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Formerly Called The BBC Television Service (until April 1964)
Launched: 2nd November 1936
Audience Share (Aug 2004[1] ): 22.6%
Owned By: BBC
Web Address:
Terrestrial Analogue: Usually Channel 1
Terrestrial Digital: Freeview Channel 1
Satellite: Sky Digital Channel 101
Cable: NTL Channel 101

Telewest Channel 101

BBC One (or BBC1 as it was formerly styled) is the oldest television station in the United Kingdom, and indeed, the world. It is the primary channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and first broadcast as the 'BBC Television Service' on November 2, 1936, although the BBC had been broadcasting experimental and test transmissions in a variety of formats since 1929. The station held a complete monopoly on television broadcasting in the UK until ITV was launched in 1955.



The earliest broadcasts used the 210-line Baird system and the 405-line Marconi-EMI system on alternate weeks. However the Baird system proved too cumbersome and by early 1937 had been dropped. The station was based in a converted wing of Alexandra Palace in London, housing two studios, various scenery stores, make-up areas, dressing rooms and so forth, and even the transmitter itself. The Palace was the home base of the channel until the early 1950s when the majority of production moved to the Lime Grove Studios, and then in 1960 the headquarters moved to the purpose-built BBC Television Centre at White City, also in London, where the channel is based to this day.

On September 1, 1939, two days before Britain declared war on Germany, the station was unceremoniously taken off air at 12:10pm after the broadcast of the Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey's Gala Première. The last words broadcast were of a caricature of Greta Garbo saying "Ah tank ah kiss you now". It was feared that the VHF transmissions would act as a beacon to enemy aircraft homing in on London—also, many of the television service's technical staff and engineers would be needed for the war effort, in particular on the RADAR programme. The television channel returned on June 7, 1946 at 3pm. Jasmine Bligh, one of the original announcers, made the first announcement saying "Remember me?" Remarkably, the programming continued with the same Mickey Mouse cartoon of 1939, introduced with the announcement: "As we were saying before we were so rudely interrupted..."

Initially, the station's range was officially only within a twenty-five mile radius of the Alexandra Palace transmitter—in practice, however, transmissions could be picked up a good deal further away, and on one occasion in 1938 were picked up by engineers at RCA in New York, who were experimenting with a British television set. They filmed the static-ridden output they got on their screen, and this poor-quality, mute film footage is the only surviving record of 1930s British television.

By the outbreak of war in 1939, there were an estimated 30,000–40,000 television sets in London. Coverage extended to Birmingham in 1948 with the opening of the Sutton Coldfield television transmitter, and by the early 1950s the entire country was covered.

The station was renamed BBC1 on the day that BBC2 was launched in April 1964. In 1969, simultaneous with ITV and two years after BBC2, the channel began 625-line PAL colour programming. Stereo transmissions began in 1988, and widescreen programming was introduced on digital platforms after 1997. However many of these developments took some years to become available on all transmitters.

For the first half century of its existence, with the exception of films and imported programmes from countries such as the United States and Australia, almost all the channel's output was produced by the BBC's own in-house production departments. This changed following the 1990 Broadcasting Act , which required that 25% of the BBC's television output be out-sourced to independent production companies. As of 2004 many popular BBC One shows are made for the channel by independents, but the in-house production departments continue to contribute heavily to the schedule.


BBC One is more mainstream than its sister station BBC Two and generally gets higher ratings, competing with ITV as the most-viewed channel in the UK. The BBC's sport and news have their homes here, as does Children's BBC, mainstream drama and comedy programming, film premieres and documentaries. Regional news programmes generally follow the main news, in particular the Six O'clock News is followed at 6:30 by half-hour regional news shows. Popular shows from BBC Two may make the crossover to BBC One, Have I Got News For You being one such example.

Some popular programmes:

For a fuller list of programmes screened on all BBC television channels, see List of BBC television programming.

On screen identity

BBC One's identity was symbolised by the idea of a globe. Originally a map of the UK was shown onscreen between programmes, but in 1964, the globe first appeared, changing in style and appearance over the next 39 years. In its time, it became a 'mirror-globe' in several colours and sizes (a globe in front of a curved mirror which reflected a distorted view of the reverse) from 1969 until 1985, when the COW (Computer Originated World) debuted. This was a computer-animated globe with the land coloured gold, and the sea a transparent blue, giving the impression of a glass globe. In 1991, on the same day that BBC2 rebranded, an ethereal crystal-ball-type globe appeared, which was played out on air from laserdisc. In 1997, the revolving aspect disappeared as the globe became a red, orange and yellow globe-patterned hot-air balloon flying around various places in the UK. This was the first BBC1 ident to appear in multiple versions, as the balloon was seen floating over numerous British landscapes, and in later variations, superimposed on more distant locations including Sydney, the Sahara desert and even prehistoric Earth. In 2002, the globe finally disappeared from screens to be replaced by dancers dressed in red and white, symbolising BBC One's drift towards multi-culturalism. These idents are often not regarded as highly as their predecessors, partly because of their link with political correctness, and partly because they are perceived as a weak brand, lacking a single unifying visual symbol.

Controllers of BBC One (prior to 1964 the BBC Television Service)

The current Controller of BBC One is Lorraine Heggessey, the first female Controller of the channel, who has been in the role since 2000.

See also: List of British television channels

External link

BBC One official homepage

Last updated: 02-08-2005 16:20:47
Last updated: 02-24-2005 04:05:47