April 21, 1964: BBC2 launches

BBC_Two_1964_identBBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more “highbrow” programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One.

At 19:25 on April 20, 1964, BBC2 briefly “launched” following a huge power failure at Battersea power station.

Prior to its launch, the new BBC2 was promoted on the BBC Television Service: the soon how-to-receive-BBC2to be renamed BBC1. The animated adverts featured the campaign mascots “Hullabaloo”, a mother kangaroo, and “Custard”, her joey.

The channel was scheduled to begin at 19:20 on 20 April 1964 and show an evening of light entertainment, starting with the comedy show The Alberts, a performance from Soviet comedian Arkady Raikin, and a production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, culminating with a fireworks display. However, at around 18:45 a huge power failure, originating from a fire at Battersea Power Station, caused Television Centre, and indeed much of west London, to lose all power. BBC1 was able to continue broadcasting via its facilities at Alexandra Palace, but all attempts to show the scheduled programmes on the new channel failed. Associated-Rediffusion, the London weekday ITV franchise-holder, offered to transmit on the BBC’s behalf, but their gesture was rejected. At 22:00 programming was officially postponed until the following morning. As the BBC’s news centre at Alexandra Palace was unaffected, they did in fact broadcast brief bulletins on BBC2 that evening, beginning with an announcement by the newsreader Gerald Priestland at around 19:25. There was believed to be no recording made of this bulletin, but a videotape was discovered in early 2003.

By 11:00 on 21 April, power had been restored to the studios and programming began, thus making Play School the first programme to be shown officially on the channel. The launch schedule, postponed from the night before, was then successfully shown that evening, albeit with minor changes. In reference to the power cut, the transmission opened with a shot of a lit candle which was then sarcastically blown out by presenter Denis Tuohy. [Wikipedia]

Watch the launch on the Adam Martyn YouTube Channel.

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