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The Eiffel Tower and the History of Broadcasting

Everything about the Tower


Gustave Eiffel knew that the scientific uses of the Tower could prolong its lifespan. The Eiffel Tower was actually supposed to be dismantled after 20 years! That is why he allowed numerous scientific experiments to be carried out – meteorological and astronomical observations, physics, air resistance etc.
He succeeded in saving his Tower by putting it forward as a monumental support antenna for wireless broadcasting.

transmission-05The First Wireless Telegraphic Contact Led By Eugène Ducretet

On the 5th November 1898, Eugène Ducretet carried out the first wireless telegraphy trials between the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon (a distance of 4 km). The transmitter was installed at the top of the Tower. In 1899, the waves crossed the Channel for the first time.

Wireless Transmission Saves the Tower

In 1903, Gustave Eiffel, fascinated by scientific experiments, was still searching for a way to save “his” Tower, whose concession from the City of Paris was to come to an end 6 years later. He suggested to Captain Gustave Ferrié, then responsible for studying the military applications of wireless transmission, that he use the Tower for his experiments. He financed this operation, which enabled transmission and reception over 400 km. The Department of Military Engineering authorised Captain Ferrié to install antennas on the Tower. He set himself up in a wooden shelter next to the Southern Pillar.

In 1909, the underground military radiotelegraphy station was set up. The strategic interest in the Tower had been demonstrated and the City of Paris renewed Gustave Eiffel’s concession on the 1st January 1910.

Experiment on Wireless Telegraphy

In 1913, the Tower sent telegrams using electrical waves to as far as America and to ships making the crossing in a radius of 6,000 km.

transmission-02Wireless Transmission during the First World War

In 1914, during the Battle of the Marne, the Tower’s radiotelegraphic station learnt that General Von Marwitz, Commander of the right wing of the German Army, was having administrative problems and as a result was halting his advance.

This crucial information enabled the French command to organise a victorious counter-attack (the Taxis de la Marne).

Thanks to the Eiffel Tower’s station, important enemy radio telegrams, sometimes concealed by a commercial appearance in neutral countries’ programmes, were deciphered. Spies were exposed, among them Mata Hari.

The First Radio Programmes

From 1921, at first as an experiment, a civilian transmitter broadcast music programmes, columns, and lastly the "Journal Parlé" (spoken news) from 1925, picked up by amateurs on simple crystal radio sets. Radio Tour-Eiffel was well-known to Parisians at the time.

Experimental programmes were organised and performers were invited to them, such as Sacha Guitry and Yvonne Printemps.

transmission-04The Beginnings of Television

In 1935, a television studio was set up on the rue de Grenelle and the Eiffel Tower transmitter began to operate. From 60 lines at the beginning of the installation, they then passed to a high definition of 180 lines.

On the 2nd June 1953, thanks to the Eiffel Tower’s transmitter, television showed the whole of France the celebrations for the Queen of England’s coronation live. This was the beginning of Eurovision.

The Tower Has Grown with Television’s Progress

In 1957, live satellite dishes were installed, providing the three television channels’ programmes using 819 lines, along with the frequency modulation radio transmitter. The new antenna made the Eiffel Tower reach a height of 320.75 metres.

In 2000, a new UHF (Ultra High Frequency) antenna led to another modification in the Tower’s height, which was now 324 m.

In 2010, considerable work on the TDF equipment has been done to prepare for the complete changeover to digital television in Ile-de-France.

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Current Key Figures :

  • Number of antennas : 120
  • Number of TV channels broadcast : 41
  • Number of radio stations : 32
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