Did you know that Monaco is the birthplace of the oldest private TV channel in Europe?

Inaugurated on 19 November 1954 by HSH Prince Rainier III, the Télé Monte-Carlo is considered the oldest private TV channel in Europe. Less than two years after its first transmission, the cameras of the Monégasque television had their major international debut with the broadcast of the wedding of the reigning prince with the glamorous young Oscar-winner, Miss Grace Kelly as she became the beloved Princess Grace of Monaco.

Although the first experimental transmissions of what we now call television started in the United States in 1928, they continued in the following years in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, and the Soviet Union. It was only after WWII, in the decade of 1950, when television stations started to emerge around the world, allowing for spectators to watch from home movies and other things that were only possible to watch in the cinema until then. 

In 1950, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was founded, creating a networking space for national radio stations and television broadcasters around the continent to co-operate, and Monaco was one of the first countries to join the newly emerging organisation. That same year, the first international television link between France and the United Kingdom was made, and British viewers could watch a festival taking place in Calais, just across the channel. 

Only a few years later, on 19 November 1954, a young Prince Rainier III formally inaugurated the first transmissions of Télé Monte-Carlo, a name that the channel kept until 1993 and is considered the oldest private channel in Europe. The second oldest was Télé Luxembourg, a privately owned channel founded by the Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion (CLT) launched on 23 January 1955, the 59th birthday of HRH The Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. 

In this context, it is essential to consider that during those years television devices were luxury artefacts,  symbols of social status, which helped to gather families, friends, and even curious neighbours. Live programs and entertainment shows now replaced the central space previously monopolised by the radios. 

In Monaco, less than two years after its first transmission, on 18 April 1956, the cameras of the Monégasque television had their major international debut with the broadcast of the wedding of the reigning prince with the glamorous young Oscar-winner, Miss Grace Kelly. She became the beloved Princess Grace of Monaco. Since then, the most relevant moments in the lives of the Princely family  had been documented and followed by  television cameras. 

Another exciting milestone in the history of television in Monaco came in 1959. Due to its membership to the European Broadcasting Union, the Monégasque broadcaster debuted in the 4th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place not far from the Principality, in Cannes, France. 

In 1971, Monaco became the winner of the 16th Eurovision Song Contest which  took place in the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. The title of the winning song was “Un banc, un Arbre, Une Rue”, performed by Séverine. Télé Monte-Carlo achieved second place in the contest in 1962 and third place on three occasions, in 1960, 1964, and 1976. Monaco has participated 24 times in the Eurovision Song Contest, the last time in Athens, in 2006.

When talking about the history of television in Monaco, undoubtedly another important event attracting millions of viewers worldwide is the broadcast of the prestigious and legendary F1 Grand Prix of Monte-Carlo. The transmission of this event is the highlight of the year for many fans. 

Also, the fascination that the world has for Monaco, and that Monaco has for what is happening around the world, inspired Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace to create the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo in 1961. The festival takes place every year in June at the Grimaldi Forum, under the Honorary Presidency of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, and serves as a showcase to the most celebrated productions, actors, directors, and studios of the international industry. 

In the past decades, Télé Monte-Carlo continued to evolve with its public and further developed with audiences. It is part of the collective imaginary and the distinctive identity of the country. The channel now  is known as TMC, and since 2016, it has been owned by the Group TF1. 

To conclude, and as a part of the globalisation of telecommunications worldwide, in 1994, the Government of Monaco established Monaco Media Diffusion (MMD) — previously known as Monte-Carlo Radiodiffusion (MCR) —, a public limited company which has a primary function as the exclusive licensee for broadcast radio and TV in Monaco. The frequencies licensed are specified and allocated to Monaco by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Also, Monaco Media Diffusion chairs the Group of Monégasque Broadcasters (GRMC), which also includes TMC (Monte-Carlo Television) and RMC (Radio Monte-Carlo). This media group represents the Principality of Monaco at the European Broadcasting Union.

Contributor: Juan Dávila y Verdin, FRSA (Argentina, 1984) – Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. MBA alumni from the International University of Monaco. BA (Hons.) in Global Politics and International Relations, Birkbeck College, University of London. Currently part of the International Law and Diplomacy program organised by the wUnited Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the University for Peace (UPEACE) – UN Mandated. His research “National identities and cultural resilience in the European microstates in the twenty-first century: the current challenges in Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino. A contribution to the study of international relations.” is part of MONARCHÉO, the exposition organised by the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology of Monaco.

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