BBC offices in central London

BBC celebrates 75th anniversary of first broadcast

The BBC is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the first broadcast of Britain's high-definition public television service.

The broadcasting corporation began transmitting on November 2, 1936 from Alexandra Palace in north London, to the 100 or so TV sets available in the country at the time.

“The 75th anniversary of the world’s first television broadcast service by the BBC from Alexandra Palace is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on London’s role as a pioneer and innovator," said Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

"It is a chance to celebrate the great achievements of public service broadcasting."

The BBC leased the studios at Alexandra Palace from 1935 –to1981, where it was afforded incredible reception capabilities and broadcasting opportunities due to the building's location at 306 feet above sea level.

Alexandra Palace withstood the second world war period, when television equipment was commandeered for defence purposes and the Alexandra Palace transmitter was re-tuned to defend London from Nazi bombers, and the studios became the corporation’s primary production centre for television broadcasts until the 1950s.

“The BBC’s place in the history of Alexandra Palace was sealed when the first public service broadcast in the world was made from the building in 1936," said Matt Cooke, chairman of Alexandra Park & Palace Trust.  

"Not only did the event pave the way for a new kind of social entertainment, but it also prompted technological advances in the way we communicate with each other which still impact on us today.

During the 1920s the BBC shared building space with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (then the Institution of Electrical Engineers) in their premises at Savoy Place in London along the Victoria Embankment, from where they aired some of their first radio broadcasts.  

The IET later took full ownership of the building.

Head of BBC History, Robert Seatter, added: “On this momentous 75th anniversary, we are delighted to be working with Alexandra Palace to open up these unique studios where television really began. We hope that this exciting open weekend will help visitors to celebrate television in all its diversity – old and new, technical and aesthetic, serious and fun.”

The public can join in the celebrations this weekend with a series of free activities held at Alexandra Palace exploring the history of television broadcasting, including a tour of the BBC studios where the first broadcast was made. 

Students of digital media and design college Ravensbourne will also be on site to provide demonstrations of the latest innovations in 3D TV.

Entry is free, but anyone wishing to take a tour of the BBC studios needs to call 0208 365 4321 to get a timed ticket.

Further information:

Read more about the history of the BBC

See the BBC's 75th anniversary in pictures

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