AP mast (2K)

BBC TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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PARIS, July 1952

 

During 1952 and 1953 the Demfilm Edition 105, Reels 9/10 contained a film about the week of tv programmes from Paris in July 1952.

It was introduced and narrated by Sylvia Peters

 

Sylvia Peters (4K)

In the next quarter of a hour we're going to give you an impression of a rather exciting event in television. The very first occasion on which two countries with different languages and basically different television standards shared the same programmes.

July 1952 will long be remembered as the month in which programmes from Paris were seen not only in France but in England and Scotland too. And viewers saw a new emblem on their screens - a badge of an Entente Cordiale.

Entente Cordiale (4K)



  INTENTION

One day I hope to set up the frame-capture facility again, and then I'll be able to illustrate this page with frame shots from the film.


  *SAIS-SAISELLE?

This is what the word sounds like. It is not shown on large-scale maps of the area. Possibly there may be someone who knows the correct spelling?

High up on the Eifel tower the Service de Radiodiffusion et Télévision Francaise, the French equivalent of the BBC, have a television receiving aerial which can pick up the signals from outside broadcasts held in any part of Paris. And Paris, spread out like a map below us, was the source of a whole series of programmes, mostly outside broadcasts, from the 8th to the 14th of July.

These programmes were passed by a permanent French circuit to Lille near the Belgian border. The circuit consisted of three radio links.

The signals left the Eifel tower by this giant parabaloid, beamed northwards towards Villers-Cotterêts, the first of the linking stations built on a ridge in an old royal hunting forest. Here the signals from Paris were received by one aerial and relayed by another, to Sais-Saiselle*, a little village in the broad farming country near Péronne, where they were received and re-transmitted at an identical station.

These were automatic stations without permanent staff, a constant wonder to the peasants working the fields that had been the battlegrounds of the '14-'18 war. From here the signals went on to the new French television transmitter at Lille, where they were received by the aerial on top of the Hôtel de Ville. This was the end of the permanent link, but the French engineers beamed the signal westward to Cassel for conversion by the BBC to British standards.

So, in the sleepy little town on its hilltop, a new page was written in the history of electronic engineering. In the market place which will be remembered by the veterans of two world wars, there was no sign of anything unusual. Life went on in the traditional way in the French country town where the television services of two nations met and linked.

While the townsfolk went about their work there was other work to be done by engineers from Paris and Lille and by visiting BBC technicians from London, who made their way each morning to the relay station at the top of the town followed by the curious glances of their hosts.

 

 

In the war-torn and disused casino was the equipment which converted the French television picture of 819 lines into a BBC television picture of 405 lines. No way of doing this had been actually developed at the time the link was planned, but here at Cassel, watched by the interested children of France, we installed and tested a Standards Convertor which assured the transmissions from Paris, and the future of international television.

The signals from Lille were beamed to a reflector on the casino roof. The 819 line picture received was fed to the convertor where it was displayed in front of an adapted 405 line camera and was then transmitted in its new form. The transmitting aerials set in the centre of their reflectors like stamens in the middle of a flower had to be beamed very exactly to the next repeater station at Alembon. In spite of their conversion to different standards the pictures were passed on with remarkable little loss of quality.

 

 

At Alembon the BBC's temporary relay station was in a wood overlooking the historic site of the field of the cloth of gold. It was not far from Calais, the location of our first cross-channel television broadcast in August 1950. The transmitting aerials on this tower were pointed towards the white cliffs of Dover.

We set up mobile microwave equipment at the RAF radar station at Swingate on top of the Dover cliffs, with receiving aerials part-way up one of the towers to pick up the signals from the French coast just visible on the horizon. From the top of this mast the signals were re-tranmitted to the BBC experimental station at Wrotham in Kent, half-way between Dover and London. And from here to the last relay point, the top of the University Senate House in Bloomsbury.

So to our London tranmitter came the pictures from Paris. But that's only half the story. The other half lies in Paris itself where a party of us from the BBC spent the first fortnight of July helping to prepare and present the shows which travelled over the link to London and thence to our other tranmitters, to bring a breath of this great and beautiful European capital into the homes of viewers in England and Scotland.

 

 

From many different parts of Paris came a series of programmes representing the life and arts of France and of course the fashions of the city of fashion. All these programmes were part of an experiment, not only in technique, but in showing the ways of one nation to another in forms sometimes familiar, sometimes unfamiliar.

Whatever the subject before the cameras, the whole complex chain of the relay had to hold in every link, with French and British engineers along the route checking the pictures as they passed though from each station to the next, all the way to London.

French artists and British and French cameras, British and French producers and crews, different languages and different systems, these raised new problems which had to be resolved behind the scenes of our crowded and widely varied programmes.

We have time only to glance at a few of these programmes, such as the great military parade, the Défilé Militaire, in the Champs Elysées.

This was the 14th of July, France's great day of national demonstrations and national rejoicing which we celebrated with a broadcast of dancing in the streets.

But Paris had other equally celebrated styles of dancing to offer us, and so, with a French outside broadcast unit we visited a cabaret in Montmartre.

 

 

Here while the cameras were lined up a BBC producer had to direct rehearsals in French.

On the night of transmission, after the strain of a day's rehearsal, came the familiar moment of tension as the programme went on the air and the show began for an audience, not only in the cabaret, but in French and British homes hundreds of miles away. The scene that follows comes from the actual telefilm recording made in London as the pictures were re-broadcast.

With the music and dancing inside the cabaret and outside in the streets we felt we'd caught some true part of the spirit of Paris.

 

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