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Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation shows the need for increased TV news

Photo caption: The NBC peacock.

The rise of TV news affected the IATSE in two principle areas.  Theatrical newsreels were gradually eliminated, eventually disappearing altogether from television and movie theaters. The three networks stopped relying on footage from sources like Fox and Telenews and began maintaining film crews in all the major metropolitan areas instead.

Crews were generally made up of two or three technical people, a cameraman, soundman and electrician, and this arrangement seemed to satisfy the networks and the public alike. But generally the news was simply reported, without analysis or context.  For many years, nightly newscasts were only 15 minutes long.

But with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the networks realized that people would indeed watch newsworthy events for more than the allotted 15 minutes a night.  NBC-TV went after the coronation story in an aggressive way, even employing a new, secret rapid development process created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  NBC set up a temporary developing lab at a London airfield, filmed the coronation directly off a television set, a process known as “Kinescope” recording, and within an hour the developed film was on its way to New York.

The footage was edited en route, using bolted-down equipment set up in the belly of a re-vamped DC-6.  The footage was broadcast on the NBC network as soon as it landed in New York.

All that frantic rush was useless, however.  ABC used a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation telecast via cable, and beat the other two networks by minutes.

The momentum for developing news coverage as a legitimate aspect of television programming was intensifying.  The public would come to rely on television for information, not just for entertainment.