The History of British Television

November 24, 2014 by  
Filed under A Note for You, Front Page

Infographic: The History of British Television


No invention has impacted human life as much as the television. While the Japanese hold a reputation or being the most technically advanced country on the planet and certainly lead the way with regards to television innovations, it’s the British who deserve most of the credit. Long before smart phones, tablets and even home computers, British-born inventor John Logie Baird created the world’s first mechanical television in 1925. While he wasn’t the first to propose the idea, he was the first to create moving greyscale image – which had a scan rate of a mere 12.5 pictures per second. During subsequent years he significantly advanced the technology and even managed to transmit a long-distance signal from London to Edinburgh (438 miles) through a telephone line in 1927.

But early history aside, the real history of television began decades later in the 1950s when it started to become a feature of the everyday home. During this time there were an abundance of innovations regarding analogue and digital technology, which paved the way for trends that are still present in the industry today.

1950s and 1960s

One of the first British television broadcasts was the current affairs programme Panorama, which is still one of the BBC’s most prized possessions. The 50s and 60s also brought us Blue Peter and the Apollo 11 moon landings. One of the most innovative shows of the time was Coronation Street, which is often credited as the first mainstream soap opera. It started in 1960 and was originally scheduled for only 13 episodes; however, even today it remains to be one of the most popular shows in the UK.

1970s and 1980s

During the 70s and 80s Hollywood started making its way to television screens. Movies were no longer reserved for the cinema and British terrestrial channels started to create single drams and mini serials. During the latter half of the 70s the video recorder was invented, which at the time was one of the most noteworthy innovations in the industry. In the early 80s the largest ever broadcast was aired – the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

1990s and 2000s

The late 90s had the biggest technical innovation in the industry since the video recorder; the broadcasting of digital widescreen. In just over a decade this would phase out the old analogue models for good. In the 00s two of the most iconic television sitcoms ever created were launched, The Office and The Inbetweeners, which would go on to be remade in countries all over the world. This solidified Britain’s position at the forefront of creative broadcasting.

2010s and Beyond

Major changes occurred in the 2010s to the way we watch television. With the creation of online viewing platforms such as Netflix and Love Film, the whole industry moved portable. Now smart phones, tablets and laptop computers can access all of the latest television shows and movies anywhere in the world. This major change also caused a shift in the creative process. Many new television shows and movies are now “download only”, which has helped independent production companies find distribution and exposed the world to even more material.

ADS Digital have compiled a detailed infographic covering the history of British television programming since the 1950s. From the timeline we can see just how much the British television industry has influenced the world.

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