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Stereo TV and Radio Simulcasts

Posted by Big Boo on May 14th, 2009

radio antennaIt wasn’t until the 1990’s that stereo television broadcasts started, the main reason being that until then most television sets were graced with but a single speaker. You may well think therefore that broadcasting a television programme with a stereo soundtrack in the 1980’s would have been impossible, but not so!

If you had a television set and a radio receiver with stereo speakers then you could, on certain occasions, receive a television programme with a glorious stereo soundtrack by using both pieces of equipment at the same time.  Special programmes such as music concerts would be given a “simulcast” broadcast, which meant that the television was used to transmit the picture, but you turned it’s volume down completely and tuned your radio in to a particular radio station to receive the audio.

In the UK this was actually first done in 1974 when the BBC transmitted a Van Morrison concert in this manner.  From then on certain special events would be broadcast in this way, which was something only the BBC could realistically achieve since they had access to both television and radio stations.  In other countries simulcasts were used to provide multiple language options, and in the US MTV was initially broadcast in a similar way, but you connected your radio tuner to the cable TV box to get the audio.

If you had bad radio reception (as we often did at home) then you were probably better off listening in mono anyway, rather than listening to crackly sound which kept breaking up.  All in all then this seems like an awful lot of effort to go to for not a great deal of reward, especially compared with the 5.1 channel audio that is becoming more common place in homes today, but without such early experiments perhaps the introduction of stereo television would have been even longer coming.