The first commercial television operator on the island of Ireland
Broadcasting out of Belfast’s Havelock House, Ulster Television first went on air at 4.45pm on Saturday, 31 October 1959. The station’s first day of programming was overseen by Lord Wakehurst – then Governor of Northern Ireland – with Sir Lawrence Olivier delivering an epilogue at the close of proceedings.
Post-1969, whilst many broadcasters fixated on depictions of The Troubles, Ulster Television took care to document the breadth of everyday experience in Ireland, North and South.
Whilst a regional focus – not least on news and current affairs – has been the foundation of the station’s success, its output over the years has been impressively diverse, with long-running contributions in the areas of entertainment, factual and children’s television and notable successes including The Midnight Oil (1962) – Britain’s first adult education programme – and acclaimed dramas such as God’s Frontiersmen (1989).
Throughout the years, Ulster Television has played host to all manner of famous faces, be it home-grown stars such as Gloria Hunniford and Eamonn Holmes, international icons such as Sean Connery, Billy Connolly and Elton John, or sporting greats including George Best, David Beckham and Seve Ballesteros.