The BBC in the…
1920s 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”.


  • March 9: The majority of the BBC’s existing radio stations are regrouped to form the BBC National Programme and the BBC Regional Programme.
  • July 14: Transmission of the first experimental television play, The Man With the Flower in His Mouth.
  • September 30: Number of radio licences reaches 12 million “or roughly every second home in the country”.


  • June 2: First live outside broadcast with transmission of The Derby.


  • March 15: The first radio broadcast is made from Broadcasting House.
  • May 15: Broadcasting House, the BBC’s headquarters and home to its main radio studios, is officially opened.
  • August 22: The first, experimental television broadcast is made from Broadcasting House.
  • December 19: The Empire Service (precursor of the World Service) launches, broadcasting on shortwave from Daventry’s Borough Hill.
  • December 25: King George V becomes the first monarch to deliver a Christmas Day message by radio, on the Empire Service.


  • November 2: The BBC opens the world’s first regular high-definition television service, from Alexandra Palace.


  • April 24: The very first children’s television show For the Children.
  • May 12: First use of TV outside broadcast van, to cover the procession that followed the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
  • June 21: The BBC broadcasts television coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for the first time.
  • September 16: The BBC makes the world’s first live television broadcast of a football match, a specially arranged local mirror match derby fixture between Arsenal and Arsenal reserves.


  • January 3: The BBC begins broadcasting its first foreign-language radio service, in Arabic.
  • April 30: The BBC broadcasts television coverage of the FA Cup for the first time.
  • September 27: Start of the European Service on radio, broadcasting in French, German and Italian. Portuguese and Spanish are added before the start of the Second World War.


  • Creation of BBC Monitoring
  • September 1: The BBC Television Service is suspended, about 20 minutes after the conclusion of a Mickey Mouse cartoon (Mickey’s Gala Premiere), owing to the imminent outbreak of the Second World War and amid fears that the VHF transmissions would act as perfect guidance beams for enemy bombers attempting to locate central London. Additionally, the service’s technicians and engineers will be needed for such war efforts as the development of radar. On radio, the National and Regional Programmes are combined to form a single Home Service.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1920s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s