A brief history of television – a 75th anniversary celebration

Happy 75th birthday, TV - looking good! Here are some of your landmark moments...

Our timeline charts the history of the medium since the BBC’s first official broadcast on 2 November 1936…


1936 – The world’s first regular service of high-definition television launches from Alexandra Palace

1937 – King George VI’s coronation procession becomes the first outside broadcast

1939 – TV broadcast suspended due to the outbreak of the Second World War

1946 – Introduction of the TV licence

1953 – The world’s first colour TV programme is shown in the United States. The Rose Parade is America’s New Year celebration. Britain still has a long wait before it will see colour television

– The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is watched by 22 million viewers

1954 – Daily BBC news bulletins begin, read by Richard Baker

1955 – Commercial TV launches in Britain with ITV

1958 – British households owning TV sets outnumber radio-only homes for the first time

– Blue Peter begins, hosted by Christopher Trace and Leila Williams. It goes on to become the world’s longest-running children’s programme

1960 – In the first televised royal wedding, Princess Margaret marries Antony Armstrong-Jones, the first Earl of Snowdon

– The start of Coronation Street, now the world’s longest-running soap. The Ogdens joined in 1964

1963 – Doctor Who begins. Arch-enemies the Daleks were introduced in the show’s second story in December

1964 – BBC2’s launch, scheduled for the evening of 20 April, is postponed following a power failure. The next morning, Play School unexpectedly becomes the first programme officially shown on the new channel

1966 – The World Cup Final becomes the most-watched TV event with 32.3 million viewers

1967 – The first British colour broadcasts begin on BBC2

1969 – British audiences watch man’s first steps on the moon on BBC1 and ITV

1972 – Restrictions on hours of broadcast are removed in Britain

1976 – The number of colour TVs owned exceeds black and white sets

1982 – Channel 4 begins transmission

1983 – Breakfast TV launches on BBC1, closely followed the same year on ITV

1985 – The Live Aid concert broadcasts to 1.9 billion viewers in 150 territories

1989 – Televised broadcasts from the House of Commons begin

1990 – British Satellite Broadcasting begins, merging with Sky later in the same year to form BSkyB

1996 – The Only Fools and Horses Christmas special becomes the most-watched sitcom episode, with 24.3 million viewers

1997 – Channel 5, the last terrestrial broadcaster, launches

2002 – The Freeview digital service begins

2006 – HD TV broadcasts start, with Sky’s High Definition service, plus trial programmes from the BBC on digital cable and satellite

2007 – BBC iPlayer launches

2011 – The 75th anniversary of television is celebrated by RadioTimes.com with this timeline

2012 – The last analogue signal is to be switched off


What are your favourite TV memories from the past 75 years? Post a comment below and let us know.