Emmerdale was first broadcast on 16 October 1972. Known as Emmerdale Farm until 1989, it is set in the fictional Yorkshire village of the same name (known as Beckindale until 1994).

Much of the action takes place within the village pub, the fictional The Woolpack. It is the third ranking soap opera on British television, behind ITV's Coronation Street and the BBC's EastEnders.

Emmerdale was originally filmed in the real village of Arncliffe in Littondale, one of the less frequented valleys of the Yorkshire Dales. In exterior shots the town's The Falcon hotel was used to represent the fictional Woolpack Hotel.

Eventually the location of the shooting location became publicly known, which is perhaps what prompted the move to the village of Esholt . This location also became a tourist attraction. Now a purpose built set in Harewood is used.

Emmerdale was originally modelled on the revolutionary soap-opera The Riordans, made by RTÉ, Ireland 's broadcaster, from the 1960s to the mid 1970s. The success of The Riordans showed that a soap opera could be filmed out of doors.

Until 1993, the show was largely ignored by press and viewers alike in the face of well known soaps such as Coronation Street, EastEnders and Brookside. However, a sensational plotline involving a plane crashing on to the village of Beckindale (which killed many long standing characters and led to the onscreen renaming of Beckindale to Emmerdale), gained a lot of press and audience attention and cemented the show's place among the top UK soaps.

This plot line attracted controversy due to the similarity to the Lockerbie disaster: it was aired near to the time of the fifth anniversary of that disaster.

Emmerdale is notable for being the UK 's (and possibly the world's) first television soap opera to regularly produce six episodes a week, and is also popular in Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Canada.

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