On October 18, 1922, the General Post Office of Great Britain together with 6 telecommunication companies founded a company with the intention to broadcast radio programs. The British Broadcasting Company Ltd. BBC’s, or BBC, first started transmitting programs on November 14, 1922 using facilities of 2LO, one of London’s stations. John Reith, one of the co-founders of the company was the first general manager of the BBC.
In 1923, in order to fund its broadcasts, the management of BBC wanted to telecast advertisements, but Sykes Committee debarred the company the right of using advertising reasoning with the claim that it would be a sign of low standards of the company. A license fee of 10 shillings was to be introduced thus being the source of funding for the broadcasts (News.bbc.co.uk, 2002).
Gradually, the BBC became a serious competition to the newspapers. Officials from Fleet Street, home of the British press convinced the government that news programs were to be broadcast after 7 pm. Besides, the BBC was allowed only to broadcast news from other sources instead of news programs of its own production. In 1925, about 80 percent of the population of Great Britain was able to watch BBC’s programs. The broadcasting company managed to achieve this by building a network of regional stations. Five years later, programs from London were on the air in different regions instead of local radio stations’ broadcasts.
General Post Office, as one of the founders of BBC, did not want to introduce the license fee for broadcasting, which led to financial losses of the company. One of the co-founders refused to participate further in the consortium. Later, the BBC’s general manager John Reith managed to get help from another committee headed by the Earl of Crawford. His idea was to delegate administrative services of the company to a new administrative entity that would not depend on the government or corporations (News.bbc.co.uk, 2002).
During the general strike of 1926, when newspaper publishing was hampered, the BBC managed to broadcast news programs of its own. Millions of radio listeners were impressed by the fact how balanced was the BBC’s representation of the points of view of both sides involved in the strike. The Crawford Committee finally persuaded the government to form a new administrative entity for BBC before the year of 1926 ended. Reith remained the general manager in the new British Broadcasting Corporation that, on January 1, 1927 became a successor of the old company (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
The BBC did not intend to remain only radio broadcasting corporation and, as an experiment, started television broadcasts in 1932. At that time, the corporation used the electromechanical 30-line, the brainchild of John Logie Baird. Two years later, this system was used during the experimental regular broadcasts. In 1936, an expanded broadcast that now bears the name of the BBC Television Service used Baird’s both the mechanical and electronic system created by EMI. Later, it became obvious that EMI electronic system was far more superior to the mechanical one, so the latter was no longer used for the broadcasts.
The Second World War disrupted television broadcasting for almost 7 years from September 1, 1939, to June7, 1946. The BBC became one of the 23 broadcasting organizations that founded the European Broadcasting Union on February 12, 1950. It was obvious that such broadcasting corporation as the BBC would eventually face competition from other companies or networks. ITV, a commercial and independent network was founded in 1955 and became a competitor for the BBC (News.bbc.co.uk, 2002).
The BBC remained a monopolist among radio broadcasting companies until the 1970s. Quality and variety of the BBC’s broadcasts were not left unnoticed by the Pilkington Committee that compared two competing companies, the BBC and ITV, in its report. The report criticized ITV’s programming stating that its quality was not high enough. Thanks to this report, the BBC received a second television channel. The new channel was named BBC2 and the existing broadcasting service was renamed BBC1 in 1964.
Technically, BBC2 was more advanced and used the 625-line standard of higher resolution. July1, 1967 was the first day when BBC2’s programs were broadcast in color; BBC1 and ITV followed suit and started broadcasting in color on November 15, 1969. (Medianewsline.com, 2009). In 1964, pirating radio stations started their broadcasts. The government of Great Britain had to allow advertising on the national radio stations. The BBC responded to that by renaming and reorganizing radio channels; thus, four national channels appeared.
Radio 1 offered “popular” music non-stop while radio 2 offered “easy listening”. Fans of programs about culture and classical music could tune in to Radio 3. News, quiz shows, dramas, plays and other non-music related content could be heard on Radio 4. Besides establishing 4 national channels, the BBC also introduced local radio station in 1967. Radio London was among them (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
The year of 1974 was marked by the introduction of the new service – teletext or Ceefax. Its initial purpose was to provide subtitles, but later it evolved into a service that offered news and other interesting information. Many of those who liked BBC’s programs would surely remember Christmas time of 1978 when the company’s staff started a strike right before Christmas. The transmission of BBC1 and BBC2 was stopped, and BBC’s 4 radio stations were merged into one.
In the 1980s, the U.K.’s television as well as radio was subjected to the deregulation. Channel 4, though being a public service broadcaster but funded by advertisers, became a considerable competitor for the BBC. Since the 1980s, the company has faced increased competition on such services as satellite, cable and digital television (News.bbc.co.uk, 2002).
Many techniques used in recording were developed with the participation of the BBC Research Department. NICAM stereo standard was created by the BBC.
The British Broadcasting Corporation never stopped its development launching several of channels and radio stations in the recent ten or twenty years. Radio station “Radio 5” started working in 1990. Initially, it had to broadcast programs about sports and education, though, in 1994, it became “Radio 5 Live”. It was a station for news and sports broadcasts. In 1997, digital television services started broadcasting BBC News 24. The name of the channel spoke for itself – news and only news. The BBC launched the third channel for general entertainment, BBC Choice, in 1998 (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
The BBC Parliament and BBC Knowledge channels were among those channels launched at the end of the 1990s. BBC Knowledge was meant to be a multimedia channel with the educational purpose, but later on, it was modified and became a channel for documentaries. The beginning of the 21st century was marked by the reorganizations of several TV channels and radio stations (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
Former BBC Knowledge became BBC 4 offering to the television viewers documentaries and art in general. Two new channels branched from CBBC that since 1985 was a part of Children’s BBC. Both new channels, CBBC and CBeebies for the youngest children went digital. It was not only television channels that were created. Three radio stations in digital standard appeared in the family of the BBC’s radio stations. 1Xtra station was created to broadcast relevant black music, whereas BBC 6 Music’s audience were fans of alternative music. BBC7’s specialty was archive programming and programs for children.
During the following several years, some channels were subjected to repositioning and rebranding. In 2003, BBC Choice was turned into BBC Three that broadcast programs for teenagers and documentaries about real life events.
BBC News 24 was renamed into the BBC News Channel in 2008. In 2001, BBC Radio 7 became BBC Radio 4 Extra. As high-definition television is becoming a standard it is no wonder that the BBC starts broadcasting programs in HD. BBC HD experimental channel was launched in 2006, becoming an official channel in 2007 (in December). BBC One, Two, Three, and Four programs are simultaneously broadcasted on BBC HD simulcasts. The channel also broadcasts old programs in high definition (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
In October, 2007, an announcement from BBC Director General Mark Thompson caused a fierce reaction from the unions regarding serious cuts and reduction of the BBC’s size as an organization. According to Thompson, 2,500 positions would be cut, 1,800 redundancies would be among them. Programming output would be reduced by ten percent and news operations would be consolidated. The unions’ reaction was obvious – people were furious and threatened to start striking. The BBC insisted that these cuts were to be made for the organization to develop further and make quality programs as well as improve the quality of broadcasting.
The next stage of cuts was announced on October 6, 2011. The BBC planned the total reduction of the budget by 20 percent after the license fee was frozen in October, 2010. Two thousand people of staff was fired from their positions and 1000 more was sent to the development of MediaCityUk. More programs were shared among stations and channels just like radio news headlines were shared too. More repeats of older programs were scheduled for broadcasting, including BBC two-day time slot. The reduction of original programming was inevitable (Medianewsline.com, 2009).
The BBC closed the BBC HD channel replacing it with BBC Two simulcast in high definition. Nevertheless, the BBC keept its flagship programs, CBBC and CBeebies, channels for children were not subjected to cutting in programming and retained their funding (Pfanner, 2010). The BBC planned to sell numerous facilities of the corporation; New Broadcasting House in Manchester was be one of them. BBC’s departments were be divided between Broadcasting House and MediaCityUk. Many services remained at London’s BBC Television Center until 2016 at least.
The British Broadcasting Corporation does not stop at the traditional means of broadcasting information via television and radio. The corporation is presented on the Internet, as well. The comprehensive news and archive website initially was launched as BBC Online. The site underwent several renames, first to BBCi from BBC Online, then it was bbc.co.uk, and finally the site received its original name BBC Online.
The funding of the website comes from the License fee, when the site is viewed from countries other than the UK the GeoIP, system allows advertisements to be displayed on the site (Pfanner, 2010). According to the BBC, the site is most popular content-based site in the whole Europe. More than 13.2 million people in the UK see every day two million pages on the site alone. The heart of the website is its Homepage featured as a modular layout. Users can customize the page choosing what modules with what information they want to see on the homepage. The first launch of the system took place in December, 2007, and 2 months later, it became permanent. Since then, only some changes in the aesthetics of the site were made (Pfanner, 2010).
The links from the Homepage lead to other micro-sites. They are BBC News Online, Sport, Weather, Radio and TV. Every program on BBC Television or Radio has a page of its own while micro-sites are made for the bigger programs. Quite often, viewers and listeners of BBC’s programs are told the URL addresses for the website of the programs they watch or listen to.
Users can also watch and listen to most Television and Radio programs in the real-time. Besides, if they want to watch or listen to some program once again, it can be done for seven days after the broadcast. BBC’s iPlayer platform allows doing this. First, this platform was introduced on July 27, 2007. Initially, the radio and content was delivered via peer-to-peer and DRM technology. The last seven days of the content were available for offline use for up to a month. Since then, the video is streamed. Since bbc.co.uk was a participant of the Creative Archive License group, legal downloads for some material were allowed (Pfanner, 2010).
Many times the BBC has included the element of learning into its online service. Such services as BBC Jam, Learning Zone-Class Clips included educational elements. BBC’s WebWise and First Click services are meant to help people learn the basics of Internet use (Pfanner, 2010). BBC Jam, an educational and free online service provided interactive resources of high quality. This was done with the aim to make learning at home and school more interesting and exciting. The online service worked for a little more than a year before the suspension from the European Commission. The service allegedly was damaging the interests of the industry’s commercial sector (Pfanner, 2010).
There have been complaints from some big Internet companies and politicians regarding excessive funding of BBC Online from the television license. The huge amount of content, which is free of advertising and is available on BBC Online makes it impossible for other websites to compete with BBC Online.
There have been some opinions regarding the funding of BBC Online that proposed to reduce the funding of BBC Online with the money coming from license fee. It was proposed to get funding for the site from advertisements or subscription, another option was to reduce the amount of content on the site. The BBC did not leave these allegations unanswered planning to change the way of providing its online services (Pfanner, 2010).
From now on, BBC Online will try to guide users to the outside sites with information that they need. For example, BBC Online will not provide information about local events and their schedule; instead users will be directed to outside websites with that information (Pfanner, 2010).
BBC has also created interactive digital television services with the brand name BBC Red Button (News.bbc.co.uk, 2001). These services are available through many channels - Freeview (digital terrestrial), Freesat, Sky (satellite), and Virgin Media (cable). Unlike BBC’s teletext Ceefax, its modern counterpart BBC Red Button is able to display graphics, photographs (all of this in full-color), video and programs. This service is accessed from any BBC channel. Not only does the service provides the viewers with twenty four hours coverage of news, weather and sports, but the viewers are also able to get extra features that are related to programs being broadcast specifically at that time.
The viewers in front of their TVs can play along to quiz and game shows, and they can also vote on different issues and express their opinions. Sometimes, multiple sports events coincide in time and Red Button allows the coverage of less popular sports events or games during more popular events on TV. Another example of the added features to the programs being broadcast at that time would be the broadcast of the Doctor Who animated episode Dreamland in November, 2009 (News.bbc.co.uk, 2001).