The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






BBC Television

BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which began in 1936. The British Broadcasting Corporation has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927.


History of BBC Television

The British Broadcasting Corporation operates several television networks, television stations and related programming services in the United Kingdom.

1936 to 1939

What is now known as BBC One was the world's first regular television service. It began broadcasting from Alexandra Palace in London on November 2, 1936, to just a few hundred viewers in the immediate area. It was reaching an estimated 25,000-40,000 homes before the outbreak of the Second World War caused the service to be suspended. The VHF broadcasts would have provided an ideal radio beacon for German bombers homing in on London, and the engineers and technicians of the service would be needed for the war effort, in particular the RADAR programme.

1946 to 1964

In 1946 TV transmissions resumed from Alexandra Palace. The BBC Television Service was renamed BBC1 (now BBC One) in 1964, after the launch of BBC2 (now BBC Two). BBC One shows popular programming, including drama, comedies, documentaries, game shows and soap operas, covering a wide range of genres and regularly competes with ITV to become the channel with the highest ratings for that week. BBC One is the home to the BBC's main news bulletins, currently being shown at 1pm, 6pm and 10pm.

1964 to 1967

BBC Two was the third television station (ITV was the second) for the UK; its remit is to provide more niche programming. The channel was due to launch on 20 April, 1964, but was put off the air by a massive power failure that affected much of London, caused by a fire at Battersea Power Station. A videotape made on the opening night was rediscovered in 2003 by a BBC technician. In the end the launch went ahead the following night, hosted by an announcer holding a candle. BBC2 was the first British channel to use UHF and 625-line pictures, giving higher definition than the existing VHF 405-line system.

1967 to 2003

In December of 1967 it became the first regular television channel in Europe to broadcast in colour, using the German PAL system that is still in use today although being gradually superseded by digital systems. (BBC One and ITV began 625-line colour broadcasts simultaneously on November 15, 1969). Unlike its contemporaries, BBC Two does not have the usual soap opera or standard news programming, but rather a breadth of programming that is eclectic, fun and diverse (although if a programme has high audience viewing figures, it is often repositioned onto BBC One). Well known BBC Two programmes include Newsnight.

National and regional variations also occur within the BBC One and BBC Two schedules. England's BBC One output is split up into 11 regions (such as South West and East), which exist mainly to produce local news programming, but also occasionally opt out of the network to show programmes of local importance (such as major local events). The nations of the United Kingdom (Wales and Scotland, and the province of Northern Ireland) have been granted more autonomy from the UK network; for example, programmes are mostly introduced by local announcers, rather than by those in London. BBC One and BBC Two schedules in the UK nations can vary immensely from BBC One and BBC Two in England.

Programmes, such as the politically fuelled Give My Head Peace (produced by BBC Northern Ireland) and the soap opera River City (produced by BBC Scotland), have been created specifically to cater for viewers in their respective nations, who may have found programmes created for English audiences irrelevant. BBC Scotland produces daily programmes for its Gaelic-speaking viewers, including current affairs, political and children's programming. BBC Wales also produces a large amount of Welsh language programming for S4C, particularly news, sport and other programmes, especially the soap opera Pobol y Cwm ('People of the Valley').

However, the BBC produces many programmes shown across the UK, such as The Good Life, One Foot in the Grave, Harry Enfield and Chums and EastEnders. The UK nations also produce a number of programmes that are shown across the UK, such as BBC Scotland's comedy series Chewin' the Fat, and BBC Northern Ireland's talk show . The BBC is also renowned for its production of costume dramas, such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and contemporary social dramas such as Boys from the Blackstuff and Our Friends in the North. Programmes have also been imported from other countries: notable examples include The Simpsons from the United States, and Neighbours from Australia.

The BBC also introduced Ceefax, the first teletext service, starting in 1974. This service allows BBC viewers to view textual information such as the latest news on their television. CEEFAX has not made a full transition to digital television, instead being replaced by the new interactive BBCi service.

The BBC Natural History Unit (based in Bristol) is famed throughout the world for producing high quality programmes such as Life On Earth, The Private Life of Plants and The Blue Planet, very often presented by Sir David Attenborough (who was also once controller of BBC2).

2004 onwards

On 5 July 2004, the BBC celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its television news bulletins. This event was marked by the release of a DVD, which shows highlights of the BBC's television coverage of significant events over the last half-century, as well as changes in the format of the BBC television news; from the newsreel format of the first BBC Television News bulletins, to the 24-hour, worldwide news coverage available in 2004. A special edition of Radio Times has also been produced, as well as a special section of the BBC News website.

Free-to-air analogue stations in the UK

The Corporation's primary network, broadcasting mainstream comedy, drama, documentaries, films and the home of their television news, sport and children's programmes.
Home to more specialist programming, including comedy, documentaries, dramas and minority interest programmes, as well as imported programmes from other countries, particularly the United States.

Free-to-air digital stations in the UK

The main digital television network operated by the Corporation, home to mainly youth-orientated programming, particularly new comedy sketch shows and sitcoms.
Niche programming for an older audience, including specialist documentaries, occasional 'serious' dramas, live theatre, foreign language films and television programmes and 'prestige' archive television repeats.
A dedicated news channel.
The Corporation's dedicated politics channel, covering both the British parliament and international politics.
For children aged six and above.
For children under six.

International news channel

An international, commercially-funded (albeit run by the BBC and not BBC Worldwide) twenty-four hour news channel, not available to UK viewers.

BBC Worldwide channels

The BBC's wholly-owned commercial subsidiary, BBC Worldwide, also operates several international television channels under BBC branding:

An American cable television channel, co-owned with Discovery Networks, showcasing British television programming.
The Canadian equivalent of BBC America, co-owned with Alliance Atlantis.
Also based in Canada and co-owned with Alliance Atlantis, and dedicated to children's programming.
  • BBC Food
Dedicated to the BBC's various cookery programmes, broadcasting via satellite television in southern Africa and Scandinavia.
Showcasing BBC programming via satellite television, available across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

See also

Last updated: 08-15-2005 17:10:22
Last updated: 08-18-2005 13:50:15