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The British Broadcasting Corporation, usually referred to by its abbreviation as the "BBC"[1], is the longest established and largest broadcaster in the world.[2] The BBC is funded by an annual television licence fee, which is charged to all United Kingdom households using equipment capable of recording and/or receiving live television broadcasts [3]; the level of the fee is set by the UK Government under a multi-year agreement with the Corporation. It operates under a Royal Charter granted by the British monarch.


File:Bbc logo before 1970.png

The BBC coat of arms

The BBC was the world's first national broadcasting organisation[4] and was founded on 18 October 1922 as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd. The original Company was founded in 1922 by a group of six telecommunications companies—Marconi, Radio Communication Company, Metropolitan-Vickers, General Electric, Western Electric, and British Thomson-Houston[5]—to broadcast experimental radio services. The first transmission was on 14 November of that year, from station 2LO, located at Marconi House, London.[6]

The Company, with John Reith as general manager, became the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927 when it was granted its first Royal Charter of incorporation and ceased to be privately owned.

To represent its purpose and values, the Corporation adopted the coat of arms, incorporating the motto "Nation shall speak peace unto Nation".[7]

Experimental television broadcasts were started in 1932 using an electromechanical 30 line system developed by John Logie Baird. The broadcasts became a regular service (known as the BBC Television Service) in 1936, alternating between a Baird mechanical 240 line system and the all electronic 405 line Marconi-EMI system. The superiority of the electronic system saw the mechanical system dropped early the following year.[8] Television broadcasting was suspended from 1 September 1939 to 7 June 1946 during the Second World War. A widely reported urban myth is that, upon resumption of service, announcer Leslie Mitchell started by saying, "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted ..." In fact, the first person to appear when transmission resumed was Jasmine Bligh and the words said were "Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? Do you remember me, Jasmine Bligh ...?"[9]

The European Broadcasting Union was formed on 12 February 1950, in Torquay with the BBC among the 23 founding broadcasting organisations.

Competition to the BBC was introduced in 1955 with the commercial and independently-operated television network ITV. However, the BBC monopoly on radio services would persist into the 1970s. As a result of the Pilkington Committee report of 1962, in which the BBC was praised for the quality and range of its output, and ITV was very heavily criticised for not providing enough quality programming,[10] the decision was taken to award the BBC a second television channel, BBC2, in 1964, renaming the existing service BBC1. BBC2 used the higher resolution 625 line standard which had been standardised across Europe. BBC2 was broadcast in colour from 1 July 1967, and was joined by BBC 1 and ITV on 15 November 1969. The 405 line VHF transmissions of BBC 1 (and ITV) were continued for compatibility with older television receivers until 1985.

Starting in 1964 a series of pirate radio stations (starting with Radio Caroline) came on the air, and forced the British government finally to regulate radio services to permit nationally-based advertising-financed services. In response the BBC reorganised and renamed their radio channels. The Light Programme was split into Radio 1 offering continuous "Popular" music and Radio 2 more "Easy Listening".[11] The "Third" programme became Radio 3 offering classical music and cultural programming. The Home Service became Radio 4 offering news, and non-musical content such as quiz shows, readings, dramas and plays. As well as the four national channels, a series of local BBC radio stations was established.[12]

In 1974, the BBC's teletext service, Ceefax, was introduced, created initially to provide subtitling, but developed into a news and information service. In 1978 BBC staff went on strike just before the Christmas of that year, thus blocking out the transmission of both channels and amalgamating all four radio stations into one.[13][14]

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.[citation needed]

The BBC Research Department has played a major part in the development of broadcasting and recording techniques. In the early days it carried out essential research into acoustics and programme level and noise measurement.[citation needed]

The 2004 Hutton Inquiry and the subsequent Report raised questions about the BBC's journalistic standards and its impartiality. This led to resignations of senior management members at the time including the then Director General, Greg Dyke. In January 2007, the BBC released minutes of the Board meeting which led to Greg Dyke's resignation. Many commentators have considered the discussions documented in the minutes to have made Dyke's ability to remain in position untenable and tantamount to a dismissal.[citation needed]

Unlike the other departments of the BBC, BBC World Service is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, more commonly known as the Foreign Office or the FCO, is the British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom abroad.

On 18 October 2007, BBC Director General Mark Thompson announced a controversial plan to make major cuts and reduce the size of the BBC as an organisation. The plans include a reduction in posts of 2,500; including 1,800 redundancies, consolidating news operations, reducing programming output by 10% and selling off the flagship Television Centre building in London.[15] These plans have been fiercely opposed by unions, who have threatened a series of strikes, however the BBC have stated that the cuts are essential to move the organisation forward and concentrate on increasing the quality of programming.


The BBC is a nominally autonomous corporation, independent from direct government intervention, with its activities being overseen by the BBC Trust (formerly the Board of Governors).[16] General management of the organisation is in the hands of a Director-General, who is appointed by the Trust; he is the BBC's Editor-in-Chief and chairs the Executive Board.[17]

Royal Charter

The BBC was granted its first Royal Charter, and was subsequently made a public corporation, in 1927. The Charter decreed that the BBC's views be entirely independent of any private or governmental influence. It is thereby required to be free from both political and commercial influence and answer only to its viewers and listeners.

The current Charter[18] came into effect on 1 January 2007 and runs until 31 December 2016. The Royal Charter is reviewed every 10 years.

The 2007 Charter specifies that the mission of the Corporation is to "inform, educate and entertain". It states that the Corporation exists to serve the public interest and to promote its public purposes:

  • Sustaining citizenship and civil society;
  • Promoting education and learning;
  • Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
  • Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
  • Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
  • Helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services, and taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

This Charter also created the largest change in the governance of the Corporation since its inception. It abolished the sometimes controversial governing body, the Board of Governors, and replaced it with the BBC Trust and a formalised Executive Board.

BBC Trust

The BBC Trust came into being on 1 January 2007, replacing the Board of Governors as the governing body of the Corporation. The Trust sets the strategy for the corporation, assesses the performance of the BBC Executive Board in delivering the BBC's services, and appoints the Director-General.

BBC Trustees are appointed by the British monarch on advice of government ministers.[19]. The current members of the Trust are:

  • Sir Michael Lyons (Chairman)
  • Chitra Bharucha (Vice-Chairman)
  • Diane Coyle
  • Anthony Fry
  • Alison Hastings
  • Dame Patricia Hodgson
  • Rotha Johnston
  • Janet Lewis-Jones
  • David Liddiment
  • Jeremy Peat
  • Mehmuda Mian
  • Richard Tait

Executive Board

The Executive Board oversees the effective delivery of the corporation's objectives and obligations within a framework set by the BBC Trust, and is headed by the Director-General, Mark Thompson. The Executive Board consists of both executive and non-executive directors[20].

Executive directors:

  • Mark Thompson (Executive Board Chairman; Director-General; and the BBC's Editor-in-Chief)
  • Mark Byford (Deputy Director-General; Director, Journalism Group)
  • Jana Bennett OBE (Director, BBC Vision)
  • Tim Davie (Director, BBC Audio & Music)
  • Erik Huggers (Director, Future Media & Technology)
  • Lucy Adams (Director, BBC People)
  • Zarin Patel (Chief Financial Officer)
  • Caroline Thomson (Chief Operating Officer)
  • Sharon Baylay (Director, Marketing, Communications & Audiences)

Non-executive directors:

  • Marcus Agius (senior non-executive director), Chairman, Barclays
  • Robert Webb QC, (also chairman, BBC Worldwide Ltd) former General Counsel, British Airways
  • Dr Mike Lynch OBE, co-founder and Chief Executive, Autonomy Corporation
  • David Robbie, Group Finance Director, Rexam
  • Dr Samir Shah OBE, Chief Executive, Juniper Communications
  • Val Gooding former Chief Executive of BUPA,

Corporate structure

  • Trust Unit
  • Director-General's Office
  • Content Groups:
    • Journalism (incorporates News, Sport and Global News)
    • Vision (incorporates television production and commissioning)
    • Audio & Music (incorporates radio and music production and commissioning)
    • Future Media & Technology (incorporates web-based services plus Research and Development)
  • Professional Services:
    • Operations (incorporates policy, strategy, legal, property and distribution)
    • Marketing, Communications and Audiences
    • Finance
    • BBC People (incorporates human resources and training)
  • Commercial Groups:
    • BBC Worldwide Ltd
    • BBC Studios and Post Production Ltd, formerly BBC Resources


The BBC has the largest budget of any UK broadcaster with an operating expenditure of £4.3 billion in 2007[21] compared to £3.8 billion for British Sky Broadcasting,[22] £1.9 billion for ITV[23] and £214 million in 2007 for GCap Media (the largest commercial radio broadcaster).[24]


The principal means of funding the BBC is through the television licence, costing £142.50 per year per household (as of May 2009). Such a licence is required to receive broadcast television within the UK, however no licence is required to own a television used for other means. The cost of a television licence is set by the government and enforced by the criminal law. A discount is available for households with only black-and-white television sets. The revenue is collected privately and is paid into the central government Consolidated Fund, a process defined in the Communications Act 2003. This TV Licensing collection is currently carried out by Capita, an outside agency. Funds are then allocated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Treasury and approved by Parliament via legislation. Additional revenues are paid by the Department for Work and Pensions to compensate for subsidised licences for eligible over-75 year olds.

Income from commercial enterprises and from overseas sales of its catalogue of programmes has substantially increased over recent years,[25] with BBC Worldwide contributing some £145 million to the BBC's core public service business.

According to the BBC's 2008–2009 Annual Report,[26] its income can be broken down as follows:

  • £3,368.8 million (£3.37bn) in licence fees collected from householders.
  • £719.6M from BBC Commercial Businesses.
  • £283.6M from government grants.
  • £42.8M from other income, such as providing content to overseas broadcasters and concert ticket sales.

The licence fee has, however, attracted criticism. It has been argued that in an age of multi stream, multi-channel availability, an obligation to pay a licence fee is no longer appropriate. The BBC's use of private sector company Capita Group to send letters to premises not paying the licence fee has been criticised, especially as there have been cases where such letters have been sent to premises which are up to date with their payments, or do not require a TV licence.[27] The BBC uses an advertising campaign to inform customers of the requirement to pay the licence fee. These letters and adverts have been criticised by Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Ann Widdecombe, for having a threatening nature and language used to scare evaders into paying.[28][29] Audio clips and television broadcasts are used to inform listeners of the BBC's comprehensive database.[30] There are a number of pressure groups campaigning on the issue of the licence fee.[31]


The BBC gave two forms of expenditure statement for the financial year 2005-2006.

The amount of each licence fee spent monthly[32] breaks down as follows:

Department Monthly cost (GBP)
BBC ONE £3.52
BBC TWO £1.52
Transmission and collection costs £1.08
Nations and English Regions television £1.04
BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and Five Live £1.02
Digital television channels £1.00
Nations' and local radio 68p
BBC Online 36p
BBC jam 14p
Digital radio stations 10p
Interactive TV (BBC Red Button) 8p
Total £10.54

The total broadcasting spend for 2005-2006[33] is given as:

Department Total cost (£million)
Television 1443
Radio 218
BBC Online 72
BBC jam 36
Interactive TV (BBCi) 18
Local radio and regional television 370
Programme related spend 338
Overheads and Digital UK 315
Restructuring 107
Transmission and collection costs 320
Total 3237

Headquarters and regional offices

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BBC Headquarters, Broadcasting House London,Portland Place.

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BBC Northern Ireland Headquarters on Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London, England, UK is the official headquarters of the BBC. It is home to three of the ten BBC national radio networks. They are BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and BBC 7. On the front of the building are statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) sculpted by Eric Gill.

Renovation of Broadcasting House began in 2002 and is scheduled for completion in 2012. As part of a major reorganisation of BBC property, the entire BBC News operation is expected to relocate from the News Centre at BBC Television Centre to the refurbished Broadcasting House to create what is being described as "one of the world's largest live broadcast centres".[34] Following completion Broadcasting House will also be home to most of the BBC's national radio stations, and the BBC World Service. The major part of this plan involves the demolition of the two post-war extensions to the building and construction of an extension[35] designed by Sir Richard MacCormac.

By far the largest concentration of BBC staff in the UK exists in White City. Well-known buildings in this area include the BBC Television Centre, White City, Media Centre, Broadcast Centre and Centre House.

As well as the two main sites in London (Broadcasting House and White City), there are six other major BBC production centres in the UK: Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol. Some of these centres are also called also known as "Broadcasting House". There are also many smaller local and regional studios scattered throughout the UK.

In 2011, the BBC is planning to move several departments including BBC Sport and BBC Children's north to newly built premises in Salford Quays, Greater Manchester.[36] This will mark a major decentralisation of the Corporation's operations from London.




The back of the BBC Birmingham headquarters in The Mailbox.

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BBC Scotland's and BBC Alba's HQ in Glasgow.

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BBC Yorkshire headquarters in Leeds.

In the UK, BBC One and BBC Two are the BBC's flagship television channels. Several digital only stations are also broadcast: BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News Channel, BBC Parliament, and two children's channels, CBBC and CBeebies. Digital television is now in widespread use in the UK, with analogue transmission being phased out by December 2012.[37]

BBC One is a regionalised TV service which provides opt-outs throughout the day for local news and other local programming. These variations are more pronounced in the BBC 'Nations', i.e. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where the presentation is mostly carried out locally on BBC One and Two. BBC Two variations within England are currently rare, though most regions still have the ability to 'opt out' of the main feed, albeit on analogue only. BBC Two was also the first channel to be transmitted on 625 lines in 1964, then carry a small-scale regular colour service from 1967. BBC One would follow in December 1969.

A new Scottish Gaelic television channel, BBC Alba, was launched in September 2008. It is also the first multi-genre channel to come entirely from Scotland with almost all of its programmes made in Scotland. The service is currently only available via satellite and cable television.

In the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands, the BBC channels are available in a number of ways. In both countries digital and cable operator carry a range of BBC channels these include BBC One, BBC Two and BBC World News, although viewers in the Republic of Ireland may receive BBC services via 'overspill' from transmitters in Northern Ireland or Wales, or via 'deflectors' - transmitters in the Republic which rebroadcast broadcasts from the UK, received off-air, or from Digital Satellite.

From 9 June 2006, the BBC began a 6-12 month trial of High-definition television broadcasts under the name BBC HD. The corporation has been producing programmes in the format for many years, and states that it hopes to produce 100% of new programmes in HDTV by 2010.[38]

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 two dedicated TV channels.

In 2008, the BBC began experimenting with live streaming of certain channels in the UK, and in November 2008, all standard BBC television channels were made available to watch online.[39]


The BBC has five major national stations:

  • Radio 1 ("the best new music and entertainment")
  • Radio 2 (the UK's most listened to radio station, with 12.9 million weekly listeners)[40]
  • Radio 3 (classical and jazz music)
  • Radio 4 (current affairs, factual, drama and comedy)
  • Radio 5 Live (24 hour news, sports and talk)

In recent years some further national stations have been introduced on digital radio platforms including Five Live Sports Extra (a companion to Five Live for additional events coverage), 1Xtra (for black, urban and gospel music), 6 Music (less mainstream genres of music), BBC 7 (comedy, drama & children's programming) and BBC Asian Network (British South Asian talk, music and news in English and in many South Asian languages), a station which had evolved from BBC Local Radio origins in the 1970s and still is broadcast on Medium Wave frequencies in some parts of England. In addition the BBC World Service is now also broadcast nationally in the UK on DAB.

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 (Nations' radio) 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.

For a worldwide audience, the BBC produces the BBC World Service funded by the Foreign Office, which is broadcast worldwide on shortwave radio, and on DAB Digital Radio in the UK. The World Service is a major source of news and information programming and can be received in 150 capital cities worldwide, with a weekly audience estimate of 163 million listeners worldwide. The Service currently broadcasts in 33 languages and dialects (including English), though not all languages are broadcast in all areas.[41]

In 2005, the BBC announced that it would substantially reduce its radio broadcasting in Thai language (closed in 2006)[42] and Eastern European languages and divert resources instead to a new Arabic language satellite TV broadcasting station (including radio and online content) in the Middle East to be launched in 2007.[43]

Since 1943, the BBC has also provided radio programming to the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which broadcasts in countries where British troops are stationed.

All of the national, local, and regional BBC radio stations, as well as the BBC World Service, are available over the Internet in the RealAudio streaming format. In April 2005, the BBC began trials offering a limited number of radio programmes as podcasts.[44]

Historically, the BBC was the only (legal) radio broadcaster based in the UK mainland until 1967, when University Radio York (URY), then under the name Radio York, was launched as the first (and now oldest) legal independent radio station in the country. However, the BBC did not enjoy a complete monopoly before this as several Continental stations (such as Radio Luxembourg) broadcast programmes in English to Britain since the 1930s and the Isle of Man based Manx Radio began in 1964.

BBC Radio 1 is carried in the United States and Canada on XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.


BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world,[45] providing services to BBC domestic radio as well as television networks such as the BBC News, BBC Parliament and BBC World News, as well as BBC Red Button, 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.

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Weekly reach of all the BBC's services in the UK[46]

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Weekly reach of the BBC's five national analogue radio stations[46]

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Weekly reach of the BBC's domestic television services[46]

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BBC Television Centre at White City, West London.

Ratings figures suggest that during major crises such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings or a royal funeral, the UK audience overwhelmingly turns to the BBC's coverage as opposed to its commercial rivals.[47] On 7 July 2005, the day that there were a series of coordinated bomb blasts on London's public transport system, the BBC Online website recorded an all time bandwidth peak of 11 Gb/s at 12:00 on 7 July. BBC News received some 1 billion total hits on the day of the event (including all images, text and HTML), serving some 5.5 terabytes of data. At peak times during the day there were 40,000 page requests per second for the BBC News website. The previous day's announcement of the 2012 Olympics being awarded to London caused a peak of around 5 Gbit/s. The previous all time high at BBC Online was caused by the announcement of the Michael Jackson verdict, which used 7.2 Gbit/s.[48]

Attitudes toward the BBC in popular culture

Older domestic UK audiences often refer to the BBC as "the Beeb", a nickname originally dubbed by Peter Sellers in The Goon Show in the 1950s, when he referred to the "Beeb Beeb Ceeb". It was then borrowed, shortened and popularised by Kenny Everett.[49] Another nickname, now less commonly used, is "Auntie", said to originate from the old-fashioned "Auntie knows best" attitude, (but possibly a sly reference to the 'aunties' and 'uncles' who were presenters of children's programmes in early days)[50] in the days when John Reith, the BBC's founder, was in charge. The two nicknames have also been used together as "Auntie Beeb",[51] and Auntie has been used in outtakes programmes such as Auntie's Bloomers.[52]

Criticism and controversies

Claimed Involvement in Operation Ajax

A BBC Radio 4 documentary in 2005 claimed that it had evidence that a radio newsreader inserted the word "exactly" into a midnight timecheck one summer night in 1953, a code word to the shah of Iran that Britain supported his plans for a coup. The shah had selected the word, the documentary said, and the BBC broadcast the word at the request of the government. Officially, the BBC has never acknowledged the code word plot. The BBC spokesman declined to comment on a possible connection.[53][54]

Allegations of bias

BBC News forms a major department of the BBC, and regularly receives complaints of bias. Some groups accuse them of being overly left-wing, while others say they are too right-wing. The Centre for Policy Studies says that, "Since at least the mid-1980s, the BBC has often been criticised for a perceived bias against those on the centre-right of politics."[55] Similar allegations have been made by past and present employees such as Antony Jay,[56] former political editor Andrew Marr, North American editor Justin Webb,[57] former editor of the Today Programme Rod Liddle[58] and former correspondent Robin Aitken.[59] BBC executives would later submit to claims of systematic bias and "that the BBC is guilty of promoting Left-wing views".[60]

Accusations of a left-wing bias were often made against the BBC by members of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1980s. Norman Tebbit called the BBC the “Stateless Person’s Broadcasting Corporation” because of what he regarded as its unpatriotic and neutral coverage of the Falklands War and Peter Bruinvels called it the “Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation”. Thatcher did not agree with the Television licence, she wanted to deregulate British broadcasting and she regarded the BBC as overmanned and uncompetitive, as well as biased against her. Throughout the 1980s her government appointed more and more Conservatives to the Board of Governors of the BBC. Steve Barnett noted in the Observer that "back in 1980, George Howard, the hunting, shooting and fishing aristocratic pal of Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw, was appointed [BBC chairman] because Margaret Thatcher couldn't abide the thought of distinguished Liberal Mark Bonham-Carter being promoted from vice-chairman. "Then there was Stuart Young, accountant and brother of one of Thatcher's staunchest cabinet allies, who succeeded Howard in 1983. He was followed in 1986 by Marmaduke Hussey, brother-in-law of another Cabinet Minister who was plucked from the obscurity of a directorship at Rupert Murdoch's Times Newspapers. According to Norman Tebbit, then Tory party chairman, Hussey was appointed 'to get in there and sort the place out, and in days not months.' " (Steve Barnett, 'Right man, right time, for all the right reasons', Observer, September 23, 2001)[61]. But controversies continued with the likes of the Nationwide general election special with Thatcher in 1983, a Panorama documentary called Maggie's Militant Tendency, the Real Lives interview with Martin McGuinness, the BBC’s coverage of the United States’ Bombing of Libya and the Zircon affair. In 1987 the Director-General of the BBC, Alasdair Milne, was forced to resign. Thatcher later said: “I have fought three elections against the BBC and don’t want to fight another against it.” [62] In 2006 Tebbit said: "The BBC was always against Lady Thatcher.” [63]

By contrast, left-wing figures such as the journalist John Pilger have frequently accused the BBC of a right-wing bias, a view supported by the left-wing website Media Lens. Websites such as Media Lens claim that the BBC acts to narrow the range of thought and like most commercial broadcasters it inherently portrays the opinions of the powerful [64]. This echoes the famous statement of the first Director General of the BBC (Lord Reith), who confided to his diary in the midst of the 1926 general strike. The cabinet had decided not to take over the BBC. Reith noted that the decision was really a "negative one" because "they know they can trust us not to be really impartial". Since that time UK news has very rarely departed from the assumptions implicit in that judgment[65]. More recently, former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC for government bias and of maintaining the status quo in British politics[66]. The Respect MP George Galloway has referred to it as the "Bush and Blair Corporation".[67]


Criticism of the BBC's Middle East coverage from both sides, including allegations of anti-Israeli bias, led the BBC to commission an investigation and report from a senior broadcasting journalist Malcolm Balen, referred to as the Balen Report which was completed in 2004. The BBC's refusal to release the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the basis that the report fell outside of the Act's scope as it was held for the purposes of journalism has led to a long running legal case which continues.[68][69] This led to speculation that the report was damning, as well as to accusations of hypocrisy as the BBC frequently made use itself of Freedom of Information Act requests when researching news stories.[70]

After the Balen report and consequent reforms, the BBC appointed an independent panel to write a report for publication which was completed in 2006. The panel said that there was little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias in the BBC's reporting of the Middle East but that their coverage was sometimes inconsistent and did not always provide a complete picture, which was misleading.[70] It suggested that in fact BBC coverage implicitly favoured the Israeli side.[71] Writing in the Financial Times, Philip Stephens, one of the panellists, later accused the BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, of misrepresenting the panel's conclusions. He further opined "My sense is that BBC news reporting has also lost a once iron-clad commitment to objectivity and a necessary respect for the democratic process. If I am right, the BBC, too, is lost."[72] Mark Thompson published a rebuttal in the FT the next day.[73]

The BBC has lately been accused of publishing disproportionate articles on Israel compared to the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian groups. In 2007, there were over "1,500 and mortar attacks targeting civilian populations" in southern Israel resulting in "one strike every 10 hours." It was discovered that BBC only published six articles on rocket attacks during that entire year. It was reported that stories about Palestinian attacks never "directly named" the party responsible. However, reports on Israeli attacks almost "always portrayed" the country as the "aggressor," while Palestinians are "absolved of responsibility for violent actions and terrorism."[citation needed] In a study examining BBC's coverage of Israel-Palestinian conflict, it was concluded that 63% of articles addressing Israeli military operations, the headline were much more clear and explicit, regardless of whether the action was a responsive or defensive measure.[74]

[citation needed]

The Daily Telegraph criticized the BBC for its coverage of the Middle East, writing: "In its international and domestic news reporting, the corporation has consistently come across as naïve and partial, rather than sensitive and unbiased. Its reporting of Israel and Palestine, in particular, tends to underplay the hate-filled Islamist ideology that inspires Hamas and other factions, while never giving Israel the benefit of the doubt."[75]

While the BBC received accusations of bias, both for and against Israel, for its coverage of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, it received particularly intense criticism in January 2009 for its decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies. Many parties criticised the decision, including Church of England archbishops, British government ministers and even some BBC employees. More than 11,00 complaints were filed in a three-day span.[76] Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, protested BBC's decision by canceling interviews scheduled with the company; ElBaradei claimed the refusal to air the aid appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong."[77]


The BBC has received criticism in recent times over its coverage of the events leading up to the war in Iraq.[78] The controversy over what it described as the "sexing up" of the case for war in Iraq by the government, led to the BBC being heavily criticised by the Hutton Inquiry,[79] although this finding was much disputed by the British press.[80]


In August 2007 Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price highlighted what he perceived as a lack of a Welsh focus on BBC news broadcasts.[81] Price threatened to withhold future television licence fees in response to a lack of thorough news coverage of Wales, echoing a BBC Audience Council for Wales July report citing public frustration over how the Welsh Assembly is characterised in national media.[82] Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins agreed with Price and called for responsibility for broadcasting to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly, voicing similar calls from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.[81] Criticism of the BBC's news coverage for Wales and Scotland since devolution prompted debate of possibly providing evening news broadcasts with specific focus for both countries.[81]


In 2008, the BBC was criticised by some for referring to the terrorists who carried out the November 2008 Mumbai attacks as mere "gunmen".[83] Hindu groups in the United Kingdom have accused the BBC of anti-Hindu bigotry and whitewashing Islamist hate groups that demonize the British Indian minority.[84]. Writing for The Hindu Business Line, reporter Premen Addy criticizes the BBC's reportage on South Asia.[85]. In protest of the biased coverage of the BBC, journalist Mobashar Jawed "M.J." Akbar has refused to speak on the BBC about the Mumbai terror attacks.[86] British parliamentarian Stephen Pound has supported these claims, referring to the BBC's whitewashing of the terror attacks as "the worst sort of mealy mouthed posturing. It is desperation to avoid causing offence which ultimately causes more offence to everyone."[83]

Writing for the 2008 edition of the peer-reviewed "Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television", Alasdair Pinkerton analyzes the coverage of India by the BBC since India's independence from British rule in 1947, till the year 2008. Pinkerton observes a tumultuous history involving allegations of anti-India bias in the BBC's reportage, particularly during the cold war, and concludes that the BBC's coverage of South Asian geopolitics and economics shows a pervasive and hostile anti-India bias due to the BBC's alleged imperialist and neo-colonialist stance.[87]

Writing on western media bias regarding South Asia in the journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, media analyst Ajai K. Rai strongly criticizes the BBC for anti-India bias. He writes that there is a total lack of depth or fairness in the BBC's reportage on conflict zones in South Asia, and that the BBC has, on one occasion, fabricated photographs while reporting on the Kashmir conflict in order to make India look bad.[88]

Other media venues


The BBC's online presence includes a comprehensive news website and archive. It was launched as BBC Online, before being renamed BBCi, then bbc.co.uk, before it was rebranded back as BBC Online. The website uses GeoIP technology and carries advertisements when viewed outside of the UK.[89] The BBC claims the site to be "Europe's most popular content-based site"[90] and states that 13.2 million people in the UK visit the site's more than two million pages each day.[91] According to Alexa's TrafficRank system, in July 2008 BBC Online was the 27th most popular English Language website in the world,[92] and the 46th most popular overall.[93]

A new version of the BBC website was launched in December 2007, with the new site enabling the user to customise the BBC's internet services to their own needs. This, on 28 February 2008, was made permanent.[94]

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 website sections relating to that programme. The site also allows users to listen to most Radio output live and for seven days after broadcast using the BBC iPlayer platform, which launched on 27 July 2007, and uses peer-to-peer and DRM technology to deliver both radio and TV content of the last seven days for offline use for up to 30 days. Also, through participation in the Creative Archive Licence group, bbc.co.uk allowed legal downloads of selected archive material via the internet.[95] As of February 2008 the BBC has also offered television programmes for download on Apple iTunes under the studio title "BBC Worldwide".

BBC Jam was a free online service, delivered through broadband and narrowband connections, providing high-quality interactive resources designed to stimulate learning at home and at school. Initial content was made available in January 2006 however BBC Jam was suspended on 20 March 2007 due to allegations made to the European Commission that it was damaging the interests of the commercial sector of the industry.[96]

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.[97] 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.[98] 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. bbc.co.uk will now attempt to fill in gaps in the market, and will guide users to other websites for currently existing market provision. (For example, 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.[99][100]

Interactive television

BBC Red Button is the brand name for the BBC's interactive digital television services, which are available through Freeview (digital terrestrial), as well as Sky Digital (satellite), and Virgin Media (cable). Unlike Ceefax, BBC Red Button is able to display full-colour graphics, photographs, and video, as well as programmes. Recent examples include the interactive sports coverage for football and rugby football matches and the 2008 Olympic Games, BBC Soundbites which starred young actress Jennifer Lynn and an interactive national IQ test, Test the Nation. All of the BBC's digital television stations, (and radio stations on Freeview), allow access to the BBC Red Button service.

As well as the 24/7 service, BBC Red Button provides viewers with over 100 interactive TV programmes every year, including news and weather.[101]

Commercial services

BBC Worldwide Limited is the wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC responsible for the commercial exploitation of BBC programmes and other properties, including a number of television stations throughout the world. The cable and satellite stations BBC Prime (in Europe, Africa the Middle East, and Asia), BBC America, BBC Canada (alongside BBC Kids), broadcast popular BBC programmes to people outside the UK, as does UK.TV (co-run with Foxtel and Fremantle Media) in Australasia. A similar service, BBC Japan, ceased broadcasts in April 2006 after its Japanese distributor folded.[102]

BBC Worldwide also runs a 24-hour news channel, BBC World News and co-runs, with Virgin Media, the UKTV network of stations in the UK, producers of amongst others UKTV Gold. In addition, BBC television news appears nightly on many Public Broadcasting Service stations in the United States, as do reruns of BBC programmes such as EastEnders, and in New Zealand on TV One.

BBC World News, its journalism arm, has bases or correspondents in more than 200 countries and, as officially surveyed, is available to more than 274 million households, though also possibly far more individual persons and groups than surveys can gather, and it is the oldest surviving entity of its kind. The BBC's reach is significantly more than CNN's estimated 200 million.

Many BBC programmes (especially documentaries) are sold via BBC Worldwide to foreign television stations, and comedy, documentaries and historical drama productions are popular on the international DVD market.[103]

BBC Worldwide also maintains the publishing arm of the BBC and it is the third-largest publisher of consumer magazines in the United Kingdom.[104] BBC Magazines, formerly known as BBC Publications, publishes the Radio Times (and published the now-defunct The Listener) as well as a number of magazines that support BBC programming such as BBC Top Gear, BBC Good Food, BBC Sky at Night, BBC History, BBC Wildlife and BBC Music.

BBC Worldwide also produces several branded channels available on satellite in Asia and India, including BBC Lifestyle, BBC Knowledge and BBC Entertainment. In December 2007, a Polish version of BBC Entertainment launched in Poland.

The BBC has traditionally played a major role in producing book and music tie-ins with its broadcast material. BBC Records produced soundtrack albums, talking books and material from radio broadcasts of music.

Between 2004 and 2006, BBC Worldwide owned the independent magazine publisher Origin Publishing.[105]

BBC Worldwide also licences and directly sells DVD and audio recordings of popular programmes to the public, most notably Doctor Who (including books and merchandise), and archive classical music recordings, initially as BBC Radio Classics and then BBC Legends.

BBC Worldwide also own the biggest travel guidebook and digital media publisher in the world, Lonely Planet.


The BBC runs orchestras and choirs, including the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Television Orchestra (1936-1939), the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Big Band, the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Chorus. Also many famous bands played at the BBC, such as The Beatles "The Beatles Live At the BBC" is one of their many albums.


The BBC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office jointly run BBC Monitoring, which monitors radio, television, the press and the internet worldwide.

In the 1980s, the BBC developed several PCs, most notably the BBC Micro.


Union membership is a private matter between staff and their chosen union: staff are not automatically covered by a union, but since the BBC is a large employer (in the media sector), membership numbers are considerable.[citation needed]

Staff at the BBC are normally represented by BECTU, along with journalistic staff by the NUJ and electrical staff by Amicus. Union membership is optional, and paid for by staff members and not by the BBC.

Cultural significance

Until the development, popularisation, and domination of television, radio was the broadcast medium upon which people in the United Kingdom relied. It "reached into every home in the land, and simultaneously united the nation, an important factor during the Second World War".[106] The BBC introduced the world's first "high-definition" 405-line television service in 1936, and apart from suspending service throughout World War II until 1946, was the only television broadcaster in the U.K. until 1955. "The BBC's monopoly was broken in 1955, with the introduction of Independent Television (ITV)",[107] This heralded the transformation of television into a popular and dominant medium. Nevertheless, "throughout the 1950s radio still remained the dominant source of broadcast comedy".[107] Further, the BBC was the only legal radio broadcaster until 1968 (when URY obtained their first licence).[108] Its cultural impact was therefore significant since the country had no choice for its information and entertainment from these two powerful media.[citation needed]

Even after the advent of commercial television and radio, the BBC has remained one of the main elements in British popular culture through its obligation to produce TV and radio programmes for mass audiences.[citation needed] However, the arrival of BBC2 allowed the BBC also to make programmes for minority interests in drama, documentaries, current affairs, entertainment and sport. Examples are cited such as I, Claudius, Civilisation, Tonight, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Doctor Who and Pot Black, but other examples can be given in each of these fields as shown by the BBC's entries in the British Film Institute's 2000 list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes.[109] Planet Earth is to this day the biggest selling Blu-Ray High Definition title around the world.[citation needed]

The BBC's putative objective of providing a service to the public, rather than just entertainment, has changed the public's perception in a wide range of subjects from health to natural history.[citation needed] The export of BBC programmes, the BBC World Service and BBC World have meant that BBC productions have also been experienced worldwide.

The term BBC English (Received Pronunciation) refers to the former use of Standard English with this accent. However, the organisation now makes more use of regional accents in order to reflect the diversity of the UK, though clarity and fluency are still expected of presenters.[110] From its 'starchy' beginnings, the BBC has also become more inclusive, and now attempts to accommodate the interests of all strata of society and all minorities, because they all pay the licence fee.[111]

Competition from Independent Television, Channel 4, Sky and other broadcast television stations, has lessened the BBC's reach, but it remains a major influence on British popular culture.[citation needed] Many popular everyday sayings are derived from BBC-produced television shows.[citation needed]

See also

x28px BBC portal
  • British television
  • Criticism of the BBC
  • Early television stations
  • Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland
  • List of television programmes broadcast by the BBC
  • Public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom
  • Stations of the BBC
  • The Green Book


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  • Briggs, Asa. - The BBC - The First Fifty Years - Condensed version of the five-volume history by the same author. - Oxford University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-19-212971-6
  • Coulton, Barbara. - Louis MacNeice in the BBC - Writer and producer from 1941 to 1961 in the Features Department of BBC radio. - Faber & Faber, 1980. ISBN 0-571-11537-3
  • 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 before World War II and offshore during the 1960s. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press, Romania. 2003. ISBN 973-651-596-6
  • 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 0-340-49750-5
  • 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 0-7867-1041-1
  • 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
  • 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
  • West, W.J. - Truth Betrayed a critical assessment of the BBC, London, 1987, ISBN 0-7156-2182-3
  • Wilson, H.H. - Pressure Group - History of the political fight to introduce commercial television into the United Kingdom. - Rutgers University Press, 1961.

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