1930s - the birth of television

This was the decade that changed everything, and the BBC was aware that it might have to operate in a radically different way should war come.

This didn’t stop the BBC investing and developing, and it was the first broadcaster to begin a regularly scheduled TV service, in 1936. Radio went from strength to strength with the brand new Broadcasting House opening in 1932.

May 1932

Broadcasting House opens and changes radio forever

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Our audio slideshow explores the history of Broadcasting House

The BBC had outgrown its studios at Savoy Hill, and had to find a new home.

Instead of converting another existing building, the BBC commissioned a purpose built centre. At the time it was one of only two in Europe. Leading modernist designers were employed, and the building is a mixture of functionalist and art deco styles.

December 1932

King George V addresses the Empire

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King George V broadcasts at the ‘Royal Microphone’

King George V was the first British monarch to broadcast on radio.

The ground breaking moment was used to inaugurate the start of BBC Empire Service, forerunner to today’s BBC World Service, and the King’s voice was heard for the first time by millions simultaneously.


The 'Type A' Microphone


The Type A Microphone

Commercially available microphones were expensive in the 1930s, so the BBC worked with the Marconi company to develop its own model.

The ‘Type A’, developed and refined over the years, has become the classic BBC microphone as seen in period dramas and films.

November 1936

The BBC Television Service opens

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Adele Dixon sings The Magic Rays of Light

The BBC was the first broadcaster in the world to provide a regular ‘high definition’ television service.

Programmes we would expect to see today such as drama, sport, outside broadcasts, and cartoons all featured, but not for long. The outbreak of war in 1939 brought programmes to a sudden halt.

Well gentlemen, you have now invented the biggest time waster of all time. Use it well.

Isaac Shoenberg following the successful demonstration of electronic television 1934

May 1937

The BBC’s first television outside broadcast

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Cine film of the Coronation used by the BBC in the 1953 programme All Our Yesterdays - The Passing Show

After only six months of regular TV broadcasts, the BBC took its cameras to the Coronation of King George VI.

Recording technology did not exist, so these images were filmed from a television screen at the home of an employee of the Marconi Company.

January 1938

First foreign language broadcast - Arabic

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The voice of Ahmad Kamal Sourour Effendi with introduction by Lord Reith

Announcer Ahmad Kamal Sourour Effendi was recruited from the Egyptian radio service as the voice of the BBC’s first service in a foreign language.

His appointment made the service popular overnight, as Effendi was one of the most loved presenters in the Arab world.