish television service started in 1955, but Bertil Pettersson has been a viewer since 1954 — not of Swedish TV but of the services of seventeen other countries.

Pettersson is a television DX-er: television DX-ing might be defined as a passionate devotion to the art of receiving foreign programmes for the purpose of photographing the pictures thus appearing on the screen. His successes gave his neighbours no peace and for a couple of years, 1956 and 1957 to be precise, television DX-ing became a widespread hobby in Småland in southern Sweden, where he lives. Clubs were formed in every direction, and the national organization to which they were affiliated had 285 members when the craze was at its height. Enormous television aerials began to appear on the Småland skyline, and some of the houses carrying them began to look like stranded schooners. The biggest aerial of all was Pettersson’s: a 40-ft high American telescopic mast. Neighbours shook their heads when they saw it going up. Some thought it would bring the whole house down, others thought it would attract lightning and destroy the house that way, but so far none of their fears has been realized.

Fitted with an electric motor and a compass, the aerial could be directed by Pettersson towards whatever area he chose. It was a solemn moment when all was ready and he sat down before the 17-in. screen in his basement, turned his aerials and adjusted his set. There was a flash on the screen, fine tuning cleared the picture, and he could see for himself yet another field where the Russians could claim to have been first on the scene. That was in June 1954.

Two years later, when the television DX movement had gathered momentum, receiving Russia, Italy, and West Germany had long been child’s play to Pettersson, and when a Swedish championship was organized in 1957, he was a clear favourite for the title. The championship was fought out over a number of rounds and in most of them Småland won a clear victory. In the fifth round Pettersson was threatened by Gunnar Ericsson from Jämtland in central Sweden. Gunnar Ericsson won the round with eleven countries, against Petterson’s nine. Pettersson, on the other hand, had received fifty-one different programmes while Ericsson had managed no more than forty. Pettersson, too, was awarded seventeen points for quality against Ericsson’s eleven. Victory in that round went to Jamtland, but at the end of the championship Pettersson emerged a clear winner.


Aerials on a roof


From May to September is the most favourable time for television DX-ing: the warmer months produce the most favourable atmospheric conditions. None the less the big moment in Bertil Pettersson’s life occurred in January — 7 January 1958 to be precise — when a Canadian station was tuned in. During the period around 7 January 1958 a number of wave-reflecting clusters of meteors were centred in space above Småland, and without warning a CBC quiz programme appeared on the screen. Headlines in the papers! Unfortunately, Pettersson was not at home to enjoy this great moment. His colleague Ivar Sandholm was fingering the controls of the set and happened to tune in the unusual picture. Pettersson had gone across the road to buy a hot dog ‘a hot dog that stuck in my gullet’, he says, remembering two years later the anguish it caused him. Since then he has been compensated by some thousands of foreign programmes. With a camera rigged up in front of his set, he has photographed most of them. His piles of photograph albums will soon take up more room than his DX equipment.


Bertil Pettersson


It must seem a little odd that he finds it possible to receive and photograph television programmes from Britain and France with their different system of lines. His set has, of course, been fitted with an adjuster for the various systems. Britain’s 405 lines, France’s 819 lines, and the 625 lines of the rest of the Continent all arrive equally clearly. Recently he has had to renew his picture tube. Tubes are delicate things, and television dealers say that they tire after a few thousand hours. Pettersson’s tube has been going from morning to night since 1954, at least 6,000 hours, but all the same there was nothing much wrong with it: the contrast was getting a little flat.


Map of the northern hemisphere with received countries highlighted


The schooner rig on Pettersson’s roof has now brought him programmes from seventeen countries:

  1. East Germany,
  2. West Germany,
  3. Poland,
  4. Czechoslovakia,
  5. Portugal,
  6. Belgium,
  7. Switzerland,
  8. France,
  9. Rumania,
  10. U.S.S.R.,
  11. Hungary,
  12. Great Britain (BBC),
  13. Italy,
  14. Spain,
  15. Austria,
  16. Canada,
  17. Denmark.

He is now aiming at Norway, Finland, Greece, and British commercial TV. When he has added these to his list he will be happy.



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