The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 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”.


  • January 7: Start of the BBC Forces Programme on radio, precursor of the post-war Light Programme.
  • May 11: The BBC starts a news service in Hindi.


  • The BBC European Service moves to Bush House in Central London.


  • January 29: The first edition of Desert Island Discs is broadcast on the BBC Forces Programme.


  • February 27: BBC General Forces Programme replaces the BBC Forces Programme (also broadcast on shortwave).


  • July 29: Regional radio programming resumes on the Home Service (on the same medium-wave frequencies as used pre-war by the Regional Programme), while on the same day a new Light Programme begins, using the long-wave frequency of the pre-war National Programme.
  • October 9: The first edition of Today in Parliament is broadcast.


  • June 7: BBC Television broadcasts (405 lines) resume after the war including the coverage of cricket and Wimbledon Tennis. One of the first programmes shown is the Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1939.
  • September 29: The Third Programme starts broadcasting on radio.


  • October 7: Adelaide Hall singing at a RadiOlympia variety show is the oldest surviving telerecorded programme in Britain.
  • November 9: First use of telerecording of an outside broadcast: the Service of Remembrance from the Cenotaph is televised live, and a telerecording shown that evening.
  • November 20: The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh is televised by the BBC. It is watched by an estimated 400,000 viewers.


  • July 29: The London Olympic Games is televised.
  • December 26: The first Reith Lecture is broadcast on radio.


  • December 17: For the first time television extends beyond London when the Sutton Coldfield transmitter starts broadcasting, providing television reception across the Midlands.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s