For other uses, see BBC (disambiguation).
Corporate logo of the British Broadcasting Corporation

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was formed in 1927 by means of a royal charter. (For the history of the BBC before 1927 see British Broadcasting Company, and for a complete list of articles see BBC (index).) Today the BBC is the national publicly-funded broadcaster of the United Kingdom. It produces programmes and broadcasts on television, radio and the Internet.

Its main domestic services on television include BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, BBC 4, the news channel BBC News 24 and the children's channels CBBC and Cbeebies. BBC One and BBC Two are available via conventional analogue transmission - the remainder can be viewed only by those with digital reception equipment. The BBC also operates the UK's only dedicated politics channel covering events in the British Houses of Parliament. The channel is known as BBC Parliament.

On radio Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4, and BBC Radio Five Live. Digital radio services include 1Xtra, BBC 6 Music, BBC 7, Five Live Sports Extra, and the BBC Asian Network.

There is also a huge catalogue of BBC Local Radio stations (such as BBC Hereford and Worcester), Open Centres, BBC Buses and BBC Big Screens.

In addition the BBC operates the BBC World Service on radio, funded by and operated in cooperation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Its international television services are funded commercially and include the international news channel BBC World, as well as entertainment channels BBC Prime, BBC America, BBC Canada, BBC Food, BBC Japan and BBC Kids.

The BBC is an autonomous corporation run by a board of governors appointed by the incumbent government for a term of four years (formerly five years). This is soon to be changed to a BBC Trust run by Trustees.

Management of the organisation is in the hands of a Director-General appointed by the governors. Its domestic programming and broadcasts are funded by levying television licence fees upon the owners of television sets.



Missing image
Computer generated "glass sculpture" of the BBC's coat of arms at the start of a 1995 BBC News broadcast

Main article: Timeline of the BBC

The British Broadcasting Company was founded in 1922 by various private firms, to broadcast experimental radio services. The first transmission was on 14 November.

The BBC took on its current form in 1927 when it was granted a Royal Charter of incorporation. It started experimental television broadcasting in 1932, becoming a regular service (known as the BBC Television Service) in 1936. Television broadcasting was suspended during the Second World War.

Competition to the BBC was introduced for the first time in 1955 with the commercially and independently-operated ITV. The BBC introduced a second TV channel, (BBC 2), in 1964, renaming the existing channel BBC 1. BBC 2 was broadcast in colour from 1967, and was joined by BBC 1 in 1969.

Since the deregulation of the UK television and radio market in the 1980s, the BBC has faced increased competition from the commercial sector (and from the advertiser-funded public service broadcaster Channel 4), especially on satellite television, cable television and digital television services.

The Corporation


The principal means of funding the BBC is through the television licence. Such a licence is required to operate a broadcast television receiver within the UK.

A similar licence used to exist for radios, but was abolished in 1971. These licences were originally issued by the British General Post Office (GPO), which was then the regulator of public communications within the UK. For a more detailed historical explanation see British Broadcasting Company.

In the case of the elderly and those suffering hardship, TV licenses are funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Licence fees are set by the government but collected by the independent contractors Capita and AMV.

Because government regulation controls its funding, the BBC can provide domestic public service broadcasting to educate, inform and entertain, free of commercial advertising. However, the BBC does engage in commercial advertising in its publications and some broadcasting activities. In theory the BBC is answerable only to the licence payer. World Service external broadcasting is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The BBC has the largest budget of any UK broadcaster. Income from commercial enterprises and from overseas sales of its catalogue of programmes has substantially increased over recent years. Its annual budget is approximately 3.7 billion.

Revenue Sources

The 2003 Annual report ( gave revenue sources in millions of:

  • 2,659m licence fees collected from consumers.
  • 147m from BBC Commercial Holdings Ltd.
  • 223.7m from the World Service, of which 201m is from grants (primarily funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), 16.1m from subscriptions and 6.6m from other sources.
  • Assorted additional sources such as property and interest.

Licence fee expenditure

The BBC gives ( the following figures for expenditure of licence fee income:

  • 50% - BBC 1 and BBC 2
  • 15% - local TV and radio
  • 12% - network radio
  • 10% - digital (BBC 3, 4, News 24, BBC Parliament, CBBC, CBeebies)
  • 10% - transmission costs and licence fee collection
  • 3% - BBC Online, Ceefax, and Interactive Content (Including and BBCi)


The BBC is a nominally autonomous corporation, independent from direct government intervention. It is run by an appointed Board of Governors. General management of the organisation is in the hands of a Director-General appointed by the governors.

The governors at 19 January 2005 are:

The current Director-General is Mark Thompson. On his first day in the role he announced a shake-up of senior management, including the replacement of the Executive Committee, formed by directors of divisions within the BBC, with a streamlined nine-member Executive Board consisting of:

Current review of Royal Charter

Main article: BBC review

The BBC's Royal Charter is currently under review. Although the Charter is widely expected to be renewed in 2006, some proposals have suggested dramatic changes.

On 2 March 2005 the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell published a green paper setting out her proposals for the future of the BBC. The main points of this are:

  • Maintenance of the licence fee system until at least 2016
  • Abolition of the BBC Governors, to be replaced by a "BBC Trust"
  • Increasing outsourcing of production (a process already started by Mark Thompson)
  • Reduced emphasis on "ratings for ratings' sake" and copycat programmes (e.g reality television).

Political and commercial independence

Main article: BBC controversies

The BBC motto is Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation and many have claimed that it is the most respected broadcaster in the world. Quite often domestic audiences have affectionately referred to the BBC as the Beeb or Auntie because in theory the BBC is free from both political and commercial influence and only answers to its viewers and listeners. However, the BBC is regularly accused by the government of the day of bias in favour of the opposition and, by the opposition, of bias in favour of the government. Political influence may manifest itself via appointments to its Board of Governors and by threats to change the level of the licence fee. Commercial competition has influenced BBC programming on both radio and television throughout its history. In spite of these criticisms, the BBC is widely regarded as a trusted and politically neutral news source across the globe, and in some areas the BBC World Service radio is the only available free press.


Main Article: Broadcasting House

Broadcasting House is the headquarters of the BBC. Situated in Portland Place, Central London, it is normally home to Radio 2, 3, 4, 6 Music and BBC 7.

On the front of the building are statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tempest), by Eric Gill.

Broadcasting House is being transformed into one of the largest live broadcasting production centres in the world. For the first time ever, it will bring together all the BBC's national radio networks, BBC News and the BBC World Service.

The new Broadcasting House returns to the spirit of the original building. The listed frontage and building will remain but more modern extensions will be demolished to make way for Sir Richard MacCormac's new world-class design, continuing the BBC's long association with major architectural and artistic commissions.

The original Broadcasting House opened on this site in 1932 after the BBC commissioned architect Val Meyer to create the first purpose-built broadcasting centre in the country.

Broadcasting House has witnessed many famous landmark programmes and events, including Winston Churchill's wartime speeches, programmes such as Desert Island Discs, broadcasts by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan and the launch of BBC Radio 1.

Public access is central to the new design. A public arcade, running through the centre of the site, will provide a Radio Theatre, a caf, shops and a new exhibition area.

The new Broadcasting House is part of the BBC's three-centre plan for buildings in London. The other centres are TV Centre, the home of television, and the new White City Media Village.

The BBC maintains over 500 properties in the UK. Its property division provides space and service to support and inspire the BBC in its aim to become the most creative, trusted organisation in the world.

In recent years BBC Property has begun many developments to improve the BBC's buildings.

BBC Services

Missing image
BBC's public space at The Mailbox shopping centre in Birmingham.

Among its many services are domestic radio (see BBC Radio) and television (see BBC Television) stations. The BBC also jointly operates a number of other broadcasting services, namely the UKTV channels, some of the Discovery channels, and several other services availble on satellite & cable services in the UK.

It also has many non-broadcasting commercial ventures within the United Kingdom including book & magazine publishing (BBC Books), and multimedia production services (DVDs, CDs, computer games) provided by BBC Multimedia.

The BBC has both satellite and cable broadcasting joint-ventures serving the United States, Canada and other countries. In addition the BBC operates a number of radio and television world services in cooperation with funding from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, one of which includes a recently set up TV news station in the Middle East in the Arabic language.

Before 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 analogue cable television and satellite broadcasting and later digital satellite, digital cable and digital terrestrial television (DTT). Today the BBC broadcasts in almost all media and operates an award-winning internet service,, itself indicative of the corporation's continued ability to move with the times.

BBC News logo
BBC News logo

BBC Departments

  • Governances & Accountability
  • Programming Groups
    • News
    • Drama Entertainment & CBBC
    • Factual & Learning
    • Sport
  • Broadcasting Groups
    • World Service
    • TV
    • New Media & Technology
    • Radio & Music
    • Nations & Regions
  • Professional Services
    • Strategy & Distribution
    • Marketing & Comms
    • Finance Property & Business Affairs
    • Human Resources & Internal Comms
    • Public Policy
  • Commercial Groups
    • BBC Ventures Group
    • Worldwide Ltd

BBC News

Main article: BBC News

BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world and it produces almost 160 hours of news output every hour. BBC News provides its services to BBC domestic radio as well as television networks such as; BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, BBC World, as well as BBCi, Ceefax and BBC News Online. New BBC News services that are also proving popular are mobile services to mobile phones and PDAs. Desktop news alerts, e-mail alerts, and digital TV alerts are also available.

The BBC News Centre maintains its headquarters within the BBC Television Centre. It also operates regional news offices throughout the UK and bureaux in almost every country around the world. Coverage of political events is controlled from the Millbank Studios in Westminster. On 5 July 2004 the BBC celebrated 50 years of television news. Its first bulletin was telecast in 1954. The BBC had carried news programmes prior to this, but in the form of newsreels.

Although the BBC news service in the UK is mostly non-commercial by reason of its financial base, it does compete for its audience with commercial companies such as Sky News and ITN. During major events the majority of domestic television viewers in the UK tune to BBC news for information, but its coverage does not come without criticism. (See: BBC controversies)

, the BBC's headquarters and location of the Radios 2, 3, 4, 6 Music and BBC 7 studios
Broadcasting House, the BBC's headquarters and location of the Radios 2, 3, 4, 6 Music and BBC 7 studios


Main article: BBC Radio

The BBC has five major national stations, Radio 1 (the best in new music), Radio 2 (the UK's most popular radio station, with 13.7 million weekly listeners), Radio 3 (specialist-interest music such as classical, world, arts, drama and jazz), Radio 4 (current affairs, drama and comedy), and Radio 5 Live (24 hour news, sports and talk).

There is also a network of local stations with a mixture of talk, news and music in England and the Channel Islands as well as national stations of BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru (in Welsh), BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal (in Scots Gaelic), BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle. (See BBC Local Radio.)

The BBC has been in the forefront of digital radio broadcasting with Five Live Sports Extra (a companion to Five Live for additional events coverage), 1Xtra (for black, urban and gospel music), BBC 6 Music (alternative genres of music), BBC7 (Comedy, Drama & Kids shows), Asian Network (Asian talk, music and news in many Asian languages), and World Service.

For a world-wide audience, the BBC produces the BBC World Service, which is broadcast on shortwave radio (DAB Digital Radio in the UK) and can be received in many places across the globe. It can be recieved in most capital cities. It is a major source of news and information programming, and is funded by the British Foreign Office. It broadcasts in 43 different languages, (including English) in the most relevant local language.

All of the national BBC radio stations, as well as the BBC World Service, are available over the Internet in the RealAudio streaming format. The BBC has also recently experimented with the free, open source Ogg Vorbis streaming audio format and podcasting.


Main article: BBC Television

BBC 1 and BBC 2 are the BBC's flagship television channels. The BBC is also promoting the new channels BBC 3 and BBC 4, though they are available only on digital television. The BBC also runs BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, and two children's channels, CBBC and CBeebies. The BBC is also part of a joint venture with Flextech in the TV company UKTV, and provides various channels for overseas markets, such as BBC World, BBC Canada, BBC Japan, BBC America and BBC Prime, and BBC Kids (Canada Only).

Since 1975, the BBC has also provided its TV programmes to the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), allowing members of HM Forces serving all over the world to watch and listen to their favourite programmes from home on dedicated TV and Radio stations known as BFBS1, BFBS2, e.t.c.


BBC Worldwide Limited is the wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC responsible for the commercial exploitation of BBC programmes and other properties. It broadcasts television stations throughout the world. The cable and satellite stations BBC Prime (in Europe, Africa the Middle East and Asia), BBC America, BBC Canada, and BBC Japan broadcast popular BBC programmes to people outside the UK, as does UK.TV in Australasia. BBC Worldwide also runs a 24-hour news channel, BBC World. In addition, BBC television news appears nightly on many Public Broadcasting System stations in the United States, as do reruns of BBC programmes from Lionheart TV.

BBC Worldwide also maintains the publishing arm of the BBC and it is the third-largest publisher of consumer magazines in the United Kingdom [1] ( BBC Magazines, formerly known as BBC Publications, publishes the Radio Times and a number of magazines that support BBC programming such as BBC Top Gear, BBC Good Food and BBC Music. In addition, BBC Worldwide acquired the independent magazine publisher Origin Publishing in 2004.


The website, formerly BBCi and before that BBC Online, includes a comprehensive news website and archive. It is the UK's most-visited digital destination with over 3 million webpages and that number is rising fast every day.

The website allows the BBC to produce sections which complement the various programmes on television and radio, and it is common for viewers and listeners to be told website addresses for the sections relating to that programme. The site also allows users to see and hear many of the BBC's television and radio services using streaming media. According to Alexa's TrafficRank system, in March 2005 was the 12th most popular English Language website in the world. (References: Global Top 500 Sites ( - Top English Language Sites (

In recent years some major on-line companies and politicians have complained that the website receives too much funding from the television licence, meaning that other websites are unable to compete with the vast amount of advertising-free on-line content available on Some have proposed that the amount of licence fee money spent on should be reduced - either being replaced with funding from advertisements or subscriptions, or a reduction in the amount of content available on the site. In response to this the BBC carried out an investigation, and has now set in motion a plan to change the way it provides its online services. will now attempt to fill in gaps in the market, but will guide users to other websites for currently existing market provision. (e.g. instead of providing local events information and timetables, users will be guided to outside websites already providing that information.) Part of this plan included the BBC closing some of its websites, and rediverting money to redevelop other parts.


BBCi is the brand name for the BBC's interactive digital television services, which are available through Freeview (digital terrestrial), as well as satellite and cable. Unlike Ceefax, BBCi is able to display full colour graphics, photographs and video, as well as allow the viewer to interact with the programme. Recent examples include the interactive sports coverage for football and rugby football matches and an interactive national IQ test. All of the BBC's digital television stations, with the exception of BBC Parliament on digital satellite, allow access to the BBCi service. However, the amount of content available on the digital television BBCi service does not currently match the amount available on Ceefax, which is still available on analogue terrestrial television.

BBCi provides viewers with over 120 interactive TV programmes every year, as well as the 24/7 service.

Unencrypted satellite transmissions

In March 2003 the BBC announced that from the end of May 2003 (subsequently deferred to 14 July) it intended to transmit all eight of its domestic television channels (including the 15 regional variations of BBC 1) unencrypted from the Astra 2D satellite. This move was estimated to save the BBC 85 million over the next five years.

While the "footprint" of the Astra 2D satellite was smaller than that of Astra 2A, from which it was previously broadcast encrypted, it meant that viewers with appropriate equipment were able to receive BBC channels "free-to-air" over much of Western Europe. Consequently, some rights issues have needed to be resolved with programme providers such as Hollywood studios and sporting organisations, who have expressed concern about the unencrypted signal leaking out. This has led to some broadcasts being made unavailable on the Sky Digital platform, such as Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup football, while viewers watching on other platforms can see the broadcasts without issue.


  1. Briggs, Asa. - The BBC - The First Fifty Years - Condensed version of the multi-part encyclopedia by the same author.- Oxford University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-19-212971-6
  2. Coulton, Barbara. - Louis MacNeice in the BBC - Writer and producer from 1941 to 1961 in the Features Department of BBC radio. - Faber and Faber, 1980. ISBN 0-571-11537-3
  3. Gilder PhD., Eric. - Mass Media Moments in the United Kingdom, the USSR and the USA. - Historical background relating to the British Broadcasting Company, Ltd., its founding companies; their transatlantic connections; General Post Office licensing system; commercial competitors from Europe prior to World War II and offshore during the 1960s. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press, Romania. 2003. ISBN 973-651-596-6
  4. Milne, Alasdair. - The memoirs of a British broadcaster - History of the Zircon spy satellite affair, written by a former Director General of the BBC. A series of BBC radio programmes called "The Secret Society" led to a raid by police in both England and Scotland to seize documents as part of a government censorship campaign. - Coronet, 1989. - ISBN 0-34-049750-5
  5. Moran, Lord. - Churchill at War 1940 to 1945 - The Memoirs of Churchill's Doctor, with an introduction by Lord Moran's son, John, the present Lord Moran. - This diary paints an intimate portrait of Churchill by Sir Charles Watson, his personal physician (Lord Moran), who spent the war years with the Prime Minister. In his diary, Moran recorded insights into Churchill's character, and moments when he let his guard down, including his views about the BBC being riddled with communists. - Carroll & Graf, 2002. Reissue ISBN 0-78-671041-1
  6. Parker, Derek. - David & Charles - Radio: The Great Years - History of BBC radio programmes from the beginning until the date of publication. 1977. ISBN 0-7153-7430-3
  7. Spangenberg, Jochen. - The BBC in Transition. Reasons, Results and Consequences - Encompassing account of the BBC and influencing external factors until 1996. - Deutscher Universitaetsverlag. 1997. ISBN 3-8244-4227-2
  8. Wilson, H.H. - Pressure Group - History of the political fight to introduce commercial television into the United Kingdom. - Rutgers University Press, 1961.


  • For a complete list of all related British Broadcasting Corporation articles see BBC (index).

External links

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