History of the BBC

History of the BBC


Pot Black


Pot Black first transmitted 23 July 1969

Pot Black was a startling demonstration of the benefits of the new BBC Two colour service, and became an immediate success following its launch on 23 July 1969. The game of snooker was ideal for colour television; cameras mounted directly above the table allowed viewers a clear view of the action and enabled them to see the coloured balls potted in the correct order.


In the first programme the rules of the game were explained and some of the player's skills were demonstrated. In the subsequent seven weeks of the series a knockout competition was played between the top eight players in the world: Gary Owen, Jack Rea, John Pulman, Ray Reardon, Fred Davis, Rex Williams, Kingsley Kennerley and John Spencer. The eventual winner was Welsh amateur champion Ray Reardon, who won the Pot Black Trophy and £1000. The presenters were Ted Lowe, who devised the programme, and Alan Weeks.


Pot Black ran until 1986, by which time it had become a victim of its own success, overshadowed by the coverage of professional snooker on television. It was revived from 1991 to 1993 and again in 2005. It also spawned Junior Pot Black and made an appearance on Sport Relief.


Also in July...


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Michael Buerk looks back at the first television News and Newsreel.


BBC Television News and Newsreel 5 July 1954

Daily television news bulletins started on 5 July 1954, with the News and Newsreel. It began with a summary of the news, illustrated with maps and stills. Newsreaders Richard Baker and John Snagge were out of vision as it was thought their appearance would be a distraction and possibly even betray their opinions. The top story was on peace talks in Indo-China, followed by one on the French in Tunisia. The second part of the bulletin was given over to newsreel films, ending with a report on the end of rationing.


Television news was challenged to illustrate the stories it put on air, an issue that caused unfavourable comparisons with radio. Director of News Tahu Hole wrote in the Radio Times about the problems of getting news film, dependent as it often was on planes and customs restrictions. He looked forward to a time when film would be available almost instantly.


Television news grew from its shaky start. By 1955 it had twice as much airtime and with the introduction of newsreaders in vision it became increasingly popular. It really proved its worth in 1956, bringing footage of the crises in Suez and Hungary into people’s living rooms. Today the main bulletins on BBC One are augmented by the News Channel, which offers breaking news around the clock, as well as news streams available via online, mobile and tablet.


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The speaker in the slideshow is Veronica Taylor, former Television and Special Projects Officer for the BFI


Andy Pandy 11 July 1950

Andy Pandy made his television debut on 11 July 1950. His appearance - later with his friends Teddy and Looby Loo - was an acknowledgement of the hold that television had on the very young, and an attempt to provide tailor-made programmes for them. Andy Pandy was initially seen as an experiment, but its success was such that the Watch With Mother strand was made, which added The Flowerpot Men, The Woodentops, and Rag, Tag and Bobtail over the following years.


Andy Pandy was created by Freda Lingstrom and Maria Bird. Bird wrote and presented the programme, coaxing Andy out of his basket to dance and play, and encouraging the children at home to join in. Andy himself never spoke. Audrey Atterbury operated Andy via his very visible strings, and songs were sung by Janet Ferber. Every programme ended with the song "Time to go home", as Andy waved goodbye and returned to his basket.


The few original programmes were repeated until 1969 and are remembered with fondness by several generations. In 1970 some were remade in colour. Andy Pandy was revived as a stop motion animation in 2002, voiced by Tom Conti and shown on the BBC's channel for young children, CBeebies.


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Toytown first transmitted 19 July 1929

The radio programme Children's Hour was greatly loved by generations of children and adults alike, to the extent that when it eventually ended 60 MPs signed a parliamentary motion in protest. Most popular and enduring of all the sections of the programme was Toytown, which was first broadcast on 19 July 1929 and outlasted its host programme, continuing to 1963.


Toytown was narrated by Uncle Mac, Derek McCulloch, who also voiced Larry the Lamb. Larry's mischievous companion was Dennis the Dachsund, played by Ernest Jay. The other characters were The Mayor, Ernest the Policeman, Mr Growser, The Inventor, The Magician, Dennis the Artist, Captain Higgins, Mrs Goose and Letitia Lamb.


The inhabitants of Toytown were created by S.G. Hulme Beaman, inspired by wooden figures he modelled. Hulme Beaman wrote and illustrated 6 stories in the book 'Tales from Toytown', which were spotted by "Elizabeth" from Children's Hour, (the name given to presenter, May Jenkins). She it was who saw their potential as radio material. Following their success the BBC asked for more, and over the next couple of years Hulme Beaman produced another 24 stories for Children's Hour. The supply ended when he died in February 1932, aged only 45. Toytown proved so popular that it was repeated many times over the next decades.


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