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1954 Chronokey Chronomedia index
Numbers after entries link to the list of references.

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  Cultural highlights | Predictions amde this year  
January 1  First major US nationwide colour television broadcast: the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena, California [right; photo NBC] Signals are carried over a newly configured network of AT&T long lines to 20 or more cities (reports vary between 20 and 22). The FCC gives a special dispensation to allow the broadcast within the 30-day delay imposed in the approval of the colour system. Click on picture for a map of the AT&T network set up for the transmission
January 1  Start of regular television test transmissions from Tryvannshøgda transmitter in Norway. > 1957
January 4  Elvis Presley first meets his future producer Sam Phillips of Sun Records when he records a private 10-inch acetate demo disc of Casual Love Affair and I'll Never Stand in Your Way at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. > July 5
January 7  DuMont Laboratories demonstrates its Duoscopic television receiver, a display allowing simultaneous viewing of two programmes. Two receivers are mounted in the cabinet at 45 degrees to each other, one horizontal and one vertical, with a polarising screen in front of each faceplate. The images are combined on a semi-translucent mirror angled at 45 degrees between the two tubes. Viewers use  
January 11  First appearance on BBC Television of a weatherman: George Cowling.  
January 20  National Negro Network is formed in the US by 40 radio stations.  
January 22  ABC attempts early morning television by simulcasting its successful and long-running radio programme Breakfast Club. It does not work on television. > 1980, when the BBC tries the same thing in Scotland
January  First weather forecaster to appear on BBC Television is George Cowling.  
March 4  Television Bill is laid before UK parliament to introduce a second, competitive television service. > July 30
March 9  First local colour television commercial is broadcast in New York—a furniture advert for Castro Decorators.  
March 14  RCA begins colour television receiver production at its plant in Bloomington, Indiana. A 15-inch model CT-100 set (called The Merrill) retails at $1,000. Initial production run is of 5,000 units.  
March 18  Howard Hughes buys RKO Pictures for $23,489,478.  
first quarter  UK television audience is estimated at 9.1m; 27.1m adults are in homes with radio but no television. Television accounts for 41 per cent of all broadcast reception, radio for 59 per cent. > 1955
•  First domestic stereophonic audio tape recorder introduced in US by Livingston Electronics in New York.  
April 2  Walt Disney announces plans to build a Disneyland amusement park.  
April 9  The Grove FamilyBBC broadcasts the first episode of The Grove Family, the first British television soap opera, from studio H at Lime Grove. The family is named after the place (Lime Grove, that is, not Studio H).
[Picture source: BBC]
April 7  Gee by The Crows becomes the first rhythm and blues (R&B) record to enter the US mainstream charts (at number 17). Two weeks later (April 24) entertainment trade paper Billboard identifies a coming trend towards interest in R&B among young people.  
April 12  Bill Haley and his Comets record Rock around the Clock, which precipitates the rock’n’roll boom in record sales, helped by inclusion the following year in the film Blackboard Jungle. It becomes the first disc to sell a million copies in the UK. A second major hit, Shake, Rattle and Roll, is recorded at the same session. > 1955
April 23  TV during the Army-McCarthy hearingsNetwork television screening of the ‘Army-McCarthy’ hearings begin in the US; on the first day 63 per cent of all New York TV sets are tuned to the hearings. Retailers set up screening rooms to promote receivers.
[Picture source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
April  VistaVisionParamount demonstrates its VistaVision wide-screen format in comparison with CinemaScope at Radio City Music Hall in New York. VistaVision uses an unsqueezed image on 35mm film with eight-perforation horizontal pulldown, giving a 1.85:1 ratio. Paramount allows some latitude in actual composition of ratios between 4:3 and 2:1 but will not permit any screenings wider than the latter ratio. For release the picture is optically reduced to a standard unsqueezed 35mm print with four-perforation pulldown, requiring no special lenses. The first film shot in VistaVision is White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. (The last is One Eyed Jacks in 1961.)  
April  By now, Twentieth Century-Fox's initial CinemaScope release of The Robe has taken $30m at the box office.  
April  ABC television network in US signs deal with Walt Disney for a Disneyland television series.  
June 1  UK television receiving licence fee is increased from £2 to £3—the first increase since its introduction, making BBC Television financially stable for the first time. TV licence fee
June 6-July 4  First EurovisionEurovision (or 'Television Continental Exchange' in BBC parlance) is inaugurated by a series of link-ups of Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and West Germany. The first programme is the Festival of Flowers at Montreux, Switzerland. Click on picture for more
June 14  DuMont television network opens its Tele-Centre, a five-studio production facility built in the former Central Opera House at 205 East 67 Street, New York at a cost of $5m. Designed for live productions, with the five control rooms stacked above each other, is also features DuMont Labs' transciption kinescope recording system. One studio is equipped for colour film and slide output. The facility has a capacity for over 160 programmes a week. [0057] The building is now the Fox Broadcasting Center, home of WNYW
June  Television service starts in Poland. Television service start dates
June  UK's National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC) calls in its outstanding loan from British Lion, sending the company into receivership.  
July 5, 19:30  BBC NewsFirst edition of BBC Television News and Newsreel, introduced by Richard Baker with voice-over commentary read by John Snagge and Andrew Timothy. > 1955
July 5  Elvis Presley makes his first commercial recording: That’s All Right Mama and Blue Moon of Kentucky at Sun Records, Memphis.  
July 13  RCA Victor introduces a series of recordings under the ‘Listener’s Digest’ brand name: ‘inexpensive, friendly, short and easy-to-enjoy’ versions of the classics to ‘fit in with today’s tempo of living’.  
July 14  Restrictions on hire-purchase (credit) buying of consumer goods are lifted in the UK, further stimulating the sale of television receivers. Already three-quarters of televisions sets are bought on 'HP'; 62 per cent of acquirers earn less than £10 a week.  
July 30  Television Act 1954, authorising introduction of commercial television in the UK, receives the Royal Assent.  
summer  Germany has 10,000 television sets in use, served by eight transmitters, Italy 34,000 sets—many in public places, such as bars and cafés.  
August 4  Independent Television Authority (ITA) is established in the UK with art historian Sir Kenneth Clark as chairman.  
August 7  The Crew-Cuts recording of Sh-Boom reaches the US Top 10 within a record time of three weeks. > November
August 25  ITA advertises programme contracts for London, the English Midlands and the North of England; 25 applications result.  
August 31  New agreement between Italy and the Motion Picture Export Association of America (MPEA) cuts the number of American dubbed film imports to 190 from the majors and 55 from independents. > 1959
August  By now 200 companies are releasing 33rpm LPs in the US and the number of small independent pop music labels is booming. The average price of an LP is now $5.95. > 1955
August First Newport Jazz Festival is staged in Rhode Island.  
September 14  Robert Fraser is appointed the first director-general of the UK's Independent Television Authority from a short list of five, including an air chief marshal, two generals and the former director-general of the FEstival of Britain, Gerald Barry. [0062a]  
September 14  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation starts broadcasting from CKLW TV on channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario.  
September  Ampex video project is fully re-activated after a period of 13 months when engineers were switched to other tasks.  
October 1  ITA membersSir Robert Fraser takes up appointment as ITA director general. Click on picture for more
October 7  Television coverage of a UK political party conference for the first time is from Blackpool of the ruling Conservative Party.  
October 29  Experimental television broadcasts begin in Sweden.  
October  NHK makes its first practical use of kinescope recording for a television production of a Kabuki drama.  
November  KWTV transmitter mast opens at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, at the time the world's tallest structure at 479m. > 1956
November  Television service starts in Monaco. Television service start dates
November  Alex Maxey of Ampex proposes a new video recorder design with single rotating head and four-inch tape passing the head in a tubular pattern. The proposal meets with little enthusiasm as all efforts are concentrated on perfection of the quadruplex design.  
November  Embassy recordEmbassy records on sale in WoolworhsWoolworths in the UK introduces the Embassy range of audio records. Initially 78rpm (with 45rpm being introduced in May 1958), each 10-inch disc contains cover versions of two current hits. The records are produced by the independent record company Oriole. Among the first six releases is Sh-Boom, sung by Four-in-a-Chord. As well as being sold in Woolworths' stores in the British Isles and West Germany, Oriole has rights to sell the discs elsewhere. They sell well on the Disco Foon label in the Netherlands and Teeny in Belgium. Woolworths records in 1936
December 2  Coverage of an England v Germany football match is televised by the BBC but because of Football Association objections, only the last 35 minutes is transmitted to homes (and without prior announcement). However, the whole match is shown by Cinema-Television on large screens in eight cinemas around England, five of them outside London, including the Gaumonts in Manchester and Doncaster. Total audiences of 13,000 attend, reaching about 75 per cent capacity in the provinces.  
December 12  BBC Television transmits the landmark adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in its regular Sunday night drama slot (20:35-22:35). The most expensive drama to date, it is repeated the following Thursday—the latter live performance being telerecorded on 35mm film. Press reactions to the play
•  United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funds the animated film production of George Orwell's Animal Farm, made by the British firm of Halas & Batchelor. < 1950
See also Quotations
December 20  Jackie Gleason signs a sponsorship contract with Buick Motor Company to produce 78 half-hour shows over two years for $6,142,500.  
end  Riverside Studios at Hammersmith, London—acquired by the BBC during the year—are now in routine use by the BBC Television Film Unit. > 1956
BBC Dickenson Road studiosBBC acquires the Dickenson Road studios in Rusholme, Manchester [left] from Mancunian Films, its first television production facility outside London.
[photo: Malcolm Carr]
Twentieth Century-Fox introduces monophonic optical and magnetic film prints for CinemaScope in addition to the four-track magnetic version (see 1953 February) to encourage exhibitors to take up the format.  
Among technical innovations for their film Around the World in 80 Days, currently in preparation, producer Mike Todd and his son Mike Todd Jr consider using Hans Raube's 15-year-old Scentovision system. > 1960
Pamposh, directed by Ezra Mir (né Edwin Myers 1903-1993), is the first Indian colour film processed completely in India, using Gevacolor stock.  
NBC developing colour-kine system using three separate tubes or kinescopes optically combined and recorded on 35mm negative film.  
During the year, NBC transmits 68 hours of colour television broadcasts.  
NBC opens up late-night broadcasting period with Tonight show starring Steve Allen.  
Peak of pre-videotape era: CBS produces 70 hours of live programming a week, all kine-recorded on almost 1m feet of film stock.  
BBC Television opens Studio E at its Lime Grove facility in Shepherds Bush, London, the fourth and final production studio.  
National Film Finance Corporation calls in its loan to British Lion and appoints a manager and receiver. All British Lion’s £1.2m capital has been lost.  
Screen Writers Guild, Radio Writers Guild and the Television Writers Guild merge to form the Writers Guild of America.  
Warner Brothers signs a deal with ABC to make 41 hours of filmed programmes under the title Warner Brothers Presents, including the successful Cheyenne Western series. It is the first of the Hollywood majors to enter into such a direct production relationship with television. The initiative is followed almost immediately by MGM Parade and Twentieth Century-Fox Hour, together with announcement of television production plans from Paramount.  
John Grierson leaves Group 3 at Southall Studios, which start producing filmed television programmes.  
British patent (807 615) filed by Hans Laube and Bert Good of New York to synchronise emission of smells into cinema auditorium with action. Optical signals on film trigger a battery of cells which generate smells through a powder filter which de-fixes odours to make them short-lived (like the system).  
Texas Instruments introduces the first transistor radio, the Regency TR-1. It comes with earpieces for personal listening.  
•; Television services start in Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Hungary. Television service start dates
Radio service starts in Liberia.  
There are now 29m TV households in the US. Spending by advertisers on television reaches $320m, compared with $137m on radio. Soap manufacturer Proctor & Gamble is the biggest spender on both, followed by soap manufacturer Lever Brothers, soap and toothpaste manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive and grooming product (and soap) manufacturer Gillette.  
Ampex introduces the first magnetic sound system for cinema use, for Todd/AO CinemaScope. It also develops the first multi-track audio tape recorder.  
Matsushita Electric Industrial buys a majority stake in Victor Company of Japan (JVC).  
UK's New Musical Express extends its Top 12 to a Top 20.  
Disc jockeys in the US begin to be supplied with 45rpm discs instead of 78s.  
IBM's Model 704 Electronic Data-Processing Machine is the world's first mass-produced computer.  
Fender Stratocaster solid-bodied electric guitar is introduced. It soon becomes the most popular, iconic instrument of the rock’n’roll age, especially when adopted by Buddy Holly and, in the UK, by the Shadows. > 1965
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Page updated 30 November 2013
© David Fisher