Then and Now

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23 April, 1924: King George V opened the British Empire Exhibition with the first royal broadcast to the nation, as Asa Briggs records in Vol 1 of 'The Birth of Broadcasting' (1961):

"This was to be the first broadcast of many which King George gave. It has often and rightly been argued that the practice of royal broadcasting lent a new dimension to constitutional monarchy. It was estimated that George V's speech in 1924 was heard by at least 10 million people. The Daily Mail claimed a large share of the credit for the publicity of this broadcast, and made special arrangements for massed crowds to hear the King's speech in some of the big national centres of population such as Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow. In order that members might hear the broadcast an official government inquiry at Cambridge suspended its sittings; at Gateshead the Police Court proceedings were adjourned. 'Of all the wonders of yesterday,' a Daily Mail leader read, 'by the general consent of the public, the most wonderful was the broadcasting of the King's speech and of the whole audible pageant at Wembley.' The 'audible pageant' included the combined bands of the Brigade of the Guards. Harold Bishop was responsible for the arrangements behind the scenes, and he and his engineers were confronted with extremely difficult and complex problems. Their success was a sign of the great progress being made in the technique of outside broadcasting. Reith [later Lord, at that time Managing Director of the BBC] himself also played an important part well away from the public gaze. 'Thursday was a triumph,' wrote Archibald Fleming to Reith's mother, 'and his triumph, although he kept, as he always keeps, in the background. It is something to have made history as he has done.'"

July 1996: The Queen announced the end of the BBC monopoly over production of her televised personal Christmas message. From 1997, ITN will produce the broadcast for two years, and the BBC will be responsible for the following two years.