16th July 1956

BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast

Television was still monochrome, comparatively low resolution, and decidedly primitive in 1956. Yet the BBC wasn’t going to be put off as it made plans for its first ever live broadcast from the Channel Islands on 16 July that year.

If anything, it highlighted the relative isolation of the islands in an age where broadcasters couldn’t rely on high-speed internet and satellite connections. The fact that the Corporation had decided to broadcast from Herm, rather than Guernsey or Jersey likely made things even more complex.

An ambitious attempt

In the end, the signal took a very round-about route to get back to the mainland, but only after the BBC had shipped a considerable amount of equipment to the island. In the words of the Aberdeen Evening Express of 14 July, “the whole of the West region’s mobile television gear will go to Herm by motor launch as well as two motor generators and a portable transmitter”.

According to a report published in The Guardian the previous week,

…some complicated arrangements will be necessary. The West Region’s mobile unit is making the transmissions, and the signals are to be picked up by a West Region receiving unit on the Cherbourg peninsula, and go by links in the French television service to Paris, whence they will return on the Eurovision link to London and the BBC’s own transmitters.

The programme was to be broadcast live and feature interviews with Peter Wood, the tenant of Herm, and several other residents.

Success… and a little disappointment

In the event, despite the round-about route the signal was forced to take, the broadcast went without a hitch. However, The Guardian later found it “off that there were no pictures of the long stretch of dazzling white shell beach or a better general view of the topography of the island”.

Nonetheless, with that programme safely in the bag, the BBC was able to proceed with its plans for an episode of “Saturday Night Out”, which would be broadcast from Guernsey on 21 July.


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Other events that occured in July