Dogs, alcohol and drag artists were banned on TV sets, BBC archive shows

History buffs can learn about the early days of television, which included rules against bringing dogs on set and a fear of alcohol in studios becoming "unmanageable", at a new BBC archive to mark 80 years on screen.

The micro-site from BBC History launches today featuring archive material from the 1930s to the 1950s, such as the programming for the coronations of King George VI in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

the carriage procession of H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and H.R.H. the Princess Margaret passing the television camera on the Victoria Embankment on the way to the Abbey
The Queen's coronation (BBC)

But as well as early TV moments, it also lets users learn about great moments in the small screen's history - the opening night at Alexandra Palace in 1936, the battle between the Marconi-EMI partnership and the Baird Company to be the top technology provider, and the first ever TV theme tune performed by the BBC Television Orchestra and musical comedy star Adele Dixon.

A new era in broadcasting brought with it a new set of rules, and the archive shows that these involved a ban on dogs, men in drag, and alcohol on set.

Adele Dixon in the opening programme from the BBC Television Service.
Adele Dixon in the opening programme from the BBC Television Service (BBC)

Internal memos to staff at the time warned that if alcohol "got a foothold at Alexandra Palace it would sooner or later spread to Maida Vale and Broadcasting House, and possibly become unmanageable".

The records show that high-profile celebrities of the day were keen to visit Alexandra Palace to appear on BBC TV cameras and see how a broadcast worked.

At its launch, TV was only on air between 3pm and 4pm, and then 9pm and 10pm in order to avoid eye strain and fit around domestic life, including children's bedtimes.

The archive is available to view at

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