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Published on Sep 17, 2009
As a result of its criticisms of the populism of ITV, the 1962 Pilkington Report recommended that Britain's third television channel should be awarded to the BBC.
Prior to its launch, BBC2 was promoted on the BBC Television Service channel soon to be renamed BBC1; the animated adverts featured the campaign mascots Hullabaloo (a mother kangaroo) and Custard (her joey). Prior to its formal launch (and for several years afterwards) the channel broadcast 'Trade Test Transmissions', short films made externally by companies such as Shell and BP, which served to enable engineers to test reception, but became cult viewing.
The channel was scheduled to begin at 19:20 on 20 April 1964 and show an evening of light entertainment, starting with the comedy show The Alberts, a performance from Soviet comedian Arkady Raikin, and a production of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, culminating with a fireworks display.
However, at around 18:45 a huge power failure, originating from Battersea Power Station, caused Television Centre to lose all power. BBC1 was able to continue broadcasting via its facilities at Alexandra Palace, but all attempts to show the scheduled programmes on the new channel failed. Associated-Rediffusion, the London ITV franchise-holder, offered to transmit on the BBC's behalf, but their gesture was rejected, presumably for pride's sake.
However, at 22:00 BBC2 had no choice but to concede defeat and postpone programming until the following morning. As the BBC's news centre at Alexandra Palace was unaffected, they did in fact broadcast brief bulletins on BBC2 that evening, beginning with an announcement by the newsreader Gerald Priestland at around 19:25. There was believed to be no recording ever made of this bulletin, but one was discovered in early 2003.
By 11:00 on 21 April, power had been restored to the studios and programming began, thus making Play School the first programme to be shown officially on the channel. The launch schedule, postponed from the night before, was then successfully shown that evening, albeit with minor changes. In reference to the power cut, the transmission opened with a shot of a lit candle which was then sarcastically blown out by presenter Denis Tuohy.