The Light Programme—75 Years of Television

Yes­ter­day, at 3pm on Novem­ber 2, 1936, the world’s first “high def­i­n­i­tion” tele­vi­sion ser­vice began broad­cast­ing from Alexan­dra Palace, high above North Lon­don.

High def­i­n­i­tion” in those days meant, at best, 405 lines and mono­chrome. The BBC Tele­vi­sion Ser­vice was ridiculed by some – those oper­at­ing it were referred to dis­parag­ing­ly as “The Fools On The Hill” – but of course, tele­vi­sion became pop­u­lar in due course, even though at its open­ing only about 300 mem­bers of the pub­lic could view the pro­grammes, and only in the Lon­don area.

In hon­our of the 75th anniver­sary of the BBC Tele­vi­sion Ser­vice, we’re play­ing a col­lec­tion of light music today on Radio Riel’s Main Stream, includ­ing pieces of music that may be famil­iar, espe­cial­ly to old­er British lis­ten­ers, as clas­sics from the world of tele­vi­sion and radio over the last three quar­ters of a cen­tu­ry, writ­ten by some of the lead­ing com­posers of the era, includ­ing Wal­ton, Bliss, Coates and Addin­sell. We’ll  hear music that accom­pa­nied Test Cards, pro­gramme theme music, open­ing and clos­ing themes and much more.

If you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about the his­to­ry of tele­vi­sion in the UK, please vis­it the Trans­d­if­fu­sion web site, and espe­cial­ly the Baird sub-site, which cov­ers the peri­od up to 1955. For those liv­ing in the UK, there is a spe­cial exhi­bi­tion on the his­to­ry of tele­vi­sion at Alexan­dra Palace this week­end, Novem­ber 5–6. More details are avail­able here.

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin and pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with our friends at the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme in-world now at, or sim­ply click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. Lis­ten­ers in the Unit­ed States are encour­aged to tune in using this link:

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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