The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 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 28: Newsnight is launched.
  • February: BBC Radio Deeside is launched as an opt-out service from BBC Radio Wales.
  • March: The very first in-vision Ceefax transmissions are broadcast. Three 30-minute transmissions are aired at various points during weekday daytime downtime.
  • August: Apart from in the south west, the regional news bulletins, broadcast in England on BBC Radio 4 four times a day, Monday to Saturday, end. They cease due to the continued expansion of BBC Local Radio.
  • September 8: Watchdog is launched as a weekly slot on BBC1‘s news magazine programme Nationwide.
  • September 11: BBC Radio Norfolk launches.
  • September: Regional peaktime continuity on BBC1 ends and with it the week night closedown regional news bulletin.
  • November 11: BBC Radio Lincolnshire launches.
  • November 21: The charity appeal Children in Need is launched.


  • May 17: Sunday Grandstand launches. It broadcasts during the summer months on BBC Two.
  • July 4: BBC Radio Blackburn expands to cover all of Lancashire and is renamed accordingly. Also in 1981 BBC Radio Birmingham expands to cover the West Midlands, South Staffordshire, north Worcestershire and north Warwickshire and is relaunched as BBC WM.
  • July 29: The Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer is produced by BBC Television & Radio with an audience of 750 million viewers and listeners in over 60 countries. Welsh Actor Richard Burton and Scottish writer, actor & royal expert Tom Fleming are among the commentators.
  • Autumn: BBC Micro is produced for BBC Computer Literacy Project.
  • September 4: The final edition of the Midday News is broadcast.
  • September 5: The BBC1 Mirror globe changes colour from yellow on blue to green on blue.
  • September 7: News After Noon is launched as a 30-minute lunchtime news programme, replacing the much shorter Midday News.
  • October: BBC Radio Deeside is expanded to cover all of north east Wales and is renamed BBC Radio Clwyd.
  • October 23: The last ever teatime block of Open University programmes are transmitted today. From the 1982 season, only a single Open University programme is aired, at 5.10pm ahead of the start of the channel’s evening programmes.


  • March 15 & 16: BBC Local Radio starts broadcasting to the Channel islands when BBC Radio Guernsey and BBC Radio Jersey launch.
  • May 1: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire launches.
  • May 25: BBC Radio Carlisle expands to cover all of Cumbria and is renamed accordingly and as part of the expansion, BBC Radio Furness launches as an opt-out service.
  • September: The BBC World Service becomes available to UK listeners for the first time, albeit only in south east England.
  • October 1: After 32 years on air, Listen with Mother is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 for the final time.
  • November 1: BBC-produced Welsh-language programming is transferred from BBC1 to the new S4C channel.
  • December 23: Service Information is broadcast for the final time.
  • December 31: Regional opt-out programming on BBC Radio 4 ends when the final edition of Morning Sou’West is broadcast, ahead of the launches of BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Cornwall.


  • January 17:
    • Breakfast Time, the UK’s first national breakfast television service, is launched, ahead of the ITV franchise TV-am, which follows on February 1.
    • BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Cornwall launch.
  • late February/early March: Shortly after the launch of Breakfast Time, the BBC begins broadcast a 30-minute Ceefax slot prior to the start of Breakfast Time. It is called Ceefax AM. It is first mentioned in the Radio Times on March 21.
  • April 18: BBC Radio Gwent launches as an opt-out service from BBC Radio Wales.
  • May 2: From today Pages from Ceefax is broadcast during all daytime downtime although BBC2 continues to fully close down for four hours after Play School. The broadcasts are still known as Ceefax in Vision and were not listed in the Radio Times until January 7, 1984 when they became known as Pages from Ceefax.
  • July 2: BBC Radio Medway is expanded to cover all of the county of Kent and is renamed accordingly.
  • July 4: BBC Radio York launches on a permanent basis – the station had been on air briefly the previous May to cover the visit to York of Pope John Paul II.
  • August 5: The final edition of Nationwide is broadcast.
  • September 16: BBC2 closes down during the day for the final time – all future daytime downtime is filled by Pages from Ceefax.
  • September 19: Programmes for schools and colleges are transferred to BBC2 and an all-day educational strand called Daytime on Two is launched. Consequently, the morning broadcast of Play School transfers to BBC1.
  • October 22: BBC Radio Brighton expands to cover all of Sussex and is renamed accordingly.
  • October 24: Sixty Minutes launches as the new evening news programme to replace Nationwide.


  • The BBC conducts five trials of citywide community stations in Greater Manchester. Each trial lasts for a few weeks and was on air for a few hours each day, opting out of BBC Radio Manchester. The experiment has not been repeated.
  • July 27: The final edition of Sixty Minutes is broadcast.
  • September 3: First broadcast of the BBC Six O’Clock News on BBC1, presented by Sue Lawley and Nicholas Witchell. The programme, which replaced the unpopular Sixty Minutes, continues to this day.
  • October 5: The last ever teatime Open University programme is broadcast on BBC2. However Open University programmes continue to be shown on BBC2 on weekday lunchtimes on an ad-hoc basis until 1988.
  • October 8: BBC2 launches a full afternoon service, consisting primarily of repeats of Dallas and old feature films.
  • December: BBC1 stops broadcasting a late night news summary.


  • January 3: The last day of transmission using the 405 lines system.
  • January 7: The BBC ends its experiment with afternoon broadcasting and, from this date, afternoon Pages from Ceefax is shown on BBC1 between the end of lunchtime programmes and the start of children’s programmes, and on BBC2, Ceefax pages are shown continuously between 9am and 5.25pm apart from when Daytime on Two is in season and when sporting events are being shown.
  • January 23: Television coverage of proceedings in the House of Lords begins.
  • February 18: BBC1 is given a major relaunch, along with the introduction of a new ident, the COW (Computer Originated World). Also, computerised weather maps were used for the first time for all weather forecasts – prior to this date computerised maps had only been used during Breakfast Time.
  • February 19: EastEnders premieres on BBC1.
  • March: The charity appeal Comic Relief is launched.
  • April 23: BBC Radio Shropshire launches.
  • June 24: BBC Radio Bedfordshire launches.
  • July 13: Live Aid is broadcast to the world on BBC1 and BBC Radio 1, the first broadcast of its kind.
  • September 9: The weekday afternoon block of children’s programming is rebranded as Children’s BBC, and for the first time the children’s block has dedicated idents and an in-vision presenter. Previously children’s programming had been introduced by BBC1‘s team of regular duty announcers.
  • October 1: BBC Radio nan Gàidheal launches.


  • March 30: BBC2 receives a new look with the word TWO.
  • April 1: All commercial activities of the BBC are now handled by BBC Enterprises Ltd.
  • October 24: The final edition of News After Noon is broadcast.
  • October 27: BBC1 starts a full daytime television service. Among the new programmes is a new lunchtime news bulletin – the One O’Clock News, presented by Martyn Lewis. The programme continues to this day. Before today, excluding sport and special events coverage, BBC1 had closed down at times during weekday daytime, broadcasting trade test transmissions and, from May 1983, Pages from Ceefax. BBC2 also expands its programming hours, providing a full afternoon service but it wasn’t until the end of the decade that BBC2 was on air all day every day.
  • November 5: BBC Essex launches.
  • December 8: Six weeks after launching its daytime service, BBC TV starts broadcasting hourly news summaries. Morning bulletins are shown on BBC1 and early afternoon summaries (at 2 pm, 3 pm and 3:50 pm) are shown on BBC2. Each bulletin is followed by a weather forecast.


  • The BBC World Service launches BBC 648 from the Orfordness transmitting station. The service provides a tailor-made service for northern Europe featuring some French and German programming programmes interwoven with the main output in English.
  • June 22: The BBC’s lunchtime children’s programme moves from BBC1 to BBC2. It is shown slightly earlier, at 1:20 pm.
  • October 31: BBC Radio 1 starts broadcasting on VHF in London.


  • April 11: BBC Somerset Sound launches as an opt-out station from BBC Radio Bristol.
  • September 1:
    • BBC External Services is renamed the World Service.
    • Radio 1 starts regular broadcasts on VHF in Scotland, northern England, the Midlands, and south Wales, Avon and Somerset.
  • September 20: The Radio Data System (RDS) launches, allowing car radios to automatically retune, display station identifiers and switch to local travel news.
  • October 3: BBC Radio Gloucestershire launches.
  • October 7: BBC Radio London stops broadcasting
  • October 25: BBC Radio London is replaced by BBC GLR.
  • October 30: The Asian Network launches as a 70 hours-a-week service on the MW transmitters of BBC Radio Leicester and BBC WM.
  • October: BBC GMR replaces BBC Radio Manchester.
  • Autumn: The BBC takes its first tentative steps into later closedowns – previously weekday programmes ended no later than 12:15 am and weekend broadcasting ended at 1:30 am.


  • February 14: BBC Hereford and Worcester launches.
  • March 4: BBC Wiltshire Sound launches.
  • May: The BBC Night Network is launched on the BBC’s six local radio stations in Yorkshire and north east England. The service broadcasts seven nights a week from 6.05pm (6pm at the weekend) until midnight. Two years later the service is expanded to include the BBC’s four stations in the north west.
  • June 19: For the first time, BBC2 broadcasts during the morning when not showing Daytime on 2. Programmes begin at 10 am, as opposed to lunchtime.
  • September 29: The final edition of Breakfast Time is broadcast.
  • October 2: The first edition of BBC Breakfast News is broadcast.
  • November 21: Television coverage of proceedings in the House of Commons begins.

BBC Timeline courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC in the…
1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1990s