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BRITISH PATHE TELEVISION : 1938
Graphics and text © Andy O'Brien
When Radio Luxembourg started broadcasting a full service into Britain in 1933 it introduced the UK to the world of commercial radio. But with these broadcasts came a growing fear from the powers that be. If an English language service from a foreign country could be recieved on these shores, to what use could they be put? So far it was restricted to unlicensed broadcasting of commercial radio, but could there be more sinister uses? Were the Luxembourg transmitters to be seized by a hostile foreign power, it could broadcast propaganda to the British people. The thing that was supporting Luxembourg was the revenue from advertizing. The course of action against this was to allow advertizing on government licensed, inland transmitters. This would dry up Luxembourg's UK audience and strike a blow to any similar attempts from offshore broadcasters.

And once radio yielded, interested parties started pressing for a commercial television service.

British Pathe Television 1938

And so a frequency was set aside for a new channel. Confusingly complex tuning instructions were displayed in major newspapers and those who managed to work them out were greeted with this. The ITVA seemed a little uncertain of the word 'Television', prefering it hyphenated. One theory is that Lord Thornbury, the first Chairman of the ITVA, disliked the word as it was an amalgam of Greek and Latin. He reportedly demanded that there be some distinction between the two halves of the word.

British Pathe Television 1938

Weekdays were the preserve of British Pathè. Here's the ident of the first ever holders of an ITV franchise.

British Pathe Television 1938

And the famous Pathè cockrel also appeared on the clock.

British Pathe Television 1938

The evening's programmes would start with this slide, featuring a primitive scrolling menu. Reportedly it was typed out a few minutes before airtime and typos were very common. On one occasion, the scrolling band of paper is reported to have snapped on air!

British Pathe Television 1938

Similarly basic were the opening titles of the best remembered Pathè show.

British Pathe Television 1938

The endcap was marginally more exciting.

British Pathe Television 1938

The ITVA felt that British Pathè should not be allowed to use it's television franchise as a platform to promote it's cinematic newsreel. It was decided that a seperate news company would provide bulletins for the service. And so ITN was born.

LAST UPDATE: 23rd June 2003

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