The growing pains of BBC Two

Technical disasters and dull programming beset the early years of Britain's third TV channel, which launched 50 years ago this month. Joe Moran chronicles its difficult birth – and subsequent success.

American actor and singer Howard Keel records 'Kiss Me Kate' with his co-star Patricia Morrison, 1964. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

TC Worsley, TV critic for the Financial Times in the 1960s and 1970s, rightly called it “the ephemeral art”. Television is a transient medium, and only a small percentage of its voluminous output survives in either historical record or collective memory. Consider BBC Two. It turns 50 years old this month, a taken-for-granted part of the broadcasting furniture. Few now recall its early days, and how its torturous beginnings caused many to question the merit of its very existence.

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