• Commercial television begins in London on the
    22nd September.
  • 5.7 million licenses by the end of the year, with an
    estimated number of viewers exceeding 12 million.

Special table for coin slot TV's [16K] In April a dealer in Aldershot introduces what was claimed to be the first slot meter television. The dealer already hired out televisions at typically 18s 6d for a 14" set but wanted some way of avoiding customers getting behind with their payments.

With the slot meter the customer got around 70 minutes viewing for one shilling, with the proviso that a minimum of eight shillings per week whould be spent (somewhat negating the original idea !?). If a customer spent more than £1 in a week the excess was returned.

New regulations introduced from 1st Sep making it illegal for people to cause or allow domestic electrical equipment to cause radio interference. Strangely though, the regulations only apply to the three main BBC radio non-VHF stations and the BBC's band I TV, interference generated on ITV's band III not being covered !

From September 19th, three days before the start of ITV, the BBC increased television broadcasting output from 36 to 49¹ hours per week. This was achieved by extending afternoon programmes from 3pm to 5pm, the 3pM-4pM slot being allocated for women’s programmes with the following hour allocated to childrens programmes. In addition evening transmissions began at 7pm instead of 7.25pm.

Cartoon on the coming of commercial television [9K]
"I see commercial television is here!".
(Wireless World, February 1955)

September the 22nd at 19:15 sees the start of commercial Independant Television (ITV). At this stage it is tranmitted only from Croyden in London. Two companies were invloved, Rediffusion Television broadcasting on weekdays and Associated Television at weekends. The first programme was a ceremony held at the Guildhall, followed by a variety show as 20:00. However it was not until 21:12 that the first commercial was shown (oh how times have changed!). The advert was for Gibbs SR toothpaste.

Pye bakelite band 3 converter [4K] Unusual-looking Ferranti band 3 converter [4K]
Band III convetors from
Pye (left) and Ferranti (right)

October sees record TV sales of 282,000, no doubt due to the start of ITV. Whilst the BBC transmitted on Band I, ITV was transmitted on Band III ; many convertors were available for older sets but there were also many old sets not suitable for conversion. Band III convertors converted the ITV signal to Band I, however this was not without its problems. The existing BBC transmission could pick up on connection leads and even wiring with the set, particularly in strong signal areas, which would cause a beat pattern to appear with the converted ITV signal.

1955 also saw the intorduction of FM radio broadcasts on the VHF Band II. With new televisions already being switchable between bands I and III manufacturers quickly realised they could also equip their televisions with an FM radio receiver for very little additional cost.


The National Radio Show

Ekco TMB272 [8K]In previous years, many manufacturers released sets that they claimed were "portable" although this generally meant that the set was just about light enough for one person to lift and move from one room to another. However at the 1955 radio show Ekco displayed the first set that could truley portable - the TMB272. This all-valve receiver was suprising light for the time but what made it a true portable was it's ability to be powered dirctly from a 12 volt battery (such as those used in many cars). Transistor sets were still many years off the set had to rely on a mechanical switching unit to generate the high voltages required for this all-valve set. The set was not released to dealers until May/June the following year.

This was very much a niche product that was to see little in the way of competition until the arrival of transistor sets at the start of the 60's.

12-volt operation made it an obvious choice for fitting to cars and indeed were fitted to many Daimler limousines.


In late February / early March the BBC begin test transmissions from their transmitter masts at both Sutton Coldfield and Holme Moss in order to determine the likely reception range of any subsequent transmissions. The tranmissions consisted of of a simple square wave modulation.

The 20kW BBC Divis television transmitter opens in Northern Ireland on the 21st July, transmitting on channel 1. It replaced a temporary transmitter which had been operating for two years at Glencairn. It received its programmes via a radio link to Kirk o' Shotts in Scotland. If the received signal was unsuitable for retranmission, or below standard, a warning signal consisting of a vertical white bar was tranmitted ; this practice was already used by several tranmitters such as that in Norwich.


Baird acquire Ambassador. Although the latter continued to operate as a seperate company their televisions would now share a common chassis design.

Around July/August E.K.Cole Ltd. acquired a controlling interest in Dynatron.

News From Abroad.

Russia begins transmission in Moscow of experimental colour television based on the field sequental system. The system used 525-line interlaced, a strange choice since Russia had already adopted the 625-line system. Transmissions used a high frame rate of 150Hz, sequentially transmitting red, blue and green frames. As regards normal transmissions, the country now had a total of seven television stations, at Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Riga, Kharkov, Tallinn (Estonia) and Omsk.

In Germany there was still less than 200,000 receivers in use. German television manufacturers agree to produce, in addition to their own models, a standard 17-inch receiver to be priced at ~DM700 (=£60). These manufacturers were very interested in the export market and at the German Radio Show in september several manufacturers displayed 4-standard receivers covering 625/819 lines, +ve or -ve modulation and A.M. or F.M. sound.

A new television service, scheduled for the January 1st, starts in Luxembourg using the French 819-line system on band III.

Other countries starting a television service included Austria, Denmark, Thailand and Uruguay (towards the end of the year), whilst television expands in Japan with the introduction of commercial television.

<1954 Gallery of Sets from 1955 1956>

Notes 1. From the additional times given I assume that television also continued later into the evening, otherwise the figures do not add up !

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J.Evans 2005-2006
Last updated
25th February 2006