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British Broadcasting Corporation

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The British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC is the most widely respected broadcasting organisation in the world. Affectionately known to local consumers as the "beeb" or "Auntie", the BBC was for many years the only television and radio provider in the United Kingdom. Prior to the introduction of Independent Television in 1955 and subsequently Independent Radio[?] in 1973, it held a monopoly on broadcasting. More recent de-regulation of the British television broadcasting market produced cable television, satellite broadcasting and now digital television. Today the BBC broadcasts in almost every medium including digital satellite[?], digital terrestrial[?] (DTT) and the Internet. It is still generally regarded by viewers and listeners at home and abroad as providing news, entertainment and other broadcast services of the highest quality available anywhere.

Prior to the establishment of the BBC a number of private companies had been making experimental radio broadcasts in the UK. The Post Office (under the 1904 Wireless Telegraphy Act) was responsible for the issuing of broadcasting licences and in 1919 it stopped issuing further licences because of the large number of complaints of interference to military communications received from the Armed Forces. As the number of radio receiving sets increased during the early 1920s the Post Office came under extreme pressure to allow national radio broadcasting. A committee of radio manufacturers spent several months discussing various proposals and the result was the establishment of the BBC.

The BBC was founded as the British Broadcasting Company in 1922 by a consortium including Marconi, GEC, British Thomson Houston, Metropolitan Vickers, Western Electric and the Radio Communication Company. The initial remit of the company was to establish a nationwide network of radio transmitters to provide a national broadcasting service. On November 14, 1922, the first BBC station 2LO began broadcasting on mediumwave, from the roof of Selfridges[?] department store in Oxford Street, London. The following day 5IT in Birmingham, and 2ZY in Manchester went on the air.

It took on its current form in 1927 when it was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation. The form is that of an autonomous corporation run by a board of governors appointed by the incumbent government for a term of four years (formerly five years). The autonomous nature of the board of governors gives it an independence from direct government control. The BBC has taken advantage of its independence to criticise government policy from time to time. However the BBC does not have any constitutional protection for such criticism and in the past it has suffered as a result.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1904 instituted government regulation of radio broadcasting and reception under the authority of the Postmaster General. A licence scheme was introduced whereby anyone wishing to purchase or construct radio equipment was required to obtain a licence from the Post Office. With the founding of the BBC, the radio licence fees became its principal means of funding. The radio licence was eventually abolished in 1971 but a licence is still required for television reception.

Today each household (with exemptions for the elderly and others) or business in the UK with a television has to buy an annual television licence. The license fees are set by the government but collected by the Post Office and given to the BBC. They ensure that the BBC is sufficiently funded to provide for the British public high quality and diverse media content designed to "educate, inform and entertain" as per the remit of its charter. Because of this unique funding method, BBC radio and television output has been free of the constraints of commercial advertisers; programme makers are, in theory, answerable only to the licence payer, but pressure from political parties via appointments to the board of governors and via threats over changes to the amount of the licence fee as well as competition with commercial television channels for audience share are still significant factors in the corporation's output. The BBC has also for many years received funding from British Government departments for certain sections of its output. For instance the World Service, which, as its name suggests is broadcast around the world, is funded by the Foreign Office. In recent years the BBC has also received large amounts of revenue from its commercial wing, particularly by exploiting its massive back catalogue of programmes.

On March 3, 2001 a terrorist bomb located in a taxi exploded in front of the BBC's Television Centre. 11 people were seriously injured in the blast. The top suspect in the investigation is a dissident group from the Irish Republican Army called Real Irish Republican Army.

On June 20, 2000 and again on June 30 2001 the BBC experienced serious power outages at their Television Centre facility in West London which not only knocked out all of their terrestrial and digital satellite television stations and all of the radio stations throughout the United Kingdom and as a result of a serious equipment failure the BBC's backup power generator at the Television Centre burst into flames. Personnel from Television Centre had to be evacuated and moved to other BBC facilities until police and fire allowed BBC personnel back into the building.

In March 2003 the BBC announced that from the end of May 2003 (subsequently deferred to 14 July) it intends to transmit all eight of its domestic television channels (including the 15 regional variations of BBC ONE) unencrypted from the Astra 2D satellite; while the "footprint" of the Astra 2D satellite is smaller than Astra 2A from which it was previously broadcast encrypted, this will mean that viewers with appropriate equipment will be able to receive BBC channels over much of Western Europe without payment, although it is anticipated that there are some rights issues to be sorted out with programme providers. This move is estimated to save the BBC 85 million over the next 5 years.

Table of contents

Radio Radio was the main output of the BBC prior to the invention of television, and is still seen in the title of the BBC's listings magazine, Radio Times[?]. Radio still makes up a large part of the output. The BBC runs regional radio stations throughout the UK, e.g. Radio Wales, Radio Devon. These offer a more "serious" alternative to the large number of commercial local radio stations. Some BBC radio channels are available over the Internet. The BBC has recently experimented with streaming audio over the Internet using the open source Ogg Vorbis technology, and in 2002 launched several new digital-only stations. The most famous radio programme is undoubtably the soap The Archers. It is also famous for its comedy output-in particular The Goons.

The BBC World Service is a major source of news and information programming around the world.

Television What is now known as BBC ONE was the world's first regular television service. It began broadcasting from Alexandra Palace[?] in London on November 2, 1936 to just a few hundred viewers in the immediate area. It was reaching some 25,000 homes before the outbreak of the Second World War caused the service to be suspended. The broadcasts would have provided an ideal radio beacon for German bombers homing in on London. In 1946 TV transmissions resumed from Alexandra Palace.

BBC TWO was the third television station (ITV was the second) for the UK; its remit is to provide more niche programming. The channel was due to launch on April 20, 1964, but was put off the air by a massive power failure that affected much of London, caused by a fire at Battersea Power Station. A videotape made on the opening night was recently rediscovered by a BBC technician. In the end the launch went ahead the following night, hosted by an announcer holding a candle. BBC2 (as it was originally spelled) was the first British channel to use UHF and 625-line pictures, giving higher definition than the existing 405-line system. In 1967 it became the first British channel to broadcast in colour, using the German PAL system that is still in use today although being gradually superseded by digital systems. (BBC ONE and ITV began 625-line color broadcasts simultaneously in late 1969). Unlike its contemporaries, BBC TWO does not have the usual soap opera or standard news programming. What BBC TWO is supposed to have is a breadth of programming: eclectic, fun and diverse. Although if anything with high audience viewing figures turns up on BBC TWO it is often 'stolen' by BBC ONE.

Regional variations also occur within the BBC ONE and BBC TWO television programme schedules. In places like Northern Ireland, rather than try to impose British programs on viewers (although some of the shows that are British are very popular, see The Good Life, One Foot in the Grave, Harry Enfield and Chums[?] and so on) the BBC has created other programs, like the Political fueled Give My Head Peace[?] and the Chat/Comedy show Patrick Kielty: Almost Live[?], which are among the most popular shows, it also imported such shows as The Simpsons. So, the BBC has always catered for everyone's needs.

The BBC was also the first company to introduce a teletext service, the Ceefax service starting in 1974.

See List of BBC television programming.

BBCi Since the introduction of digital television and the explosion in World Wide Web use, new channels and online content have been developed by the BBC. The BBC's web service, called BBCi, includes a comprehensive news website and archive. Many of the BBC's television and radio stations can be seen and heard there, also. The BBC had also developed many digital television features such as interactive sports and news coverage and an enhanced text service. All of the BBC's 'interactive' content comes under the banner of BBCi, or BBC Interactive.

According to Alexa[?], the BBC's main website is the 13th most popular website in the world.

The BBC is known to Americans through the BBC America cable station and Lionheart TV which rerun BBC programmes. In addition, BBC television news appears nightly on many Public Broadcasting System stations.

List of Stations


  • United Kingdom, digital only (Digital Terrestrial (DTT) and Digital Satellite (Astra 2A until May 2003, then Astra 2D))
    • BBC THREE[?], formerly known as BBC Choice (DTT channel 7)
    • BBC FOUR[?], formerly known as BBC Knowledge (DTT channel 10)
    • BBC Parliament[?] (terrestrial digital currently broadcasts only a quarter-sized screen due to capacity limitations) (DTT channel 45)
    • BBC News 24 (DTT channel 40)
    • CBBC[?] Channel (Children's digital channel aimed towards children over 8yrs) (DTT channel 30)
    • CBeebies[?] (Children's digital channel aimed towards children under 8yrs) (DTT channel 31)


  • United Kingdom
    • BBC Radio 1 (Contemporary popular music) (DTT channel 70)
    • BBC Radio 2 (music for a more mature audience; and comedy), originally known as the Light Programme. This was a peacetime offshoot of the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme set up to entertain the Allied troops (and civilians) in World War II. (DTT channel 72)
    • BBC Radio 3[?] (Jazz, classical and non-western music and study in musical topics), originally the Third Programme. (DTT channel 73)
    • BBC Radio 4 (Non-musical entertainment such as drama, comedy, news programmes and factual programmes), previously the Home Service; originally the National Programme. Radio 4 has both FM and longwave frequencies and sometimes broadcasts different programmes on the two bands. (DTT channel 74)
    • BBC Radio 5 Live (News and sports analysis and commentary) (DTT channel 75)

Historical note: The first two radio services to broadcast were the Home Service (originally the National Programme) and the World Service (originally the General Overseas Service). These were followed by the Light Programme (using the transmitters vacated by the wartime Forces Programme), and the Third Programme. A contemporary music station was launched in 1967 in response to pirate radio stations (most of which closed on or before the introduction of new legislation on August 15, 1967), and the present numbered names were adopted on the same day, September 30, 1967. Radio 5 started to broadcast in 1990.

  • United Kingdom, regional
    • Radio Scotland
    • Radio nan Gaidheal (in Scottish Gaelic)
    • Radio Wales
    • Radio Cymru (in Welsh)
    • Radio Ulster
    • Radio Foyle

  • United Kingdom, local
    • East
      • Radio Norfolk
      • Radio Suffolk
      • BBC Essex
      • Three Counties Radio
      • Radio Northampton
      • Radio Cambridgeshire
    • London
      • BBC London 94.9 (Once known as GLR (Greater London Radio))
    • South East
      • Radio Kent
      • Southern Counties Radio
    • South
      • Radio Oxford
      • Radio Berkshire
      • Radio Solent
    • South West
      • Radio Devon
      • Radio Cornwall
      • Radio Guernsey
      • Radio Jersey
    • West
      • Radio Bristol
      • Wiltshire Sound
      • Radio Gloucestershire
    • West Midlands
      • Hereford & Worcester
      • WM (Coventry & Warks)
      • WM
      • Radio Shropshire
      • Radio Stoke
    • North West
      • GMR
      • Radio Merseyside
      • Radio Lancashire
    • North East & Cumbria
      • Radio Cumbria
      • Radio Newcastle
      • Radio Cleveland
    • North
      • Radio York
      • Radio Leeds
      • Radio Sheffield
      • Radio Humberside
    • East Midlands
      • Radio Lincolnshire
      • Radio Derby
      • Radio Nottingham
      • Radio Leicester


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