British T.V Firsts
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British T.V Firsts

Britains first childrens TV programme, Britains first TV colour broadcast, Britains first stand up comedy show, Britains first celebrity chef, Britains first cookery show, Britains longest running TV programmes, Britains first current affairs programme, Britains first televised football match, Britains first televised Cup Final, Britains first televised football World Cup, Britains first televised Olympic Games, Britains first televised Oxford cambridge boat race, Britains first televised Wimbledon, Britains first live international broadcasts, Britains first quiz show, Britains first televised royal wedding, Britains first televised sci fi drama, Britains first televised sitcom, Britains first soap opera, Britains first variety show, Britains most viewed TV broadcasts, launch dates of Britains first independent TV channels, launch dates of BBC channels,

Television first came to Great Britain by way of the Baird Television company, who used a BBC transmitter in Southampton to televise it's five nights a week TV station, which began in September 1929. TV eventually went nationwide when the BBC began regular, live broadcasts from their new studios at Alexander Palace in north London on the first of October 1936.

T.V was halted in Britain during the war years from 1939 until it resumed service again on the seventh of June 1946. The last programme to be aired before this shutdown was Walt Disney's, Mickey's Gala Premiere, shown on the first of September 1939. Mickey's Gala Premiere was also the first programme to welcome TV back again, when it came back on air in June 1946.

Below is a list ( in alphabetical order) of a few more of Great Britain's television firsts.


Britain's third TV channel, BBC2, was launched on the twentieth of April 1964, followed by it's sister channels BBC3, launched on the ninth of February 2003 and BBC4, launched on the second of March 2002.


The first TV series made especially for children was the BBC's Saturday series For the Children, first screened on the twentyfouth of April 1937.

Britain's longest running children's TV programme is the BBC's Blue Peter which was first aired on the sixteenth of October 1958, making it Britains third longest running TV series.


Britain's first colour broadcast was aired on July the first 1967 when BBC 2 showed live, colour coverage of that years Wimbledon Championship.


Britain's very first stand up comedy show was How do you view? Presented by veteran comedian Terry Thomas which was first aired in 1951. 


Britain's first celebrity chef was Fanny Cradock - AKA Phyllis Pechey - who aired her first TV cookery show for BBC television in 1955.


Britain's longest running current affairs series is BBC's Panorama, which aired it's first episode on the eleventh of November 1953. At 58 years old, this makes Panorama not only Britain's longest running current affairs programme, but Britain's longest running TV programme of all time.


The FA Cup match of 1938 played between Preston North End and Huddersfield Town, was the first televised FA Cup match, when BBC TV aired the match on the twenty third of April 1938. Preston North End beat Huddersfield Town 1 - 0.


The BBC aired the first televised football match on the sixteenth of September 1936. The match was a friendly between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves.

Britain's longest running football series is the BBC's Match of the Day which was first televised on the twentysecond of August 1964.


The football World Cup of 1954, hosted that year by Switzerland, was Britain's first televised World Cup.


Britain's first independent and second national TV channel was the ITV Network which began it's service of fifteen regional TV stations on the twenty second of September 1955. The station also aired Britain's first ever TV advert on this date, when an ad for Gibbs SR Toothpaste was aired during the broadcast of a celebratory dinner being held at London's Guildhall in honour of the launch of the new channel.

Britain's Channel 4 was launched on the second of November 1982 opening with the first broadcast of the country's longest running Game Show, Countdown. 

Channel Five was launched on the thirtieth of March 1997 and began it's first transmission with a Spice Girls video followed by presenters Tim Vine and Julia Bradbury hosting a half hour Channel Five preview show.


The first televised international football match in the UK was a match between Scotland and England on the nineteenth of April 1938. Scotland's Celtic beat England's Everton 1 - 0.


The top three TV audiences in the United Kingdom were for the 1966 World Cup with 32.3 million viewers followed by the funeral of HRH Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 with 32.1 million viewers and the BBC's Eastenders Christmas Special aired on the twentyfifth of December 1986 with 30.1 million viewers. 


Britain's first live European broadcast was screened on the twentyseventh of August 1950 by way of the Eurovision TV Network. The country's first TransAtlantic live transmission was aired on the twentythird of July 1962 via the Telstar 1 satellite.


Below are listed ten of Britain's longest running TV series (in chronological order) that have not already been mentioned in this article due to the series no longer running or because it's particular genre has not been covered.   

Come Dancing - BBC variety show - 1949 - 1998. 

Dixon Of Dock Green - BBC police drama - 1955- 1976. 

The Eurovision Song Contest - Although not officially a TV series, this popular annual song contest televised by the European Broadcasting Union, is a British institution that has stood the test of time. The show was first aired from Lugano in Switzerland in 1956 and is still an ongoing, annual contest viewed by millions both in Britain and across Europe.    

The Sky At Night - BBC monthly astronomy magazine - 1957 - Present. This series is Britain's second longest  running series after Panorama and was introduced by it's original presenter,Sir Patrick Moore, until December 2012.  

Grandstand - BBC weekly sports magazine - 1960 - 2007.

Top Of The Pops (TOTP) - BBC weekly,live music charts - 1964 - 2006.

Last Of The Summer Wine - BBC weekly sitcom - 1973 - 2010.

Top Gear - BBC weekly auto magazine - 1977 - Present.

Antiques Roadshow - BBC antique valuation - 1979 - Present.

Only Fools And Horses -   BBC weekly sitcom - 1981 - 2003. 

Countdown - Channel 4 daily game show - 1982 - Present. 


Britain's first televised Olympic Games coverage was that of the Winter Olympics of 1956 held in Cortina, Italy. Britain's first Summer Olympic Games coverage was the 1960 games held in Rome.


The first televised Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race was aired on the second of April 1938. That year, which was the ninetieth annual race, was won by Oxford.


The stringed puppet, Muffin the Mule, shown as part of the BBC's For the Children series, was Britain's first televised puppet show when it first appeared on the twentieth of October 1946.


Britain's first televised quiz show was Spelling Bee, an inter - regional spelling competition which was just fifteen minutes long. The show was first aired on the thirtyfirst of May 1938 and was hosted by Freddie Greasewood. The show was such a hit that a children's show was also introduced and a UK / US English spelling competiton held in conjunction with the USA's NBC Network.

In 1939 when TV went off air during the war years, so popular was this TV show, that the BBC decided to carry on airing the show by way of their radio service, although it only lasted for another year. Historians of the period are of the opinion that the once, much loved show lost momentum due to the low moral of the British people.

Britain's longest running quiz show is the BBC's academic contest,University Challenge, which has been aired since 1962. 


Britain's first televised royal wedding was aired on the sixth of May 1960 when Queen Elisabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret, married Anthony Armstrong - Jones at Westminster Abbey. The wedding attracted over twenty million viewers, not only because of the event's exclusivity, but due to the fact that the Princess Margaret was held in the same esteem by the British public at that time as had Princes Diana during the nineteen eighties and nineties.


The science fiction programme Rossum Universal Robots, written by Czech playwrite Karl Calpek, was the first televised sci - fi programme to be aired on BBC TV on the eleventh of February 1938.

Britain's longest running sci - fi series is the BBC's Doctor Who which was first aired on the twentythird of November 1963.


Britain's very first televised sitcom was Pinwrights Progress, a half hourly, fortnightly aired comedy written by Rodney Hobson and starring James Hayter.The series was first aired on the twentyninth of November 1946 and ran until May of the following year. The show featured shop owner Mr Pinwright and his many exploits with a despised, fellow shop owning, rival.


Britain's first soap opera was The Grove Family, a series about a family coping with life in post war Britain. It first went on air in 1954 and 148 episodes were shown before it's axe in 1957.

Britain's longest running soap opera is ITV's Coronation Street which was first aired on the ninth of December 1960.


The BBC's weekly Starlight Show was Britains first ever televised variety show. The show first went on air on the third of November 1936 and was one of the few former, pre war shows that resumed service when TV made it's comeback in 1946.


The first televised coverage of a Wimbledon tournament was during the championship of 1937.




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Comments (6)
Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Very interesting chronology, thanks.

Really interesting article, I like British shows a lot. We get Are You Being Served, Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances, and some others. I recognized James Hayter because he was Mr. Tebbs in Are You Being Served. He was hilarious!

There are too many firsts.Really interesting.

Ranked #3 in Popular Culture

@Katheen, wow what a memory you have , I did not remember James Hayter from Are You Being Served, he's actually better known in the UK as being the voice of Mr Kipling cakes on their adverts. Well done you for remembering that.

I wish we could see more British shows here!

This is a well-researched article. Voted up.