The 1950's and early 60's is referred to as TV's Golden Age in America and it is assumed by most people, especially Americans, that TV is itself an American invention and that the first TV broadcasts were in America after World War two. But this is far from being true. There were in fact fully functioning television broadcasts starting in the 1930's and the broadcasting in Europe was in fact more advanced in some ways than that of that in the USA.
The first successful TV experiments came as early as 1902 to 1907 from inventor Arthur Korn was able to broadcast black and white images. They were still images only and had no sound but he had proved that some form of television was possible. It would take another twenty years for Scottish inventor John Logie Baird to figure out a way to reproduce moving images as well as adding sound. His first TV set built in late 1923 was a comically jerry-rigged affair made from an old tea chest, a hat box, a pair of scissors, some darning needles with lenses made from bicycle lights with the whole contraption held together with glue and sealing wax. It may have looked like something Rube Goldberg had tossed away but it was able to transmit and display moving silhouette images, albeit with no sound. The images moved very slowly and jerkily at about five images per second, rather like very crude animation. It was not terribly safe though and Baird managed to get a powerful shock that burned his hand.
In March 1925 Baird began the first public demonstrations using the London store Selfridges for three weeks. Besides moving silhouettes he was able to broadcast a moving ventriloquist dummy named "Stooky Bill". He was finally able to broadcast a moving human face which he did by grabbing a passing office boy named William Edward Taynton who became the first person to appear on TV.
A WORKING EARLY 1930's MECHANICAL DISK TELEVISION;
In 1926 he repeated the experiment with improved resolution of 12.5 pictures per second. He had also added sound. In 1927 Baird was able to broadcast long distance from London to Glasgow by using the phone-lines. In 1928 he made the first trans-Atlantic broadcasts from London to Hartsdale, New York. Also in 1928 (he was a busy guy) Baird demonstrated a system of recording and broadcasting on disks, in effect the first DVD's which he called "Phonovison". By 1928 he had even worked out a system for colour pictures.
In 1929 Baird was ready for regular public broadcasting and started up the Baird Televison Development Company. Working with BBC radio he aired the first drama; a short one act play called "The Man With The Flower In His Mouth" originally written in 1922 by Luigi Pirandello and starring Earle Grey, Lionel Millard and Gladys Young with sets by Futurist painter C.R. Nevinson. The play was directed by BBC radio director Val Gielgud and was probably chosen due to it's extreme simplicity; it had only three actors and one set and it consisted mostly of dialogue with no action and only a few different camera shots. In fact the play was probably originally used as a radio play by BBC. Among the viewers of this broadcast were British Prime Minister (and fellow Scot) Ramsey MacDonald after Baird had installed a new TV at 10 Downing Street. Baird also broadcast music by singer Bolton (which does survive) and in 1931 the first live sports event with a broadcast of the Epsom Derby. By 1930 Baird had expanded in to France and had done demonstration broadcasts of varying lengths in Berlin and Stockholm.
JOHN LOGIE BAIRD'S MECHANICAL 30 LINE TV IN ACTION 1936 (W/SINGER BETTY BOLTON);
In spite of Baird's success "mechanical" television was doomed to fail. The images were still jumpy and blurry and certainly far less clear than the movie images people were used to. As for the sets themselves; besides being expensive, the complicated system of spinning wheels and mirrors was simply too unwieldy, it also tended to break down and heat up dangerously and electric shocks were common. The cameras and transmitters required a massive and complicated collection of wires, cables and developer tanks, which in turn required a huge studio space which added to the cost. By the mid 1930's developments in America were proving that another method of broadcasting would be more efficient, cheaper and would give a better quality picture. Philo Farnsworth's "Electric Dissector" would make Baird's mechanical TV obsolete. Attempts to update Baird's technology came to an abrupt end when a fire destroyed his laboratory in 1937, World War Two shut down any further experiments anyway.
"THE MAN WITH THE FLOWER IN HIS MOUTH" ~ 1930 TV PLAY;
(NOTE: there are a couple versions of this on youtube which incorrectly list it as the original 1930 version. It is in fact a shorter 1967 remake which used the same technology and sets, the original half hour version has been lost)
As we can see Baird's TV's were substantially different from those of today. He used a spinning metal disk which projected through a series of revolving mirrors to create an image onto a tiny screen and which was synched with another disk for sound. The resulting black and white image was blurry and jumpy but visible and it had sound, which films did not yet have. This new invention was deemed interesting by engineers but at first had little investment for further development. TV; if broadcast through telephone lines, as the first models were, would require a major increase in the number of phone lines. If on the other hand open air wireless radio frequencies were used, as was assumed for the future, TV would require a cluster of signals, not just one as radio did. Industry was not yet ready for that kind of investment when the still new radio was becoming wildly profitable. At the same time governments were not eager to tackle the problem of sorting out the potential battles over licensing frequencies.
Baird also claimed other inventions with various degrees of success. He developed a crude system of radar in 1926 which he patented and called "Noctovision" which would later be superseded by true radar by the outbreak of World War Two. Baird was always happy to share information with other scientists and inventors in the name of scientific discovery including German, Russian, Italian and Japanese scientists including his "Noctovision" and it has long been suspected that the British Secret Service was actually responsible for burning down his laboratory in 1937 to prevent their potential enemies from working out a radar system of their own. Baird's attempts to create artificial diamonds from heating graphite only succeeded in shorting out the entire power supply in Glasgow. His rust-resistant glass razors kept shattering and his pneumatic soled shoes kept deflating. He did however patent a successful thermal undersock. He died of a stroke in 1946. He has since been named one of the "100 Greatest Britons" in a nationwide vote and one of the "10 Greatest Scottish Scientists and Inventors".
JOHN LOGIE BAIRD DEMONSTRATES HIS MECHANICAL TELEVISION FOR NEWSREELS IN 1937;
TELEVISION IN AMERICA;
In America experiments were taking place by 1923 when Francis Jenkins broadcast a still photo of President Warren Harding from his lab in Wheaton, Maryland to another in Philadelphia. At this point the blurry still images were in black and white on a very small screen and could not move, nor was there sound. By 1926 Herbert Ives of Bell Telephone had figured out how to broadcast a moving image, starting with short films and the first live broadcast of an entertainer, namely a tap dancer atop of Bell's office tower. There was still no sound and the images were quite blurry owing to the fact that these early TV cameras filmed only 48 line resolution as opposed to the 525 lines that would later become standard. In 1926 Dr E.F. Anderson working for General Electric worked out the first practical commercial model TV set. Practical is a relative term however. The set was as big as a dresser but the screen was only three inches square and was still blurry and jumpy, it also required the viewer to synch up the images and sound. However it did work (more or less) and by 1928 he had the screen up to a respectable fourteen inches.
By 1927 sound had been added and the first political speech was made by Secretary Of Commerce (later President) Herbert Hoover in a short address from Washington to some radio executives in New York. Hoover was notoriously reticent as a public speaker but President Calvin Coolidge was even more mic shy and gave few radio speeches and no TV appearances at all. In the 1928 elections Democratic Presidential candidate Al Smith was a much more enthusiastic speachmaker and allowed TV cameras into the Democratic National Convention to show his acceptance speech in the election he would soon lose to Hoover.
SILENT FOOTAGE OF AL SMITH AND THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF 1928;
In 1928 a station in Schenectady, New York run by engineer and hobbyist Hugo Gernsbeck, who published "Televison", the first known journal on the new medium, began the first regular broadcast schedule in America consisting of radio broadcasts overplayed with the station's call-sign, still and moving pictures and shots of moving windup toys like Felix The Cat. The resolution was still quite blurry and the audience restricted to a handful of engineers and hobbyists. General Electric also had a station in Schenectady which began broadcasting in 1928 with more proper programming including the first TV drama; a one act play called "The Queen's Messenger". The schedule for both stations probably amounted to only a few hours a week.
By July 1930 NBC was ready to begin public broadcasting to the NYC and Schenectady areas with their new station W2XBS. The grand opening show featured Emcee radio announcer Nils Granlund, boxing champion Primo Carnera, singers the Forman Sisters, and actors Lionel Atwill, Gertrude Lawrence, Louis Calhern and Francis Upton for a four hour show. The broadcast got poor reviews due to it's blurry picture and other technical problems. In 1931 CBS followed suit with their new station W2XAB which had fewer bugs. CBS also went for a bigger showbiz splash by having a cast of players and guests that included New York's flashy Mayor Jimmy Walker, singers Kate Smith, The Bowswell Sisters, George Gershwin and other popular figures from Broadway and radio. CBS also filmed the even for the movie newsreels. It is this latter footage that remains today as there was not yet any way of saving the actual images. There were still only a few hundred TV sets in America capable of receiving this broadcast. There was also a station in Los Angeles, W6XAO, operating as a UHF station for a tiny audience.
NEWSREEL OF NBC/RCA'S FIRST BROADCAST pt1;
NEWSREEL OF NBC/RCA'S FIRST BROADCAST pt2;
At this point television was still a novelty and would have had little interest to anyone other than a few engineers and hobbyists. There were not more than a few TV sets in the USA and those capable of receiving this signal would have to be in New York City and Schenectady, NY where the radio and TV labs were located. The picture quality which was clearly inferior to that of film and to improve this the number of resolution lines was increased to 120, then 160 and eventually to 245. But the image was still blurry. In 1936 the new electronic cathode ray as opposed to mechanical spinning disk projector was unveiled in New York. It would have 343 lines and be much clearer. This would replace all mechanical spinning disk models and later would increase picture quality even more. The set was still huge and the screen was still rather small so some models would project a reverse image onto a large mirror. It looked ungainly and was expensive but modern television had arrived. All it needed was programming.
FOOTAGE OF THE OLDEST WORKING CATHODE RAY TELEVISION IN BRITAIN;
There were now several hundred sets in America, still in the New York area. None of these early broadcasts have been saved and details are sketchy but it would appear that most consisted of music, newsreels, puppet shows and talk shows essentially borrowed from the radio, with some of the same hosts. They only produced a couple of hours a day for their tiny audiences. By 1938 NBC was ready to do a full drama production of a Broadway play; "Susan & God" with it's original cast of Gertrude Lawrence, Paul McGrath and Nancy Coleman with full sets. This was successful enough that other stage plays would follow. For the New York World's Fair in 1939 NBC was ready to go with the opening address by FDR and later King George VI followed by the first true variety show that included big band Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, (the first jazz on TV), composer Richard Rogers and some long forgotten performers; Macy Westcott, Marjorie Clark, Earl Larimore and David Moore. There would also be the first televised cartoon (Donald Duck), the first musical (a Gilbert & Sullivan), the first baseball games (between Columbia and Princeton and the first pro game between the Cinncinatti Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers), the first football game (between Fordham and Waynesburg Colleges), the first boxing match (between Max Baer and Lou Nova) as well as tennis and spelling bees. NBC had already had the first live news event quite by accident when a fire broke out on Ward's Island within sight of a camera crew who were set up at a swim meet, giving NBC the first news "scoop". CBS replied by showing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and by expanding into a new city; Albany, New York's state capital.
FRED WARING AND HIS PENNSYLVANIANS (CIRCA 1950's):
By 1940 there were about 7000 TV sets in America, mostly in the New York, and Schenectady areas, (there were more than one station in each city) but the actual viewership was higher since some sets were were giant screens placed in movie theaters. There were also stations in Los Angeles, Washington, Philadelphia and in Wisconsin "The Milwaukee Journal" newspaper applied for a license. Each station could in theory reach a radius of forty to fifty miles depending on atmospheric conditions and the size and location of an antenna. The 1940 Republican convention (which nominated Wendle Wilkie) was broadcast in it's entirety for the first time. He would follow Al Smith's curse by losing to FDR in the election that would have it's returns fully reported on TV. 1940 would also bring the first hockey game (NY Rangers 6 - Montreal Canadians 2), basketball (University of Pittsburgh 50 - Fordham U 37) the first opera ("Pagliacci"), the first circus (a three hour show from Madison Square Gardens) and the first TV commercial (for Bulova Watches). NBC would show the first aerial view by putting a portable camera on a plane and flying it around New York City to show the Statue Of Liberty, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge and World's Fair Grounds. By the end of the year both NBC and CBS were experimenting with colour, not very successfully. NBC by that point was airing a variable schedule of between twenty to fifty eight hours a month depending of factors like the length of sports programs or concerts like operas. The programming breakdown was 33% news, 29% drama, 17% educational with the remaining 20% presumably divided between sports and music.
THE FIRST TV COMMERCIAL (FOR BULOVA WATCHES);
In 1941 the FCC, after some study decided to officially license the two New York stations as WNBT (NBC) and WCBW (CBS) for a minimum of four hours a week but they were actually doing fifteen. Of course by this time World War Two was in full swing in Europe stopping TV development in much of the world except Germany. After Pearl Harbour (which CBS presented a three hour documentary of, the first of it's kind) TV broadcasting was also severely curtailed in America as the FCC limited broadcast times so that the signals could not be used to direct enemy planes or submarines to their targets. NBC and CBS also suffered an exodus of scientists, engineers, technicians, producers and performers as they were drafted into the war effort and essential materials were restricted by the government. TV set production was stopped for the duration. In spite of this one new network managed to get in under the wire when in 1942 the DuMont Network started up with stations in New York, Schenectady and Philidelphia. Using a bare bones budget and a small but loyal staff DuMont managed to run a full schedule and attracted such stars as band leader Fred Waring, singer Dick Haymes, and actors Henry Morgan, Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney and Louise Ranier.The first TV documentaries were filmed along with the first specifically written TV musicals ("The Boys From Boise") and dramas ("Patrolling The Ether") and an entire opera ("Hansel & Gretel"). Not surprisingly much of the content was geared towards the war effort with news reports, propaganda, training films for Air Raid Wardens and sub watchers. The networks also aired programs into large TV sets placed in Army hospitals to boost morale. In spite of these efforts by the war's end there were still only about 7000 TV sets in the entire country, centered in just a few cities. However returning servicemen had now heard of or even seen the new sets and were ready to go on a buying spree once the wartime bans ended.
A SURVIVING CLIP OF A 1939 AMERICAN TV SHOW;
Few if any examples of Pre-World War Two American TV were saved and none appear to survive in proper form. This above clip (circa 1939) and was probably saved by someone pointing a home film camera at a TV screen. This explains the poor resolution and lack of sound. The original broadcast would have been clearer and with sound, albeit still in black and white. The program appears to be a costume drama or musical, it has been identified as "The Streets Of New York" a play from the 1870's that was in public domain. The cast are are unknown. This aired live in 1939.
ARMY FILM ABOUT TELEVISION 1945;
Televison in Pre-War Britain;
A PRE-RECORDED DEMONSTRATION FILM FROM BBC ON A 1930's CATHODE RAY TV;
(This clip includes BBC announcers Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell along with band leader Chaim Greenbaum, golfer Dean Whitcomb, a tap dancer, a fashion show, singer/pianist Anne ?, a ball room dancing couple)
Britain in the 1920's and 30's had certain advantages over the USA. Firstly being the home of John Baird, the pioneering TV engineer fostered a community of like minded engineers. Additional the BBC had an effective monopoly it could focus it's resources and need not worry about TV becoming a future competitor for it's radio network. The BBC could also count on government support for licensing and patents. The BBC was broadcasting a fairly full schedule of programming approximately four to five hours per day by 1936 (two full years before there was a regular broadcast schedule in America) covering a variety running the spectrum of news, music, comedy, sports, politics, educational and children's programming to approximately 12,000 to 15,000 TV sets in Britain by 1939, more than double the number in America. Many of these were in pubs and hotels which boosted the number of viewers. The stations were almost entirely in London aside from a few experimental stations and hobbyists. However Britain's compact size compared to the USA meant that more parts of the country could be reached.
NEWSREEL OF THE FIRST BBC TV BROADCAST FROM 1936;
"TV COMES TO LONDON" DOC MADE FOR TV AND FILM NEWSREELS 1936 pt1;
"TV COMES TO LONDON" 1936 pt.2
The BBC developed it's own stars especially Jasmine Bligh, an announcer and newsreader, this being more than thirty years before American stations would trust a woman newsreader. Despite a good start Britain's TV's would go dark on September 1, 1941 in anticipation of war after the British government delivered an ultimatum to Hitler which would lead to a declaration of war. The military was concerned that the signals could be used as navigational beacons by enemy bombers. The BBC signed off with an announcement from Bligh and a Mickey Mouse cartoon followed by some final test signals. The station would not return to the air until June 7 1946 with Jasmine Bligh again greeting everybody and replaying the same Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1939.
A SURVIVING CLIP FROM BBC NOVEMBER 1938;
The BBC was sadly negligent in archiving it's programming up to the 1950's. This odd clip was saved by chance in 1938 when atmospheric conditions caused some programming to be picked up in New York City where some quick thinking person grabbed a portable cine camera and filmed the screen. There is no sound in the clip and there is no way of knowing if the sound was still audible to the viewers in America. The clip contains random fragments of various shows including;
00:00 ~ A man & woman sing a duet, apparently in western costume
00:26 ~ A woman address the camera, clearly reading from a script (news reader Jasmin Bligh)
01:21 ~ Another woman in close up (identified as possibly Elizabeth Cowell, another announcer, although she appears to be emoting or singing rather than reading and she has dramatic darkened lighting compared to the even overhead lighting used for Bligh)
01:23 ~ A man & woman in 18th century costume sing a duet (a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta?)
01:57 ~ A grinning man in a turban with mustache and goatee addresses the camera (a Madrake The Magician type for a children's show?)
02:24 ~ A man puts on a hat
02:26 ~ An unknown cartoon
02:39 ~ Station ID
Even taking into account the limitations of this clip and the previous demo clip it is clear that the BBC was broadcasting at standards comparable to those in America after World War Two and some time thereafter.
JASMINE BLIGH INTRODUCES THE RETURN OF BBC TV IN 1946;
GERMAN PRE-WAR TELEVISION
Television broadcasting was a bit slower in Germany at first even though there were a number of engineers working on the problem. Broadcasts started in 1929 but were both blurry and silent until 1935 when proper broadcasting began. By that time the Nazi's were in power of course and Joseph Goebbels was quick to spot the propaganda value of the new media and arranged for numerous viewing stations in Berlin and Hamburg to be set up so the public could watch. Originally broadcasting for ninety minutes a day this meant that Germany had a more regular schedule than in America and more viewers even though there were far fewer actual sets in private hands. When the 1936 Berlin Olympics began they were able to broadcast up to eight hours a day. In 1937 they added a third station in the "Free City Of Danzig" (now Gdansk, Poland) which while in theory an independent city-state was in fact controlled by the Nazis.
CLIPS OF NAZI TV CIRCA 1936-1944
The programming of the German stations was comparable in some ways to that of the BBC, with notably less serious content. It is usually assumed that Germans were bombarded with a constant barrage of hateful anti-semitic propaganda. In fact this is not entirely true. Joseph Goebbels had discovered that most German's disliked a diet of strident harangues and instead gave them light, frothy escapist entertainment. Popular German films of the time tended towards glitzy costume dramas and musicals, light comedies, chaste romances, adventure stories (westerns were always popular), concert recitals and operas, puppet shows, sports and oddities like Sherlock Holmes movies which were so popular that they made at least three Holmes films. The political content of most of this was slight albeit with a noticeable nationalistic slant. Some Nazi propaganda did of course get included but the overall tone was light. Since most TV sets in Germany were in public places rather than homes they had to entice people to go out to see them just like the movies so there was similar content. At any rate Goebbels preferred to distract people with bread and circuses and keep them complacent rather than riled up. (It's worth noting that while Britain, and even Canada imposed rationing as soon as the war started Germany did not until after the Russian invasion stalled, for fear of harming morale). This remained the case at least until the war started to go badly around 1942 and 1943 when the propaganda machine turned progressively more hysterical in it's tone with more histrionic newsreels and such epic war films as the notorious "Kolberg". This concern for civilian morale explains a major difference between the Allied and German wartime tactics. While the British shut down all TV broadcasting as soon as the war started for strategic reasons, and the USA would later do much the same, Germany kept her stations running for most of the war. Goebbels obviously felt that the propaganda value was more important than the risk that the signals could be used by Allied bombers. Not that they had much trouble finding Berlin anyway. In spite of the propaganda value seen in television not enough progress had been made by the war's start and Goebbels had to shelve his ambitious expansion plans to concentrate on radio and film which could still reach far more people than TV. As Germany was increasingly bombed and it's territory invaded broadcasts petered out in late 1944.
A SURVIVING CLIP FROM GERMAN TV CIRCA 1938;
This clip was saved by the same process as the previous clips; someone pointed a camera at a TV set. It may have in fact been picked up in Britain, as sometimes happened when certain atmospheric conditions occurred. There is no sound and like the BBC clip it is a mashup of random show fragments including;
00:01 ~ Berlin station ID
00:05 ~ Man on screen addresses camera reading text
00:09 ~ Man in 18th century costume gestures broadly and appears to possibly be singing (perhaps Baron Munchusen, the subject of a popular German movie of the era)
00:19 ~ A group of girls in folk costume dance
00:22 ~ Another costume drama with a man who appears to be dressed as Napoleon
00:27 ~ Male and female acrobats dance on rollerskates
00:30 ~ Tango dancing couple
00:32 ~ A man sings and plays the piano (looking oddly like Cole Porter)
00:37 ~ Female acrobat
MORE NAZI TV;
The basic content and quality of German TV of the Nazi era as shown by these clips is easily comparable to that of American or BBC TV shows.
PRE-WAR TV IN FRANCE;
The French were one of the top film-making nations from the start of the medium and were quick to spot the potential of TV, if a little slow to follow through. Experimental broadcasting had begun in 1929 with a weekly one hour show called "Paris Television" finally being aired in December 1932 to little fanfare. It became a daily show a few months later. The reception was a crude 60 line mechanical definition and the number of TV sets in Paris would be counted in the dozens rather than hundreds or thousands.
After this low-key start a more official launch was worked out in Febuary 1935 with a gala show featuring Cabinet Minister George Mendel, actress Beatrice Bretty and emcee Susy Winkler. Like the BBC and unlike the Americans or Germans, the French used female announcers from the beginning. The reception was improved to a more standard 440 lines or more. However not until 1937 did the amount of programming increase to add another four hours a week, considerably less than the Americans, Germans or BBC. The signal was only available in Paris (with a 100 k radius) and there were still only about 300 sets in the area, although some were placed in common areas to boost viewership. We don't know much about the programming but the fairly limited schedule suggests mostly music and some light comedy and drama.
As in Britain all TV broadcasts were suspended when war broke out but the fall of France actually benefited French TV as the Germans occupied Paris. As stated earlier the Nazi's placed great faith in the propaganda value of TV which outweighed concerns that Allied bombers could use the signals to navigate to their targets. Accordingly they not only allowed Vichy officials to resume broadcasts they also increased the amount of programming to five and a half hours a day. The Germans also shipped in a thousand TV sets, many of which were placed in soldier's hospitals. It can be assumed that some of the additional programming was therefore in German. The signal's power was also increased and could at times be received in Britain. The Vichy/Nazi broadcasts continued until August 1944 and after Paris was liberated Free French broadcasts resumed until the end of the war.
PRE WAR TV IN THE USSR;
The Soviets had been the first to spot the value of film propaganda as early as the 1917 revolution and in The USSR experimental broadcasting had begun as early as 1931 from Moscow with a crude 30 line definition signal. This signal was upgraded in 1937 using equipment bought from RCA with regular broadcasting starting the next year. Details on programming are scant but we can assume a variety of patriotic shows. The number of sets is unknown but probably a few hundred. There would have been few sets in private hands (and that mostly being party officials) with the bulk of the sets being in public areas. Like the Germans the Soviets spotted the propaganda value and continued broadcasting throughout the war however unlike other countries who stopped all production and experiments for the duration, the Soviets were able to actually improve the picture definition in 1944.
A 1958 ENGLISH LANGUAGE SOVIET DOC ABOUT TV IN THE USSR;'
PRE WAR TV IN ITALY;
Like France and Germany, Italy was a pioneer in early film production and Mussolini was eager to exploit the propaganda value of film and television after taking note of the German usage. Accordingly experimental broadcasts began in 1934 from the large theatre in Turin and later Milan and Rome. Not until they got an upgrade in technology from the Germans did regular broadcasting begin from Rome and Milan in July 1940. The programming was apparently irregular and focused on various entertainment events as they occurred. There were probably not more than a couple hundred or so TV sets in the country and the broadcasts suddenly ceased in May 31 1940 as The Duce prepared for war. The Germans took back the transmitters and broadcasts would not resume until the war's end.
PRE WAR TV IN POLAND;
The Polish government was always keeping a close eye on Germany so when the Germans started a TV station in Danzig in 1937 the Poles were ready with their own station. Originally this used the crude mechanical signal with poor resolution but they were able to upgrade to the standard resolution by 1939, Details on programming are unknown but it was probably a minimal schedule and there must have been few TV sets, a hundred at most. The start of the war in September put an end to all broadcasts. The Germans do not seem to have made use of the Warsaw station so presumably either the transmitter was wrecked by German bombs or the Poles destroyed it to keep it out of German hands.
PRE WAR TV IN OTHER COUNTRIES;
There were only a few other countries doing any television broadcasting at all in the pre-war years.
CANADA; In Canada experimental broadcasts had begun in 1931 from McGill University in Montreal but development was slow and there was no regular public broadcast and there were few TV sets, certainly no more than a few dozen. Canada did have a small independent film-making industry since the 1920's (most famously with Nell Shipman's silent cliffhangers) and had a number of radio stations in every city, but unlike Britain and America there was at first no national radio network until the CBC was formed in 1932 as the CRBC. Canada had in fact been hit particularly hard by the Great Depression and there was no electronics firm large enough to underwrite the large investments required to develop further and little government interest in TV until after the war.
THE FIRST HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA ON TV~ 1953
Having access to the British experiments gave Australians a head start on other countries and experimental broadcasts had taken place in Australia as reportedly as early as 1885 in Melbourne although these were almost certainly still images without sound. Actual television, using the mechanical spinning disk system, began sporadically in 1929 from the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne. Later After 18 months of test transmissions, regular broadcasts began in Brisbane on 6 May 1934 using a 30-line system, to an estimated 18 receivers around Brisbane. The test transmissions, which were of 1 hour duration each day, were made by Thomas M. B. Elliott and Dr Val McDowall from the Wickham Terrace Observatory Tower. The programs included news headlines, still pictures and silent movies such as the temperance film Horrors of Drink. The Commonwealth Government granted a special license and permission to conduct experimental television by VK4CM, in July 1934. By 1935, it expanded to 180 lines.Other experimental transmissions followed in other cities. There would have been no more than a few dozen TV sets in the country. The broadcasts were shut down when the war came and did not resume until 1948.
MEXICO; Mexico also had a locally successful film industry (it's most famous exports being the low budget horror movies, even lower budget stag films and a much admired version of Dracula filmed in 1931). More famous was a radio business known for their notorious "Border Blaster" stations with signals so powerful they could reach all the way to Canada and the Caribbean where artists like The Carter Family, Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Wills, Milton Brown and Aimee Semple McPhearson went to reach a national American audience. Mexican engineers did some experimental broadcasts starting in 1935 but with only a handful of sets with most citizens to poor to buy them and a government too strapped to invest in new technology, they would wait until after the war to begin public airings.
JAPAN; Japan had been making films in large numbers since the silent film era. Although these films were unknown in the West Japanese films films were not only produced for domestic use but were also popular for export throughout Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. Television began limited airings in 1939, details are sketchy but there must have been few sets, probably in the dozens. They would have to cease all activity once they entered the war against America in 1941.
SWITZERLAND; Probably the last country to do any broadcasting before the war was Switzerland who, taking note of developments in Germany, started some test broadcasting in 1939. There programming mus have been limited as there were few sets. The broadcasts were reportedly only in German. If the atmospheric conditions were right Swiss TV sets could have picked up German broadcasts. The war shut off access to technology and materials from other countries and regular broadcasting would not start until 1953.
SWEDEN; As noted John Baird did do some demonstration broadcasts in Sweden as early as 1930 with thoughts of expanding there as he did in France however there does not seem to have been any followup before Baird's mechanical system was superseded by the rival electronic scanning system and full television in Sweden would have to wait until 1954 by which time Swedes who owned TV's could already watch programming from countries like Britain, Germany and Denmark who had resumed broadcasting or in the case of Denmark started in 1951.
A BBC DEMO DOC ABOUT THE RETURN OF TV IN 1946 pt1;
BBC DEMO DOC pt2;
BBC DEMO DOC pt3;
BBC DEMO DOC pt4;
BBC DEMO DOC pt.5;
BBC DEMO DOC pt.6;
BBC DEMO DOC pt7;