Eight nations see TV relay triumph 

22 July 2020 tbs.pm/70505

Drama of the Pope’s Blessing

 

From the Daily Mirror for 7 June 1954

ELEVEN million viewers last night saw the Pope give his blessing in the dramatic climax to a day that made television history.

In eight countries, including Britain, people sitting at home were able to watch the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the magnificent setting of the Vatican.

They were linked with the Vatican for nearly an hour. For yesterday was the first day of a four-week TV hook-up during which programmes contributed bv those eight nations will be flashed to them all at the same time.

Fine, clear pictures, with only slight interference, were sent last night along the whole 4,000-mile length of the TV chain – over Northern Italy’s mountains to Switzerland and France, Britain, Belgium and Holland, Western Germany and Denmark.

There could not have been a finer follow-up relay to the afternoon telecast of the Battle of the Flowers from Montreux, Switzerland, than this amazing presentation.

The Pope reads his television address, delivered in five languages. With him is a high dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church who escorted him to the two silver microphones into which he spoke

Religion apart, it was the simple beauty or the ceremony that made it so impressive.

No one could have failed to tingle when the words “This is Rome: were heard – and there we were looking at the fountains of St. Peter’s Square.

Just after 6 o’clock, the Pope made his evening appearance on his balcony.

Then came an impressive tour bv pilgrims in St Peter’s itself, twice as big as St. Paul’s

The Pope reads his television address, delivered in five languages. With him is a high dignitary 0/ the Roman Catholic Church who escorted him to the two silver microphones into which he spoke

In English

Finally, into the Consistory Hall, to meet the Pope. An Italian voice announced: “II Santo Padre.” —”the Holy Father.” The Pope walked in.

This picture of the Pope about to give his blessing was seen by 11,000,000 televiewers.

Seventy-eight-year-old Pope Pius XII had written a special speech, and he read it in Italian, French, German, Dutch, and English. His words came quickly, clearly.

Part of his message was: “May this international programme be at once a symbol and a promise, a symbol at union between the nations. Let the nations begin to know each other better.”

And the next TV advance? B.B.C. engineers predict telecasts from America within two years


 

Russ J Graham writes: There are two very good reasons for the sense of wonder in Clifford Davis’s front-page Daily Mirror article.

The EBU’s permanent Eurovision network in 1962

First, this TV hookup truly is technically amazing. At a point in time where the BBC had managed to extend television to about 80% of the population of the UK, here was live pictures from Rome, transmitted in fair quality with synchronized sound across much of democratic Europe. This feat was impossible less than a year before, and now it seemed likely that we could all enjoy a peek into the backyards of our neighbours whenever we wanted.

The process for sending the pictures and sound across three television standards and 4,000 miles was very complex, involving VHF television transmitters, SHF microwave links and the bundling of dozens of international telephone lines together (not incidentally, making the long distance and international telephone services of several countries unavailable for most of the whole hour).

A permanent system of television links between the members of the European Broadcasting Union, bypassing for the most part the national telcos, would not open until 1962.

Secondly, this is taking place 9 years after the Second World War. There was still rubble in the streets in many major European cities waiting to be cleared away. The jagged gaps in between terraced houses in many inner cities showed in vivid detail how a moment ago the continent was tearing itself – and the world – apart. The population of each country had reason to fear the strange people over the border. Would Germany united and rise again to threaten us for the third time? Would Italy swing back into fascism? Would France ever have a stable government? Would Britain ever stop trying to throw the weight of an empire it no longer had around? These people were all strangers. They were all strange. Human beings fear nothing more than strangers.

 

The EBU’s facility in La Dôle (Switzerland) near the Franco-Swiss frontier, which converted 819-line television signals to the 625-line standard and vice-versa, pictured in the early 1960s

 

And here was television, suddenly able to show people looking at flowers in Switzerland – people like you and me. Not strange at all. Television was showing Italians wandering around Rome – and they looked and acted and were like you and me. Not strange. Not strangers. This was a powerful lesson, and it has helped keep western Europe at peace for probably the longest time in recorded history.

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