The First Franco-British Television Programme Relay

Here's a few info on an event that occurred back in 1952, a year before the queen Elizabeth II coronation broadcast, which curiously remains in the TV history like being the very first step to European television.

It was decided by both the British BBC and the French RTF to set up several broadcast shows from Paris to England to allow to British people to discover France. These performances took place From the 9 to the 14 July 1952.

The technical challenge was far to be easy to overcome, since the British television standard was 405 lines while the French television broadcasted both 441 lines and 819 lines programs. More, the signal had to be transmitted from Paris to Great-Britain since all the shows broadcasted were live, no VTR existed then.

As the shows were to be broadcasted both in UK and in France, it was originally decided that the pictures would be picked up by French 819 lines cameras and converted to 405 lines at Cassel, in the North of France, en route to Great Britain.

The relays route that was set up for that event is pictured below.

A few weeks after the event, a film was shot by the BBC to keep memory and broadcasted in England as Demfilm narrated by Sylvia Peters. A question raised on the presence of British PYE TV cameras on the film as well as on the pictures below, because French TV has never owned PYE cameras. The following technical details are brought to us by Dick Howett ("Golden Age Television") :

"The films of the 1952 Paris event clearly show Pye cameras floating on boats, or watching silly dancers entertainingly prance up alfresco steps. The cameras had nice big PYE decals attached. These cameras plus all the ob stuff had just been delivered by Pye and were a useful advertisement, given all the interest. So why the Pye cameras? Simply , the Pye cameras were able to operate on 819 lines (the 2014E model as henceforth marketed) The Pye 3 " I.O. camera was a useful little chap and it ran, (apart from 405 line-model 2028) also 525 625 and 819 lines all 'by flicking a switch' it says here in the handbook. We assume then that the 'Pye' stuff is 819 lines as reported by Miss Peters.That and any French-originated material was optically converted to 405 lines by the BBC at Cassel for the happy British viewer. Incidentally, the 819 line PYE image was further converted to the French 441 line standard for straight Paris use!"

"The 1952 French/British relay (2nd/14th July 1952) conversions were achieved simply by a using 405 line tv camera facing a 819 line display monitor. Either the camera was a Pye Photicon, or Marconi Mk2 3" IO or later an EMI CPS Emitron (orthicon). Basically the display phosphor on the monitor had a delay/decay time comparable with the time taken to scan a single tv field. The field frequency had to be the same ie; 50Hz. The resulting pictures were okay but not really top hole."


This is the very first picture transmitted from Paris to England. The French announcer Catherine Langeais welcomes the British audience and presents the shows scheduled for the week to come.


Live from the Tour Eiffel, the BBC announcer Sylvia Peters and RTF announcer Jacqueline Joubert are presenting the monument to the British audience while filmed by a PYE camera.


A panoramic telecast of Paris and the river Seine from the second floor of the Eiffel tower, under the direction of Keith Rogers (BBC) and Claude Croutelle (RTF), the latter will soon change his name to Claude Loursais and become famous in France for his detective show on French TV : "Les cinq dernières minutes" (The five last minutes). Note the PYE camera.


Underwater telecast from the border of the river Seine ? Richard Dimbledy (BBC) directs a scene prologue to a variety show broadcasted from a boat on the Seine. Still a PYE camera.


The show : André Claveau sings for the BBC while Line Renaud and Richard Dimbledy seem to like that.


The control room set up in the Eiffel tower for the occasion. An example of British/French engineering built with any piece of equipment that could be used. Gilles Margaritis (RTF) and Keith Rogers (BBC) are in command while the script-girl Paulette Lirand watches closely over the show in progress.

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