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1956 Chronokey Chronomedia index
Numbers after entries link to the list of references.

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  Cultural highlights | Predictions made this year  
January 3  French 441-line television transmissions from Eiffel Tower, Paris end when the transmitter burns down. ‘What a glorious night that was,’ says French TV boss Jean d’Arcy later. The service on 819 lines continues.  
January 10  Elvis Presley's first recording session for RCA Victor produces Heartbreak Hotel and I Got a Woman among other tracks. Later the same year his Love Me Tender is the first disc to have advance orders of more than 1m copies.  
January 14  Little Richard's Tutti Frutti is released.  
January 24  Practice of having announcers present spot advertisements on UK's ITV network (currently available only in London) is banned by the Independent Television Authority, which allows one month to complete existing commitments.  
January 26  Winter Olympic Games are first televised over the Eurovision link from Cortina in Italy.  
January 26  Buddy Holly has the first of three recording sessions in Nashville for producer Owen Bradley.  
January 28  Elvis Presley appears on US national television for the first time, on The Dorsey Brothers Show. He sings Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes, backed by the Dorsey Brothers band. > April 11
January  Columbia Pictures announces a deal to rent its pre-1948 features to television, to be followed shortly by Warner Bros.  
February 5-8  First programme of ‘Free Cinema’ films is shown at the National Film Theatre, London. The films shown are Lindsay Anderson's O Dreamland, Momma Don't Allow by Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson and Together by Lorenzo Manzetti. > September 9
February 17  English Midlands area Independent Television transmissions begin on channel 8 from the Lichfield transmitter, operating on half power. Programme companies are Associated Television (ATV, weekdays) and ABC Television (weekends). The transmitter took seven months to build at a cost of £250,000.  
March 9  Telephone weather forecast service is introduced in the UK by the Post Office.  
March 14  Ampex demonstrates a working rotary head quadruplex (four-head) videotape recorder to 200 CBS TV affiliates at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters convention in Chicago. The event causes a tremendous stir throughout the entire broadcasting world and within the four days of the show the small California company has orders worth nearly $4m for over 70 of the first VRX1000 machines—later renamed Mark IV—at $50,000 each. The first orders come from the NBC, CBS and ABC networks and the US government. Click on picture for more
March 27  Alexandra Palace, birthplace of ‘high definition’ television, closes down and new BBC Television studios open, but two studios remain active at Ally Pally for the news service.  
•  BBC opens two television studios at Riverside Studios in West London. [0019]  
March 28  BBC Television transmissions begin from the Crystal Palace transmitter in south London.  
March  Television services start in Guatemala, Iraq and Yugoslavia. Television service start dates
March  In first six months of UK commercial television, Associated-Rediffusion, ATV and ABC sell £3.9m worth of advertising time to 85 advertisers, eight of them spending more than £100,000 each.  
March  First transistor radio offered on the UK market is the model 710 made by Pye Radio subsidiary Pam Radio & Television.  
March  Warner Brothers sells its pre-1948 film library for $21m for television distribution, following Columbia. Twentieth Century-Fox is next to join the market.  
April 3  A special demonstration of NTSC colour adapted to the UK 405-line television standard is 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. > November
April 11  Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel gets to number one in the US record charts and stays there for the next eight weeks. > May 11
April 20  Associated Television (ATV) increases its paid-up capital by £750,000, partly subscribed by the Daily Mirror Group.  
April 23  Start of weekday programmes on the ITV network is moved from 16:00 to 16:45 because of poor response to programming. > May 6
April 27  First Ministerial broadcast on UK television is made by prime minister Anthony Eden, to report that the world is a safer place, following the visit to Britain of Soviet leaders Marshall Bulganin and Chairman Nikita Khruschev.  
May 3  Independent Television transmissions begin in the north-west of England area from the Winter Hill transmitter, near Bolton in Lancashire. 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. • Click for prediction
> November 3
May 6  Start of weekend programmes on the ITV network is moved from 14:00 to 16:00 because of poor response to programming. < April 23
May 7  Première of Erik Balling’s Kispus (Puss in the Corner), the first colour feature film produced in Denmark.  
May 11  Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel enters the UK record charts, his first hit on the HMV label, and reaches number two.  
May 25  Lys Assia wins the Eurovision Song ContestFirst Eurovision Song Contest is held at Lugano, Switzerland. It is won by the Swiss entry, Refrain sung by Lys Assia [right], chosen by two jury members from each country from among 14 entries. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland each enter two songs.  
May 30  Independent Television Authority awards the ITV franchise for the lowland Scottish region to Scottish Television. Transmissions are due to start in time for the Edinburgh Festival in August 1957.  
May  With two ITV regions (London and the Midlands) now operating, the BBC estimates its own television audience share at 41 per cent and ITV's at 59 per cent.  
June 22  House of Commons select committee unanimously recommends that the 14-day restriction on television discussion of forthcoming parliamentary debates should be reduced to seven days, with the Postmaster-General having discretion to reduce the limit individual cases, based on recommendations of a panel of MPs. > December 18
June  Associated-Rediffusion, the London area Independent Television contractor, orders two Ampex videotape recorders.  
June-September  Cinémathèque Française and British Film Institute organise the first retrospective of British cinema (130 features and many shorts) in Piccadilly Circus, London.  
mid year  Because of the high cost of making different CinemaScope print versions, Twentieth Century-Fox creates a format with four-track magnetic sound and a half-width optical track on the same print, giving exhibitors the option of upgrading their sound systems for multi-track. To accommodate the extra track, the aspect ratio is reduced to 2.33:1, at which it becomes standardised.  
July 5  Live studio scenes are first included in the BBC's colour television experiments.  
July  The first Armchair Theatre production is transmitted by ABC Television from its Manchester studio. > September
August 6  Last show is transmitted by the DuMont television network: Boxing from St Nicholas Arena. < 1955
August 9  Alabama inaugurates and funds the first state-wide educational television service in the USA.  
August  Television service starts in Nicaragua.  
September 9  Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan ShowElvis Presley makes his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, introduced by Charles Laughton in Sullivan's absence. He is paid $50,000 for three appearances.  
September 9-12  A second programme of Free Cinema films is shown at the National Film Theatre, London.  
September 25 16:00 BST  Undersea transatlantic cable (TAT 1) for voice telephony inaugurated between London and New York and London and Montreal by a call from the chairman of AT&T in New York to the British Postmaster General. Taking less than three years to construct (see 1953 December and 1955 June), it is a joint project of the British Post Office, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), its subsidiary Eastern Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, with research and engineering work by each of these and Bell Laboratories. Two cables provide 36 circuits. During the first 24 hours there are 588 London-New York calls and 119 London-Montreal calls. < 1955
September  TCN-9 Sydney is the first television station to begin official operations after a period of test transmissions. > November 5
September  Television service starts in Sweden. • Television service starts
September  ABC Television's Armchair Theatre starts regular weekly transmissions in peak-time on Sunday evenings from its studio at Didsbury in Manchester. Opening announcement
September  NBC begins use of lenticular colour-kine process for time-zone-delay recordings. Special lenticular film was developed by Kodak for the purpose.  
September  NBC introduces a still version of its 'peacock' colour logo.  
autumn  Television station WTTW Chicago inaugurates a ‘TV College’, offering distance learning degree courses.  
autumn  Zenith Radio Corporation introduces its Zenith Space Command television remote control, developed by Zenith engineer Robert Adler (1920-2007). The handset incorporates four aluminium rods of different lengths (around 10cm), each of which resonates at a different ultrasonic frequency when struck at one end (by pressing a button). The extra detection circuitry needed in the receiver adds about 30 per cent to the cost. In 1997 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded both Adler and Polley (see 1955) an Emmy for the development of the remote control
October 13  Independent Television Authority and the Independent Television Companies Association join the European Broadcasting Union, the first time a ‘second’ broadcaster is admitted from any country.  
October 29  First regular broadcast by Television Española (TVE) over a range of 70km from Madrid to about 400 sets; programmes last three hours.  
October 29  Chet Huntley and David Brinkley first appear together on the NBC News. They are teamed to present coverage of US political conventions.  
October  Television service starts in Taiwan. • Television service start dates
November 1  John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley are awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their invention of the transistor.  
November 3  First television advertising in West Germany: six minutes a day on Bayerische Rundfunk (Bavarian Television) at DM50 a second.  
November 3  Yorkshire area Independent Television begins from the 443-feet high Emley Moor transmitter on the Pennines near Huddersfield. The programme companies are as for the north-west of England.  
November 5  Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) begins regular television broadcasts in Sydney. It is soon joined by commercial stations HSV-7 Melbourne and ATN-7 Sydney. > November 19
November 15  Premiere of Elvis Presley's first feature film, Love Me Tender.  
November 19  ABC television transmissions begin from Melbourne. The second city attracts the larger early audiences: five per cent household penetration against one per cent in Sydney. The Olympic Games begin in the city on 22 November. GTV-9 rushes its preparations to begin sponsored test transmissions during the Games. > 1957
• Olympic media dossier
November 23  BBC announces plans to start a school television service from autumn 1957, comprising two or three weekly programmes for secondary schools on a trial basis.  
November 30  First broadcast videotape recording. Douglas Edwards and the News is recorded in New York by CBS on the Ampex machine and played back with three hours’ time difference on the West Coast. Two simultaneous video recordings are backed up by 35mm and 16mm film recordings all played back together to insure against disaster. • Click on picture for more
Picture source: Ampex.
•  Helical scan design for videotape recording is proposed by Alex Maxey of Ampex.  
November  BBC starts a further series of test colour television transmissions in Band I from its Crystal Palace transmitter. The signals are compatible with monochrome reception.  
November  Twentieth Century-Fox makes a $30m licence deal covering television distribution of its pre-1948 films. During the year most of Hollywood’s pre-1948 film library stock—a total of 2,700 titles has been released for television screening; at the same time, the possibility of the studios launching pay TV is a hotly debated subject. See also January and March
December 1  Because of the Suez Crisis, the UK government introduces rationing of unbranded 'pooled' petrol. Oil companies withdraw all their television advertising for petrol with immediate effect and only Regent Oil (now Texaco) continues with a series of road safety commercials.  
December 2  Throughout the following week, British cinemas show a special trailer made by Pathé News and distributed by National Screen Services at their own expense in support of the Lord Mayor of London's International Hungarian and Central European Relief Fund. At the Leicester Square Theatre in London, the Rank Organisation, Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Institute of British Photography stage an exhibition of news photographs of the Hungarian rising and its suppression by Soviet troops.  
December 10  High-power VHF radio transmissions begin from the BBC transmitter at Holme Moss, near Huddersfield, the first with capacity to radiate all three BBC programmes. About 70 per cent of the population can now receive VHF audio signals.  
December 12  Postmaster-General Dr Charles Hill allows UK broadcasters to determine their own television programme hours within the existing limit of 50 hours a week and eight hours on any day. > 1957
December 18  Prime Minister Anthony Eden announces in the House of Commons that the '14-day rule' banning television discussion of pending parliamentary debates is to be suspended for six months. > 1957
December 25  BBC Television claims its largest ever adult audience (aged 16 and over) of an estimated 13.5m for its programme Pantomania.  
December  KSWS-TV transmitter mast opens at Roswell, New Mexico, US—at the time the world’s tallest structure at 490m. It is later re-erected after falling in a gale in 1960.1954
> 1959
December  Television service starts in Algeria. Television service start dates
December  Television service starts in Uruguay. Or does it? See also 1961 April
December  UK Copyright Act includes television and sound broadcasting protection.  
•  MPAA Production Code for US film releases is substantially revised, leaving only two taboo subjects: venereal disease and sexual perversion.  
•  Italy increases the cinema screen quota requirement to a minimum of 100 days of Italian productions a year. • Quotas and levies
•  Twentieth Century-Fox introduces CinemaScope-55, a format with a film width of 55.625mm to improve the definition of the image (the CinemaScope format inherently reduces the definition by expanding the projected image of the film to 2.33 times its photographic width). Two films, Carousel and The King and I are shot in the new format but reduction printed to by-now conventional 35mm CinemaScope. The format is abandoned.  
•  There are 200 art-house and over 4,000 drive-in cinemas in the USA. [0076] Art-house > 1966
•  RCA develops a prototype colour videotape recorder with two fixed heads and quarter-inch tape travelling at 360 inches (9.14m) per second, capable of giving 15 minutes of recording.  
•  Ampex at BBCBBC acquires an Ampex VTR for research purposes. • Click on picture to enlarge
•  Scotch videotape type 179Scotch brand Magnetic VR tape 179 is introduced commercially by 3M Company to complement Ampex's two-inch quadruplex videotape recorder. The tape is nearly half a mile long and the reel weighs 10 kg (22 lbs). US network CBS is the first customer.
[Photo: 3M, Terra Media Archives]
•  In US, unused educational television channels start to be re-assigned by the FCC to commercial applicants.  
•  A spate of advertising magazine (admag) programmes begins on UK independent television. Initially called 'shoppers guides', the format usually involves a personality presenter showing a range of products in a 15-minute show. Among those starting this year are About Homes and Gardens (with Noele Gordon); What's in Store' (Christmas gifts) and two holiday programmes, Where Shall We Go? (actors Janet Brown and Peter Butterworth) and Over the Hills.  
•  British film Richard III by Laurence Olivier is shown on US television at the same time as its theatrical release.  
•  A sixth studio is built at Elstree, known as The New Elstree Studio, and also called Danziger Studios after the producer brothers, Edward and Harry Danziger, who built it. Most of its output is produced for American television. [0019]  
•  Hackney EmpireAssociated Television (ATV) leases the former variety theatre, the Hackney Empire [right] in Mare Street, London E5 as a production site. • Click on picture for more
•  UK film trades union, the Association of Cine Technicians, becomes the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT).  
•  Bell Telephone Company in US developing a video telephone.  
•  American filmed television series concentrate on westerns after success of Cheyenne.  
•  Russian Kinopanorama system demonstrated in Moscow.  
•  Australia’s Film Division at the Department of the Interior is renamed The Commonwealth Film Unit (CFU).  
•  Ealing Studios is sold by Michael Balcon to the BBC for use as television film studios. Highbury Studios in Islington, north London, no longer needed by the Rank Organisation for film production, is now in use full-time for television production. [0019]  
•  Richard Hamilton - Just What...First British ‘pop art’ painting—’Just What Is It That Makes To-day’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’ by Richard Hamilton’—is shown at the Whitechapel Gallery. Use of blow-ups of film stills comes into common use as art objects.  
•  Television Decree in the Netherlands introduces a television receiving licence fee.  
•  The US Supreme Court finally rejects the 'vulnerable child' standard as a test of obscenity, arguing that the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution did not allow authorities to reduce all work to a level of 'only what is fit for children'.  
•  First Todd-AO production is Around the World in 80 Days.  
•  First feature produced in East Pakistan (=Bangladesh) is Mukh O Mukhosh, directed by Jabbar Khan.  
•  Television service starts in Iraq. Television service start dates
•  Bob and Betsy Magness open their first cable television relay business, a 700-home network in Memphis, Texas. > 1957
•  Cable television system at Reno, Nevada owned by Jack Gallivan relays signals from Salt Lake City imported by common carrier microwave.  
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Page updated 27 February 2013
© David Fisher