Laurence Olivier Launches UTV October 1959 – popular channel

Laurence Olivier launches UTV 1959
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Ulster Television went to air to a community eager for a channel devoted to the area.

UTV has celebrated its 55th Birthday. To present and be the first face on the network was Laurence Olivier.  He was invited to introduce and launch the channel on air at 4.45pm on 31st October 1959.

UTV was the first commercial television channel in Ireland when it opened as part of the ITV Network back in 1959

It marked an important development for the people of Northern Ireland. They would have a second TV channel to choose from when making their viewing selection.

Lord Olivier, the icon and heart throb of the fifties, was seen in almost 100,000 homes as he welcomed viewers.  In his perfect English he described his pleasure at being chosen to launch UTV saying it was a privilege in fact more than that a unique privilege.

Another lord in attendance for the opening night, was Lord Wakehurst the Governor of Northern Ireland

The channel was overwhelmed with job applications when they placed ads in the local newspapers.  Over 8000 people applied and of those 800 were interviewed for all sorts of jobs, both onscreen and behind the scenes.

Some of the programmes produced by UTV in their first decade included Seven Degrees West hosted by Charlie Witherspoon, and Zoom-In produced by Gordon Burns.

Enjoy a journey back to the fifties when television transmitted into homes in black and white

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