The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 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 BBC.com, 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”.


1950

  • May 21Lime Grove television studios open.
  • August 27: First live television from the European continent, using BBC outside broadcast equipment.

1951

  • January 1: First broadcast of The Archers, now the world’s longest-running soap opera.
  • October 12: Television extends to the north of England following the switching on of the Holme Moss transmitting station.

1952

  • March 14: Television becomes available in Scotland for the first time following the switching on of the Kirk o’Shotts transmitting station.
  • August 15: Television becomes available in Wales for the first time following the switching on of the Wenvoe transmitting station.

1953

  • May 1: Television becomes available in Northern Ireland for the first time although initially from a temporary transmitter, brought into service in time for the Queen’s Coronation. A permanent mast at Divis is brought into service in 1955.
  • June 2 The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey is televised by the BBC and watched live by an estimated audience of 20 million people in the United Kingdom.
  • November 11: The first edition of Panorama is presented by Daily Mail reporter Pat Murphy. Panorama is the world’s longest-running current affairs programme and retains a peak-time slot to this day.
  • Watch With Mother, the iconic pre-schoolers strand, debuts. It was replaced with the see saw branding in 1975.

1954

  • January 11: The very first in-vision weather forecast is broadcast, presented by George Cowling. Previously, weather forecasts had been read by an off-screen announcer with a weather map filling the entire screen.
  • July 5: BBC newsreader Richard Baker reads the first televised BBC News bulletin.
  • December 30: The first BBC Sports Personality of the Year award takes place.

1955

  • May 2: The BBC begins broadcasting its radio service on VHF (FM), using the Wrotham transmitter.
  • SeptemberKenneth Kendall becomes the BBC’s first in-vision newsreader, followed by Richard Baker and Robert Dougall.
  • October 10: Alexandra Palace begins test transmissions of a 405-line colour television service.

1956

  • March 28: Television transmissions begin from the new Crystal Palace site in south London.

1957

  • The first broadcast of Test Match Special takes place, providing listeners with ball-by-ball cricket commentary for the first time.
  • April 24: The Sky at Night, a monthly astronomy programme presented by Sir Patrick Moore, is first broadcast.
  • September 24: The first programmes for schools are broadcast.
  • September: The first broadcasts of regional news bulletins took place.
  • September 30: Launch of Network Three, a strand of adult-education broadcasts transmitted on the frequencies of the Third Programme in the early part of weekday evenings.
  • December 25: First TV broadcast of the Queen’s Christmas Day message.

1958

  • BBC_logo_(50s-60s).svgThe BBC introduces a new 3 box system logo. The logo featured slanted lettering within upright boxes.
  • May 5: First experimental transmissions of a 625-line television service.
  • October 10: First broadcast of the United Kingdom’s multi-sport television show Grandstand.
  • October 16: First broadcast of the United Kingdom’s longest-running children’s television show Blue Peter.

1959

  • The BBC North East and Cumbria region is created with localised bulletins from Newcastle-upon-Tyne aired for the first time. Previously, the area was part of a pan-Northern region based in Manchester.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s