History of the BBC

History of the BBC


Match of the Day
Kenneth Wolstenholme


Match of the Day begins 22 August 1964

The first regular football programme on television, Match of the Day, began on 22 August 1964, at the start of the 1964-65 season. The identity of the match – Liverpool v Arsenal - was kept secret until 4pm, by agreement with the Football League, who feared crowds would stay at home to watch it. Nearly an hour of highlights of the game was shown, which was won by Liverpool 3-2. Commentary was by Kenneth Wolstenholme and Walley Barnes.


Match of the Day was transmitted on BBC2 and took advantage of the higher definition 625 line picture. Cameras were no longer restricted to close-ups as the ball was now clearly visible in wide shots. The jaunty signature tune by Barry Stoller was voted the most recognised TV theme tune in a 2010 poll conducted by the PRS, but did not make its first appearance until 1970. The first programme opened with Drum Majorette by Arnold Stock.


Match of the Day fulfilled a desire for more sport on television but also served as a training ground for BBC camera crews in preparation for the 1966 World Cup. The popularity of football following the World Cup motivated the programme's move to BBC One, where it continues to this day, complemented by Match of the Day 2.


Also in August...


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It's a Knockout 7 August 1966

It's a Knockout, the inter-town contest of skill and strength, began on 7 August 1966. The first series was between Lancashire and Yorkshire, with 8 towns competing for the Tip-Top-Town-Trophy. The signature tune - Bean Bag, played by Herb Alpert - set the tone for the games, which were played despite the British weather, and frequently featured water, grease, and silly costumes.


The format of the gameshow was adapted from the French series Intervilles, but also owed a debt to the BBC's earlier Top Town, created by It's a Knockout director Barry Coleman. British winners of It's a Knockout joined Jeux Sans Frontieres, the European version, and the competing countries ensured the props and costumes became more elaborate.


It's a Knockout ran on the BBC until 1982, but returned in 1987 with the charity special Grand Knockout Tournament, featuring members of the Royal family and a host of celebrity contestants. In its heyday It's a Knockout showcased regional and international co-operation in an entertaining format.


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Sir Henry Wood, forever associated with the 'Promenade Concerts' which he conducted for half a century.


First BBC Promenade Concert 13 August 1927

The BBC's continuing fruitful relationship with the Promenade Concerts began with the 1927 season when the very popular Proms were endangered by a loss of sponsorship. The Proms were established in 1895 by Robert Newman and Henry Wood to bring good music to a wide audience at an affordable price. The BBC saw that taking them on would provide a full season of concerts for broadcast and would fulfil the Corporation's remit to "inform, educate and entertain".


The first broadcast Prom, relayed from the Queen's Hall, featured Elgar's Cockaine Overture, Boccherini's Minuet in A for strings, Liszt's 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody, Rossini's William Tell Overture, excerpts from Coppelia, "Elizabeth's Greeting" from Tannhauser, and other songs and orchestral pieces by Stanford, Sibelius, Quilter, Parry and Schubert. Wood conducted and released a statement; "with the wholehearted support of the wonderful medium of broadcasting I feel I am at last on the threshold of realising my lifelong ambition of truly democratising the message of music and making its beneficent effect universal".


When the Queen's Hall was bombed in 1941 the Proms moved to the Albert Hall, where they still run, and have expanded in recent years to include Proms in the Park and several other initiatives, taking the music out of the concert hall and to the audience.


BBC Monitoring
BBC Monitoring at Caversham.


BBC Monitoring, 26 August 1939

Created in 1939 on the outset of WW2, its purpose was, and still is, to gather and interpret international news as rapidly and economically as possible.


Initially employing several hundred 'monitors', many of them refugees, the service rapidly expanded so that it could 'listen' 24 hours a day to all the European languages likely to be of wartime use. The BBC and wider world quickly recognised the uniqueness and value of BBC Monitoring, calling it in 1940 'a modern Tower of Babel'. Churchill was an avid customer of the service, and would ring up in the middle of the night and ask (of Hitler) 'What's that fellow been saying?'


The organisation played an important role in helping observers keep track of developments post WW2, including the Cold War, the disintegration of the Iron Curtain and collapse of the Soviet Union. Also monitored were the Falklands conflict, Yugoslav wars and Middle East hostilities. Over the years, BBC Monitoring has innovated and developed, now monitoring over 3,000 sources (across radio, TV, press, internet and news agencies), in 100 languages and across 150 countries. Its purpose remains to observe, understand and explain the world's media, and so help Britain and international audiences follow and interpret key events.


Initially based in London then Evesham, BBC Monitoring moved in 1943 to Caversham Park near Reading, where it is still based.


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