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5 broadcasts that defined television

by Dave Elliott


Considering its ubiquity in modern society and the average household, it’s easy to forget just how young the television is. As one of the most important pieces of technology, the television has affected virtually every facet of modern existence, radically altering the way in which we approach entertainment, information and our perception of what is happening elsewhere in the world.

So, which broadcasted events have defined television’s influence and why? The events chosen here range from space travel viewed on the very first mass-produced TV sets to grand sporting events watched on state-of-the-art led TV sets by modern audiences.

However you choose to watch TV programmes, take a look at this list for an overview of some of the greats.

1960 – Presidential Debate

The 1960 Nixon-Kennedy Presidential debate was the first televised and changed the course of history; making one young senator from Massachusetts a political superstar and altering the fundamental nature of political campaigns and democratic elections.

When the good-looking and confident Kennedy faced off against a sickly and unwell-appearing Nixon, it became obvious that television had become very powerful.

1969 – Moon Landing


The broadcast that sent 530 million viewers into space with the crew of Apollo 11 is the primary piece of documentation for what many consider the crowning achievement of the 20th Century.

Illustrating the incredible capabilities of applied science and human determination, the moon landing broadcast will never be forgotten thanks to Neil Armstrong’s famous words.

1981 – MTV Launch

Few channels have had such a cultural impact on teenagers and young adults, as well as the music industry, as MTV. Launched in 1981 with the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” spoken over footage of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing, the allusion couldn’t have been more spot-on as MTV went on to revolutionise television in much the same way as the Apollo 11’s voyage. Though it has had its critics, MTV is arguably the most influential piece of youth programming in the history of TV.

1981 – Royal Wedding


An estimated 750 million viewers tuned in to watch the 1981 royal wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, cementing her position in the eyes of many as an icon of the modern era. The royal family has never been as popular as they were at this point and even the much-anticipated wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton didn’t attract this kind of media attention, reaching only 161 million viewers.

2008 – Beijing Olympics


The 2008 Beijing Olympics takes its position in the top five broadcasts of TV history thanks to the incredible number of viewers estimated to have watched the opening ceremony.

Widely considered the largest TV broadcast ever, the extravagant show is thought to have captivated an audience of 1.2 billion people making it not only the most watched sporting event of all time but actually the most watched event overall.

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