History of the BBC

History of the BBC

BBC Buildings - Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace mastElizabeth Cowell in the makeup chair
The transmitter mast at Alexandra Palace and Elizabeth Cowell 1936

The birthplace of television

Alexandra Palace is situated in North London and known around the world as the birthplace of television.

 

In fact it was never owned by the BBC, but in 1935 the Corporation leased the eastern part of the building from which the first public television transmissions were made. In 1936 it hosted trials between the EMI-Marconi and Baird television system to decide who would carry the television standard for the future.

 

Studio A was equipped with the Marconi-EMI Emitron system, while Baird installed his mechanical systems in Studio B. The Emitron camera proved far superior to Baird's cumbersome film technique, which never developed beyond an experimental stage.

 

These early transmissions were famously introduced by one of the very first presenters, Elizabeth Cowell, with the words "This is direct television from Alexandra Palace…"

 

Broadcast highlights

From 1936 until the early 1950s, except during the Second World War, Alexandra Palace remained the major production centre for BBC television, broadcasting landmark programmes such as The Grove Family and historic events including the 1953 Coronation. After 1956 it was used exclusively for news broadcasts.

 

The BBC continued to produce television programmes at Alexandra Palace for the Open University until 1981 when the University moved out to purpose-built premises north of London in Milton Keynes.

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