The BBC in the…
1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London and it is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

The BBC is established under a Royal Charter and operates under its Agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee which is charged to all British households, companies, and organisations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts and iPlayer catch-up. The fee is set by the British Government, agreed by Parliament, and used to fund the BBC’s radio, TV, and online services covering the nations and regions of the UK.

Around a quarter of BBC revenues come from its commercial arm BBC Studios Ltd (formerly BBC Worldwide), which sells BBC programmes and services internationally and also distributes the BBC’s international 24-hour English-language news services BBC World News, and from, provided by BBC Global News Ltd.

From its inception, through the Second World War (where its broadcasts helped to unite the nation), to the 21st century, the BBC has played a prominent role in British culture. It has also been known as “The Beeb”, and “Auntie”.


June, 1920: Britain’s first live public broadcast from the Marconi factory in Chelmsford featured the famous Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba. The Melba broadcast caught the people’s imagination and marked a turning point in the British public’s attitude to radio. By 1922, the licensing agency, the General Post Office (GPO) had received nearly 100 broadcast licence requests and moved to rescind its ban on similar broadcasts in the wake of a petition by 63 wireless societies with over 3,000 members. The GPO proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures, to be known as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd.


  • October 18: The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is formed.
  • November 14: First BBC broadcasts from London (station 2LO).
  • November 15: First broadcasts from Birmingham (station 5IT) and Manchester (station 2ZY).
  • December: John Reith, a Scottish Calvinist, was appointed its General Manager a few weeks after the company made its first official broadcast. The company was to be financed by a royalty on the sale of BBC wireless receiving sets from approved manufacturers. To this day, the BBC aims to follow the Reithian directive to “inform, educate and entertain”.
  • December 24: First broadcast from Newcastle upon Tyne (station 5NO).


  • January 8: First outside broadcast, the British National Opera Company’s production of The Magic Flute from Covent Garden.
  • January 18: The UK Postmaster General grants the BBC a licence to broadcast.
  • February 13: First broadcast from Cardiff (station 5WA).
  • March 6: First broadcast from Glasgow (station 5SC).
  • June 6: Edgar Wallace makes a report on The Derby, thus becoming the first British radio sports reporter.
  • September 28: First publication of the Radio Times listings magazine (price 2d).
  • October 10: First broadcast from Aberdeen (station 2BD).
  • October 17: First broadcast from Bournemouth (station 6BM).
  • November 16: First broadcast from Sheffield (relay station 2FL).


  • March 28: First broadcast from Plymouth (relay station 5PY).
  • April 23: First broadcast by King George V, opening the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium.
  • May 1: First broadcast from Edinburgh (relay station 2EH).
  • June 11: First broadcast from Liverpool (relay station 6LV).
  • July 8: First broadcast from Leeds and Bradford (relay station 2LS).
  • July 21: An experimental long-wave station (5XX) is established at the Chelmsford works of the Marconi Company.
  • August 15: First broadcast from Kingston upon Hull (relay station 6KH).
  • September 14: First broadcast from Belfast (station 2BE).
  • September 16: First broadcast from Nottingham (relay station 5NG).
  • October 21: First broadcast from Stoke-on-Trent (relay station 6ST).
  • November 12: First broadcast from Dundee (relay station 2DE).
  • December 12: First broadcast from Swansea (relay station 5SX).


  • July 27: Long-wave station 5XX moves from Chelmsford to Daventry and becomes the first British radio station to achieve near national coverage: the first step in the establishment of the BBC National Programme.


  • May 4: The General strike (May 3 – May 12, 1936). The BBC broadcasts five news bulletins a day as no newspapers and Radio Times are published.

Company becomes Corporation


  • January 1: The British Broadcasting Company becomes the British Broadcasting Corporation, when it is granted a Royal Charter. Sir John Reith becomes the first Director-General.
  • January 15: First live sports broadcast on the BBC. The rugby union international England v Wales is commented on by Teddy Wakelam.
  • January 22: First live football match broadcast, featuring Arsenal’s home league fixture against Sheffield United from Highbury.
  • January: First BBC reference library established by Florence Milnes.
  • March: The BBC coat of arms is adopted.
  • July 7: Christopher Stone presents a record programme, becoming the first British disc-jockey.
  • August 21:  The first high-powered regional station (5GB), forerunner of the Midland Regional Programme, opens at Daventry.


  • January 2: The first edition of The Daily Service is broadcast. It was originally called A Short Religious Service but was renamed The Daily Service in July.


  • August 20: First transmissions of John Logie Baird’s experimental 30-line television system.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s