Pictures from 60 BBC years 

14 November 2022


Ariel 60 BBC Years masthead

From Ariel special edition for August 1982

The big dates

Nov 14, 1922 Daily broadcasting begins on 2LO with the news at 6pm from the London station in the Strand. The reader: Arthur Burrows.

Nov 15, 1922 Broadcasting starts in Birmingham (5IT) and Manchester (2ZY). Within a year stations also open at Newcastle (Dec 24), Cardiff (Feb 13, 1923) and Glasgow (Mar 6). Belfast follows in 1924 (Sept 4).

May 1923 News from London broadcast simultaneously by the other stations — the start of the national network.

Sept 28, 1923 Radio Times first published, price 2d.

April 4, 1924 Broadcasts for schools begin.

July 1925 World’s most powerful transmitter opens at Daventry, providing a choice of two programmes, national and regional, covering 80 per cent of the UK.

Jan 1, 1927 British Broadcasting Company becomes a Corporation under Royal Charter. There are two million licence holders and 773 staff.

Aug 13, 1927 The first Henry Wood Promenade Concert to be organised and financed by the BBC. The BBC has staged them ever since.

March 15, 1932 First broadcast from the newly built Broadcasting House in Portland Place. It is by Henry Hall and his Orchestra and it is also his first broadcast.

Dec 19, 1932 The Empire Service opens from Daventry, and within the week George V broadcasts the first Royal Christmas message.

Nov 2, 1936 The world’s first regular television service begins from Alexandra Palace. There are programmes for two hours a day until the war brings a halt.

May, 1937 The first TV outside broadcast — the Coronation procession of George VI.

Jan 1, 1938 First foreign language service begins (Arabic).

March 21, 1938 First news bulletin heard on television. In sound only, it was a recorded version of the nine o’clock news on radio.

June 30, 1938 John Reith, founder and first Director-General of the BBC, leaves after 15 years to be chairman of Imperial Airways. The current DG, Alasdair Milne, is only the 11th in the BBC’s 60-year history.

Aug 1939 The Monitoring Service — listening to and reporting on the output of foreign broadcasting organisations — is set up at Evesham. The move to its present home at Caversham Park, near Reading, comes in April, 1943.

Sept 1,1939 Television closes down for the war.

Oct 15, 1940 German 5001b time bomb explodes in Broadcasting House, killing seven staff.

June 1, 1946 First increase of radio licence — from 10s (50p) to £1. Combined TV/radio licence introduced at £2.

June 7, 1946 Television reopens at Alexandra Palace, in time to televise the Victory Parades next day.

Sept 29, 1946 Third Programme introduced.

July 5, 1954 First illustrated Television News from Alexandra Palace, read by members of the newsroom editorial staff.

Sept 22, 1955 Commercial television begins.

January 13, 1958 Stereo test transmission begins.

June 29, 1960 First studio comes into use at Television Centre, Shepherd’s Bush.

April 20, 1964 The BBC’s second television channel, BBC2, opens.

June 1, 1967 First regular colour TV service in Europe begins on BBC2.

Sept 30, 1967 Radio 1 launched and separate identities for Radios 2, 3 and 4 begin to develop.

Nov 8, 1967 First BBC Local Radio station opens — Radio Leicester. Seven other stations follow soon afterwards and 12 more in 1970.

Nov 15, 1969 Colour begins on BBC1

Sept 23, 1974 Ceefax begins transmissions, offering pages of printed information on TV sets adapted for them.

April 3, 1978 Regular broadcasting of Parliament begins.



A man with a big white beard points at a gigantic microphone

The early days of broadcasting and George Bernard Shaw uses a finger to make a point to the old “meatsafe” microphone.


A man and schoolboys around a microphone

Sir Walford Davies and choir boys of Temple Church in High Holborn in the first of the many thousands of broadcasts to schools. The year: 1924. Ernest Luff recorded his famous “O For the Wings of a Dove” when he was a Temple choir boy.


Two men and a microphone

“This is Henry Hall speaking and tonight is my guest night.” In this 1934 edition of the long-running show the guest is Noel Coward.


Two men in headphones operate a console. In the foreground, caption cards on a rotating drum

It’s 1935 and television is on the way. This control room, used during the run up to the opening, was at 16 Portland Place, close to Broadcasting House.


A horse and a woman

The world’s first high-definition television programme – though not many people saw the Griffiths Brothers (in the horse) and Miss Lutie. This is August, 1936, three months before the regular service began.


Six men play instruments on a giant teapot; a woman sings through a door in the middle

Alexandra Palace, 1937. Exciting days of experiment in visual presentation. This is Claire Luce with Eric Wild and his Tea-Timers.


Women exercise with medicine balls whilst men operate television cameras

Outside Ally Pally the cameras focus on the Women’s League of Health and Beauty.


Fats Waller

Fats Waller in camera close-up in 1938, appearing in Starlight.


Dorothy Summers and Tommy Handley

The war years and Tommy Handley is a regular weekly date for the nation. Here he is with Dorothy Summers as Mrs Mopp.


A crowd of people, mostly women

The big lunchtime radio show during the war, Workers’ Playtime, brings a host of stars to factories all over the country.


Annette Mills and Muffin

The war is over and after a seven year absence television is back. Muffin the Mule shares a secret with Annette Mills.


Harry H Corbett and a horse

In the early 1960s Harry H. Corbett has a quiet word with Napoleon in the first Steptoe and Son.


Jack Warner

A younger Jack Warner as Dixon of Dock Green, a character he made his own for two decades.


Coronation procession

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953 was BBC Television’s big breakthrough. A million new aerials went up for the occasion and the nation crowded round every available set.


The Goons

Radio was still holding its own, with the Goons – Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers – attracting a big following.


The Forsyte Saga

But nothing topped the impact made by the Forsyte Saga. On the nights it was shown in Britain and later America, both countries came to a virtual halt. It was the last major drama production in black and white. Here are Kenneth More and Nyree Dawn Porter.


A woman holds a mirror up to the face of another woman in period costume

Colour came to Television on BBC2 in 1967. It was the first regular colour service in Europe. The first colour drama serial featured Susan Hampshire in Vanity Fair. Here she is getting a little help to check her make-up on the set.

Terence Rigby and Tom Baker

October 1982 – and the Sunday evening drama slot on BBC1 has The Hound of the Baskervilles, with Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes and Terence Rigby as Dr Watson.


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