The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 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 2: BBC Radio Newcastle launches.
  • April 4: BBC Radio’s sports coverage transfers from BBC Radio 3 to BBC Radio 2.
  • September 10: BBC Radio Manchester launches.
  • September 14: Robert Dougall presents the first edition of the BBC Nine O’Clock News. The programme, launched in response to ITN‘s News at Ten, was controversially moved to 10pm in 2000.
  • September: BBC Radio Bristol launches.
  • October 6: BBC Radio London launches
  • October 29: BBC Radio Oxford launches.
  • November 9: BBC Radio Birmingham launches.
  • December 18: BBC Radio Medway launches.
  • December 31: BBC Radio Solent and BBC Radio Teesside launch.


  • The BBC logo’s boxes rounds off the corners and increases the spaces.
  • The first programmes for the Open University are broadcast.
  • January 26: BBC Radio Blackburn launches.
  • February 25: BBC Radio Humberside launches.
  • April 29: BBC Radio Derby launches.


  • April 4: The first edition of Newsround is broadcast.
  • August 25: When the government restricted the BBC to twenty local radio stations, the corporation responds by closing BBC Radio Durham. Its resources are transferred to Carlisle where BBC Radio Carlisle, now BBC Radio Cumbria, was formed.
  • October 2: The first edition of daytime lunchtime magazine programme Pebble Mill at One is broadcast.
  • November 4: Radios 2 and 4 begin broadcasting in stereo in South East England. Stereo was rolled out to the rest of the country over subsequent years.


  • January 4: The pilot episode of Last of the Summer Wine airs.
  • September 10: Newsbeat bulletins air on BBC Radio 1 for the first time.
  • November 12: The regular series of Last of the Summer Wine begins and becomes the longest-running sitcom in the world, running for 37 years.
  • November 24: BBC Radio Carlisle launches.


  • April 1: BBC Radio Teesside is renamed BBC Radio Cleveland.
  • September 23: Teletext service Ceefax goes live.
  • December: The BBC 1 Mirror globe changes colour from blue on black to yellow on blue.


  • January 1: BBC Radio Ulster is launched.


  • September: The credits of each programme produced by the BBC reveals the copyrighted years in roman numerals for the first time.


  • January 3: BBC Radio Cymru is launched.
  • May: BBC Radio Orkney and BBC Radio Shetland launch as opt-out stations from BBC Radio Scotland.
  • December 25: The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show on BBC 1 attracts an audience of more than 28 million, one of the highest ever in UK television history.


  • The BBC organises its first Young Musician of the Year competition.
  • May 24: Nationwide airs the famous Skateboarding duck report.
  • November 23:
    • All BBC national radio stations change their medium or long wave transmission wavelength as part of a plan for BBC AM broadcasting in order to improve national AM reception, and to conform with the Geneva Frequency Plan of 1975.
    • The Shipping Forecast transfers from BBC Radio 2 to BBC Radio 4 so that the forecast can continue to be broadcast on long wave.
    • The Radio 4 UK Theme is used for the first time to coincide with the network becoming a fully national service for the first time and to underline this the station officially becomes known as Radio 4 UK, a title that remains until mid 1984.
  • November – Due to Radio 4‘s transfer from medium wave to long wave, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Wales launch as full time stations on Radio 4’s former Scottish and Welsh medium wave opt-out wavelengths, albeit initially with very limited broadcast hours due to very limited coverage of BBC Radio 4 on FM in both countries.
  • December 21-22: The BBC is crippled by its most famous 24-hour strike, which leads to record viewing figures for ITV.


  • January 27: BBC Radio 2 closes down for the last time.
  • March 1: BBC2 unveils its computer generated ident, the first computer-generated ident in the world. The second such ident is unveiled by US broadcaster NBC.
  • August 27: The murder of Lord Mountbatten by the IRA sets a record audience of 26 million for a news bulletin. Strike action at ITN led to the record viewing figures.
  • September 11: BBC Radio Foyle launches as an opt-out station from BBC Radio Ulster.
  • September 25: The first edition of Question Time is broadcast.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1980s 1990s