Live satellite TV marks 50th birthday

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It HAS become such an integral part of life that we take it for granted – live television pictures beamed via satellites bringing everything from images of war to football matches into our living rooms.

Today marks 50 years since the first public satellite television images were beamed across the Atlantic, from the US to Britain and mainland Europe.

The broadcast came against the backdrop of the Cold War, a year after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space.

The images were a changing point for British culture, according to Iain Logie Baird, grandson of television pioneer John Logie Baird, and curator of broadcast culture at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

“It wasn’t actually the first satellite broadcast, but because it was seen by so many people when it was on, it had a tremendous impact on people’s perception of distance and extension of their consciousness,” he said.

“Their perception of the world had changed. Suddenly you could see across the ocean as easily as you could make a phone call.”

The first public images beamed from New York to the Goonhilly satellite earth station in Cornwall, on 23 July, should have been of president John F Kennedy, but because of a delay in the US, viewers were first shown a baseball game.

Despite appearing simplistic, it was the largest outside broadcast ever, surpassing the BBC’s coverage of the coronation of the Queen in 1953.