BBC Election Night (lost coverage of British general elections; 1950-1951)

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1951 election coverage.jpg

The studio during the 1951 coverage.

Status: Lost

Since 1950, the BBC's live television coverage of election results have been a staple of British political coverage. Beginning with the 1950 general election, held on February 23rd, the BBC has provided live coverage of all general elections, announcing results as they have come in and providing commentary.

Prior to 1950, the BBC had provided coverage of elections over the radio, beginning with the 1922 general election. In 1950, four years after the BBC had resumed television coverage after the war, Head of Talks and Current Affairs Grace Wyndham Goldie convinced the BBC to provide television coverage of the upcoming general election, the first to be held since the resumption of television in Britain.[1] The programme, aired after the close of polls, was hosted by Chester Wilmot (an Australian broadcaster then working at the BBC) with analysis provided by David Butler (a psephologist who would contribute to the BBC's election results programmes until 1979), assisted by Creighton Burns and Harry Field. In contrast to slicker modern election results programmes, the programme was "cobbled together in barely a month" - however, it drew acclaim from contemporary critics.[2] The success of the experiment led the BBC to host another programme when an election was called the next year on October 25th. Commentary was provided in studio by Butler, Graham Hutton, and psephologist H.G. Nicholas, with live coverage provided in three locations (Birmingham, Salford and Fulham) - the commentator for Salford, Richard Dimbleby, would later host the programme until 1964.[3]

The BBC holds full copies of its elections coverage from 1955 onwards, occasionally re-airing them on BBC Parliament. However, no copies of the 1950 and 1951 election programmes exist. Visual impressions of the set can be found in newsreel footage and images taken on set, however, it is highly unlikely that full copies were ever recorded by the BBC or by home viewers.[1]

See Also

Early BBC Television

Early BBC Sports Television


  1. 1.0 1.1 The BBC's history of its television coverage of elections, including background information and media for the 1950 and 1951 programmes. Retrieved 13 Dec '20
  2. Crick, M. (2018). Sultans of Swing: The life of David Butler. London: Biteback Publishing
  3. Radio Times Listing for October 19th, 1951. Retrieved 13 Dec '20