9th December 1949. TV arrives in the Midlands.
It was in 1936 that BBC’s High Definition Television service began, only to be terminated on the outbreak of war. Not until June 1946 did it re-appear: for the South-East.(1)
Then it came to the Midlands and Today on the 9th December The Radio Times issued a photo of the completed mast at Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, on the cover.(2)
The magazine had a variety of articles about television included ‘This Thing called Television’ by Norman Collins who was then controller of BBC television.
‘Television comes to the Midlands’ was the script panel in the Radio Times, for the following Saturday the 17th, when the Sutton Coldfield transmitter opened with an introduction by one of the early celebrity announcers, Sylvia Peters.
On offer on TV were speeches by the Postmaster-General, the Rt. Hon. Wilfred Paling and the Vice-Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors the Dowager Marchioness of Reading.
There was Newsreel at 11.0 am, then a film ‘Wednesday’s Luck’ about an ‘unusually intelligent gang of criminals’, from 3 till 4.5 pm.
8pm saw the opening of the Station, then at 8.15 came ‘Stars in Your Eyes’ a Variety Revue with Stanley Holloway and Leslie Henson, Jolly ‘Dynamite’ Jefferson and the New China Troupe. 9.15 Ice-Hockey was followed by 9.45 Newsreel (repeat of Friday’s edition) then 10.0 till 10.15 News in Sound!
Until December 1949 television had taken a back seat in BBC broadcasting mainly as its sole medium power transmitter covered only London and some of the Home Counties.
It was from this time that the Midland Edition of the magazine, no longer carried the words BBC Programmes, but instead the bold Sound and Television which acknowledged TV was here to stay, and thus was to appear on all editions as they expanded to include television listings.
By 1949 four in five of the population was now in reach of TV. In 1950 figures showed the production of television sets had jumped by 250% in the year to 344,000. By the end of the decade it was ten million helped by the mass appeal of the 1953 Coronation.
As television grew so did the number of Transmission Masts, Sutton Coldfield had been overtaken in 1965 in height by Belmont Mast in Lincolnshire at 1272 ft, then the tallest structure in Europe.
With the arrival of independent television came the Lichfield mast, operating from 1956, only to be demolished in 1985.
Later transmitter masts for BBC/ITV were built at Crystal Palace, Croydon, Holme Moss, Emley Moor and Pontop Pike.
In 2009 Sutton Coldfield mast was increased in height to 887 ft.
(1) It began on 2nd November 1936 and after the war returned on 7th June 1946.
(2) It was 750 ft high (245m) and was the first 405 line UFH.
Ref: The Radio Times Story. Tony Currie. Kelly Publishing 2001.