• BBC transmissions cover 93% of the population
  • Second ITA transmitter opens.
  • 21-inch CRT's begin to make their mark on sales.
  • Television starts in Australia
  • 6.5 million TV licenses in force by the end of the year

Although 14" and 17" screens continue to be the most popular sizes, 21" screens now account for 6% of sales.

On February 18th the minimum deposit required for hire-purchase of televisions was increased from 33.3% to 50%Following a survey in March, 46% of televisions were bought via hire purchase or credit sales, a drop of 13% over the previous year.

A survey published in May, with two ITV regions (London and the Midlands) then operating, the BBC estimated its own television audience share at 41 per cent and ITV's at 59 per cent.

On Wednesday 6th June the BBC celebrated ten continuous years of public service since Alexandra Palace resumed tranmitting after the war (though presumably they'd forgoton the break in early 1947 during the power crisis!). In that time the number of transmitters had increased from 1 to 17 and BBC coverage had reached 98% of the population. In 1946 there were less than 20,000 televisions in use yet this was now equal to the number of additional viewers every 3 days. With the BBC transmitting 49 hours a week it was estimated that on average a viewer spent 85 minutes per night ... oh how times have changed !

Picture of new tuning signal [9K]

A new tuning signal was introduced on Saturday June 16th. Prior to the start of each program the BBC transmitted a tuning signal to enable the home television owner make any necessary picture adjustments before the programme started.

A survey published later in the year by Neilsen revealed that of the programmes that appeared in the top 10 ratings, three quarters of them were broadcast by the ITA companies Granada and ABC. Of these, two thirds were produced by by Granada, however the most popular program of all appears to have been 'Sunday Night at The Palladium, Blackpool' produced by ABC.


Radical New CRT Design

With screen sizes getting larger yet with only a limited scanning angle, the depth of TV cabinets was becoming particularly inconvienient. Whilst CRT manufactures endeavored to increase the scanning angle (and thus reduce the CRT's depth), Dr. Gabor working at London's Imperial College was researching a radical new design of CRT.

This new design involved mounting the electron gun parallel to the actual screen and using an electrostatic lense to bend the electron beam into the screen. Dr. Gabor quoted a CRT depth of only 4 inches being required for a 21 inch display compared to the 23 inch depth of a typical conventional CRT.

Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

PAM choose the Earls Court Radio Exhibition to release their model 500 receiver, the first television in Britain to use printed circuit wiring. The company had already produced a number of small radios using PCB's but this was the first time the technique had been applied to something as large and complex as a television set.

Colour Television

Chassis view of an experimental colour TV [15K]
Inside view of one of the
experimental colout televisions.

On the 3rd April a special demonstration of NTSC colour adapted to the UK 405-line television standard was arranged by the BBC from its Alexandra Palace transmitter for a study group of the Radio Consultative Committee of the International Telecommunications Union (CCIR). Eight British manufacturers provided 13 prototype receivers for the demonstration.

The B.B.C. started a further series of test colour television transmissions in Band I, this time from its Crystal Palace transmitter, in November. The signals were compatible with monochrome reception.


The pentode gun was now in widespread use. It offered smaller beam diameters which helped reduce uneven focussing at the extremes of the displayed raster. The majority also utilised electrostatic focussing.

Remote Control

Although a few upmarket sets had appeared boasting a remote control, these controls were limited to basic volume, brighness and contrast controls, all of which could be simply achieved using potentiometers. However, in November Philco introduce the "Philcomatic", the first system that could be considered a true remote control, by which we mean the inclusion of the ability to change channels.



Until now the London BBC transmissions differed to those used elsewhere in the country in that they used double sideband transmission instead of vestigal sideband. However with the opening of a new transmitter at Crystal Palace on the 28th of March, London fell in line with the rest of the country. Whilst many sets could with minimal effort be adjusted to account for these changes a significant number of sets became obsolete.

Commercial Television

On the 17th February ITA extended its coverage to the Midlands from a transmitter located in Lichfield. After several months of quite extensive test transmissions (7½ hours each weekday, 3 hours on a saturday) programs officially began on the 17th February on channel 8 albeit at reduced power of 50kW. This was raised to 200kW few months later. Programmes were provided by Associated Television (ATV) on weekdays and by ABC Television at weekends.

The move north continues through the year with further ITA transmitters opening on channel 9 from Winter Hill in Lancashire (May 3rd) and on channel 10 from Emley Moor in Yorkshire in the autumn.

Test card used at Winter Hill [14K]On May 3rd, Independent Television transmission began in the north-west of England area from the Winter Hill transmitter, near Bolton in Lancashire, operating on channel 9.. The weekday programmes are provided by Granada Television from its site at Quay Street on the Manchester/Salford boundary and at weekends by ABC Television, operating from the former Capitol Cinema in Parrswood Road, Didsbury, Manchester, one of the largest in the ABC cinema chain?

November 3rd sees the start of the Yorkshire area Independent Television's Yorkshire tranmissions start from the Emley Moor transmitter using channel 10. The programme companies are as for the north-west of England.


Towards end of year, Marconi-Osram Valve Co became a wholly-owned subsidiary of GEC after GEC acquired EMI's shares. The "Osram" trading name subsequently changed to "GEC" and a change of policy saw MO concentrate on tranmitting and special purpose valves.

News From Abroad


In september Sydney became the first city in Australia to recieve regular scheduled broadcasts, with Melbourne following soon after. In the first two months less than 3,000 sets were produced. On the 5th November the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) began regular television broadcasts in Sydney followed two weeks later by tranmissions in Melborne, preperations being rushed in order to cover the the Olympic Games which being hosted by Australia from the 22nd September. The Olympics provided a major boost to television, no doubt played a major part in pushing TV sales through the 100,000 mark just six months after regular broadcasting had started. ABC were qickly joined by commercial station GTV-9, HSV-7 (Melborne) and ATN-7 (Sydney) with GTV-9 rushing its preparations so as to begin sponsored test transmissions during the Games.

Prior to opening, ABC bought over 160 films and telerecordings from the BBC. Programs included the popular "War in the Air" series as well as many children's programmes such as "Watch with Mother", "Andy Pandy" and the "Flowerpot Men". However due delays with arrangements involving Equity and the Musicians Union none of these programmes included drama or musical performances.

1956 AWA Model 202c [10K]  
Two Australian T.V.s from 1956 ; AWA model 202C
console (left) and the Healing model 321 tabletop set (right).


At the start of the year Russia makes a number of colour test transmissions.

The French 441-line television transmissions from Eiffel Tower, Paris ended prematurely on the 3rd of January when the transmitter burned down. The 819-line network was unaffected. The French TV boss Jean d’Arcy was later quoted as saying ‘What a glorious night that was’.

The first regular broadcasts by Television Española (TVE) begin on the 29th October over a range of 70km from Madrid to about 400 sets

Television services start in Algeria, Guatemala, Iraq (March), Nicaragua Taiwanand Yugoslavia.

<1955 Gallery of Sets from 1956 1957>

Page copyright ©
J.Evans 2005
Last updated
13th February 2005