Life Before Freeview Television

Freeview Television
Freeview Television

Freeview was first launched in the United Kingdom in 2002 as a collaboration existing of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, and Arqiva. It’s the UK’s most widely used digital television platform and as of July 2020, has more than 100 different channels to choose from including 85 TV channels, 10 HD channels and 26 digital radio channels. Freeview is readily available for consumers all over the UK. The only requirement to receive Freeview television is a compatible TV and aerial.

Today it’s estimated that as many as 18 million homes make use of all the great services Freeview has to offer. But what was television life like before this?

The Early Years

When TV was first introduced to the UK’s general public it was 1926, thanks to the likes of Scotsman John Logie Baird. Shortly after, in 1927, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was formed. However, it was still quite sometime before television became affordable enough for regular working-class people to own.

High-Definition Discovery 

The next real breakthrough came in 1936 when the first high definition (HD) television service began. It was transmitted by the BBC from Alexandra Palace in London and enabled 50,000 viewers located in the South-East of England to watch a monumental moment in history – the coronation of King George VI at Westminster Abbey. Being able to watch this on-screen was an amazing experience for thousands of people, even if the TV they were viewing it on was grainy and at best around 9 inches big.

Expansion of the BBC

To begin with, it was only those living in the South-East of England that were able to access the BBC service. However, in 1949 the Sutton Coldfield television transmitter opened, opening up a wider viewing audience to those in the Midlands. Then, in 1951 the Holme Moss transmitter opened near the Peak District, enabling those in Norther England to enjoy the BBC also. In 1955, the UK finally got another channel to watch – ITV. Then, in 1964, BBC2 arrived.

Introducing Colour

We all take for granted the number of colours we see splashed across our screens, as pre 1967, TV was actually pretty dull in comparison. However, that all changed on the 1st July 1967 when BBC2 had an amazing breakthrough and launched Europe’s first-ever colour service showing the Wimbledon tennis championships. It wasn’t until 1969 that BBC1 and ITV followed suit, even though they were by far, the most popular channels at the time. The downside of the introduction of colour was the introduction of the UK’s first colour TV licence, costing £10. And while that may not sound much, it was double that of the black and white TV licence.

The 70s and 80s

For television, these decades involved a lot more in the way of development and many more firsts. In the early 70’s, shows like the BBC Nine O’clock News, The Two Ronnies, and Tiswas emerged. Then in 1974, we saw good old Ceefax added to our screens. The latter half of the 70’s saw the making of British sitcoms as popular shows such as Faulty Towers and The Good Life, while game shows such as Blankety Blank also hit our screens.

In 1981, between the BBC and ITV, more than 28 million UK viewers watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Channel 4 went live in 1982, while the ever popular soap EastEnders emerged on BBC1 in 1985, with Casualty and Catchphrase not too far behind.

Break out the Satellite

The 90’s saw a major development for UK TV when Sky Television merged with British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) giving viewers a much wider choice of programmes, thanks to the likes of satellites. While satellite television had already been introduced previously by both companies, neither was successful on its own. Together, they made history. Throughout the 90’s more and more satellite channels were made available, as well as the introduction of the UK’s fifth terrestrial channel – Channel 5.

The Past Twenty Years

Since the turn of the century, there hasn’t been a great deal of change in terms of the actual services developed back in the late 90’s. Although many new show types were introduced including the likes of various reality TV shows. One innovative thing that did emerge in connection with TV is streaming. It was around the mid-2000s when various television shows became available to watch on the internet, through sites such as YouTube and Apples iTunes service. Netflix was soon created not long after this in 2007 and was later followed by god old Amazon in 2016.

So, as you can see, we have come quite a long way in terms of the TV that was around in the 1950s. But, with the advancement of technology and how fast the world moves, there’s no doubt some even more innovative developments will be just around the corner.