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Encyclopedia > British Broadcasting Corporation
This article is an overview article about the Crown chartered British Broadcasting Corporation formed in 1927. See links below for a list of other BBC articles available on Wikipedia. For other meanings of "BBC", see BBC (disambiguation).

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was established by a Royal Charter in 1927. (For an earlier history see British Broadcasting Company, Ltd.) 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) and it operates under license as the national United Kingdom.


History of the British Broadcasting Corporation

The BBC 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). General management of the organisation is in the hands of a UK. These licences were originally issued by the British General Post Office (GPO) in its then position as the regulator of public communications within the UK. For a more detailed historical explanation see British Broadcasting Company.

The requirement for a household radio receiving licence was eventually abolished in 1971 but a television licence is still required for the purchase and installation of television receivers. In the case of the elderly and hardship, these licenses are funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Licence fees are set by the government but collected by Capita and AMV who are independent contractors.

Because government regulation controls the BBC's funding it 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 only answerable only to the licence payer. External broadcasting 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 $10 billion (€7.5 billion, 5 billion) [1] (http://www.circom-regional.org/crdocs/report-regpubTV-2003.pdf), and it rivals that of NASA. It is greater than the gross domestic product of more than half the world's nations and ranks behind the twelve wealthiest nations on the Planet.

The 2003 Annual report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/report2003/) 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.


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 current governors, as of 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 Crown Charter

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

Political and commercial independence

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 refered 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 is often manifest via appointments to its Board of Governors and by threats to change the amount 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 by the British public as a trusted and politically neutral news source. For a more detailed study see: BBC controversy.

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

BBC Services

Among its many services are domestic radio (see BBC Radio) and television (see BBC Television) stations. The BBC also operates a number of non-broadcasting commercial ventures within the United Kingdom and both satellite and cable broadcasting 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 British Foreign Office. The BBC is a multinational corporation.

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, internet service, bbc.co.uk, itself indicative of the corporation's continued ability to move with the times.

Thompson review

On December 7, 2004 Director General Mark Thompson announced the changes he plans for the corporation. This review of operations is seen as an attempt to improve the efficiency of the BBC prior to Charter renewal. Some details are listed below:

  • Almost 3000 largely administrative jobs are to be cut
  • BBC Broadcast to be sold in 2005
  • BBC Resources under review
  • De-centralisation of operations, the following will move to Manchester:
    • BBC Radio Five Live and Five Live Sports Extra
    • BBC Sport
    • Children's TV and radio
    • New Media and Technology
  • Ambitious growth targets set for BBC Worldwide
BBC News logo

BBC News

Main article: BBC News

BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world, providing news through BBC network television and radio as well as BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, BBC World, BBCi and Ceefax. BBC News is based at the News Centre at Television Centre but operates regional centres across the UK and bureaux around the world. Political coverage is based at Millbank Studios in Westminster. The News Centre brought radio and TV news operations together for the first time and produces almost 100 hours of output every day.

BBC News claims the BBC's output is widely respected across the world. Within the UK BBC News faces stiff competition from Sky News and ITN; however, research has shown that viewers turn to the BBC for coverage of major events, such as the Iraq War and the September 11th attacks. Outspoken critics of BBC News include the Fox News personality John Gibson, who argues that the BBC is biased towards the Palestinian cause and is Anti_American. (See the Political controversy and neutrality section above for more information)

On July 5 2004 the BBC celebrated 50 years of television news, the first bulletin was broadcast in 1954.

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


The BBC World Service is also available on the mainstream digital broadcasting platforms in the UK, as well as the Internet and shortwave radio, both of which can be received in many places across the globe. It is a major source of news and information programming, and is funded by the British Foreign Office. It broadcasts in dozens of languages, including English.

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.

A most famous BBC radio programme is the soap The Archers. The BBC is also famous for its comedy output – in particular The Goon Show. BBC Radio also broadcasts an enormous amount of original radio drama, and has given many dramatists their writing start.


BBC One and Two are available on cable in the Republic of Ireland, the Belgium with cable operators clearing programme rights for local retransmission.

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 their favourite programmes from home.


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 maintain the publishing arm of the BBC and they are the 3rd largest publisher of consumer magazines in the United Kingdom [2] (http://www.bbcworldwide.com/aboutus/corpinfo/annualreps/review2001/Documents/Magazines.pdf). BBC Magazines, formerly known as BBC Publications, publish 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 magazine arm of the Orion publishing group in 2004.


The bbc.co.uk website, formerly BBCi (and before that BBC Online), includes a comprehensive news website and archive. 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 bbc.co.uk 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 June 2004 bbc.co.uk was the 13th most popular English Language website in the world. (References: Global Top 500 Sites (http://www.alexa.com/site/ds/top_sites?ts_mode=global&lang=none) - Top English Language Sites (http://www.alexa.com/site/ds/top_sites?ts_mode=lang&lang=en))

In recent years some major on-line companies and politicians have complained that the bbc.co.uk 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 bbc.co.uk. Some have proposed that the amount of licence fee money spent on bbc.co.uk should be reduced - either being replaced with funding from advertisements or subscriptions, or a reduction in the amount of content available on the site.


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, but without sending any information. 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.

Unencrypted satellite transmissions

In March 2003 the BBC announced that from the end of May 2003 (subsequently deferred to July 14) it intended to transmit all eight of its domestic television channels (including the 15 regional variations of BBC One) unencrypted from the Astra 2D satellite. This move was estimated to save the BBC 85 million over the next 5 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. Pressure Group - by Wilson, H.H. - Rutgers University Press, 1961. - History of the political fight to introduce commercial television into the United Kingdom.
  2. Radio: The Great Years - by Parker, Derek. - David & Charles, 1977. ISBN 0-7153-7430-3 - History of BBC radio programmes from the beginning until the date of publication.
  3. Louis MacNeice in the BBC - Coulton, Barbara. - Faber and Faber, 1980. ISBN 0-571-11537-3 - Writer and producer from 1941 to 1961 in the Features Department of BBC radio.
  4. The BBC - The First Fifty Years - by Briggs, Asa. - Oxford Universtity Press, 1985. ISBN 0-19-212971-6 - Condensed version of the multi-part encyclopedia by the same author.
  5. The memoirs of a British broadcaster - by Milne, Alasdair. - Coronet, 1989. - ISBN 0-34-049750-5 - History of the Zicron 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.
  6. Churchill at War 1940 to 1945 - The Memoirs of Churchill's Doctor by Moran, Lord. - Carroll & Graf, 2002. Reissue ISBN 0-78-671041-1 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.
  7. Mass Media Moments in the United Kingdom, the USSR and the USA, by Gilder PhD., Eric. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press, Romania. 2003. ISBN 973-651-596-6 - 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.

See also

External links

  • Copy of Royal Charter 1 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies/charter/pdf/charter_text.shtml)
  • bbc.co.uk: BBC Homepage (http://www.bbc.co.uk/)
  • bbc.co.uk: About the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/)
  • News: BBC News World Edition (http://www.bbcnews.com/)
  • BBC to Open Content Floodgates BBC's Creative Archive project (http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,63857,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_4)

  Results from FactBites:
BBC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3735 words)
BBC 2 was broadcast in colour from July 1, 1967, and was joined by BBC 1 and ITV on November 15, 1969.
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].
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.
  More results at FactBites »



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