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BBC

Related subjects Media; Television

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
BBC logo
Type Broadcast radio, television and online
Country United Kingdom
Availability National
International 
Founded by John Reith
Motto "Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation"
Key people Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman, BBC Trust
Mark Thompson, Director-General (Chairman of the Executive Board).
Launch date 1922 (radio)
1927 (incorporation)
1932 (television)
Former names British Broadcasting Company Ltd. (1922-1927)
Website
www.bbc.co.uk

The British Broadcasting Corporation, which is usually known simply as the BBC, is a large broadcasting corporation. It has 26,000 employees in the United Kingdom alone and a budget of more than £4 billion.

Founded on 18 October 1922 as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd, it was subsequently granted a Royal Charter and made a state-owned corporation in 1927. The corporation produces programmes and information services, broadcasting globally on television, radio, and the internet. The stated mission of the BBC is "to inform, educate and entertain"; its motto is "Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation".

The BBC is a quasi-autonomous public corporation operating as a public service broadcaster. The Corporation is run by the BBC Trust; and is, per its charter, "free from both political and commercial influence and answers only to its viewers and listeners".

The BBC's domestic programming and broadcasts are primarily funded by levying television licence fees (under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949), although money is also raised through commercial activities such as sale of merchandise and programming. The BBC World Service, however, is funded through a grant-in-aid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As part of the BBC Charter, the Corporation cannot show commercial advertising in any services in the United Kingdom (television, radio, or internet). Outside the United Kingdom the BBC broadcasts commercially funded channels such as BBC America, BBC Canada, and BBC World. In order to justify the licence fee, the BBC is expected to produce a number of high-rating shows in addition to programmes that commercial broadcasters would not normally broadcast.

Domestic UK audiences often refer to the BBC as "the Beeb", a nickname coined by Kenny Everett. Another nickname, now less commonly used, is "Auntie", said to originate from the old-fashioned "Auntie knows best" attitude in the days when John Reith, the BBC's founder, was in charge. The two nicknames have also been used together as "Auntie Beeb", and Auntie has been used in outtakes programmes such as Auntie's Big Bloomers.

If the TV and radio services are combined, BBC is probably the largest broadcasting system in the world. It also claims to be the largest news gathering system by means of its regional offices, foreign correspondents and agreements with other news services. It reaches more than 200 countries and is available to more than 274 million households, to CNNi's (its nearest competitor) estimated 200 million. Its radio service is in the short wavelength, which makes it available to many regions of the world. It also broadcasts news - by radio or in the Internet - in some 30 languages, and its total number of broadcasted radio hours per week is surpassed only by the Voice of America umbrella and the Chinese public radio. Being public, its revenue is not comparable to that of other media conglomerates, though, of which News Corporation is the largest.

History

The original British Broadcasting Company was founded in 1922 by a group of telecommunications companies — Marconi, Radio Communication Company, Metropolitan-Vickers, General Electric, Western Electric, and British Thomson-Houston — to broadcast experimental radio services. The first transmission was on 14 November of that year, from station 2LO, located at Marconi House, London.

The Company, with John Reith as general manager, became the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927 when it was granted a Royal Charter of incorporation and ceased to be privately owned. It started experimental television broadcasting in 1932 using an entirely mechanical 30 line system developed by John Logie Baird. It became a regular service (known as the BBC Television Service) in 1936 alternating between a Baird mechanical 240 line system and the all electronic 405 line Marconi-EMI system. The superiority of the electronic system saw the mechanical system dropped later that year. Television broadcasting was suspended from 1 September 1939 to 7 June 1946 during the Second World War. A widely reported urban myth is that, upon resumption of service, announcer Leslie Mitchell started by saying, "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted..." In fact, the first person to appear when transmission resumed was Jasmine Bligh and the words said were "Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? Do you remember me, Jasmine Bligh...?"

The European Broadcasting Union was formed on 12 February 1950, in Torquay with the BBC among the 23 founding broadcasting organisations.

Competition to the BBC was introduced in 1955 with the commercially and independently operated television network ITV, however, the BBC monopoly on radio services would persist into the 1970s. As a result of the Pilkington Committee report of 1962, in which the BBC was lauded and ITV was very heavily criticised for not providing enough quality programming, the BBC was awarded a second TV channel, BBC2, in 1964, renaming the existing channel BBC1. BBC2 used the higher resolution 625 line standard which had been standardised across Europe. BBC2 was broadcast in colour from 1 July 1967, and was joined by BBC 1 and ITV on 15 November 1969. The 405 line VHF transmissions of BBC 1 (and ITV) were continued for compatibility with older television receivers until 1985.

Starting in 1964 a series of pirate radio stations (starting with Radio Caroline) came on the air, and forced the UK government finally to regulate radio services to permit nationally-based advertising financed services. In response the BBC reorganized and renamed their radio channels. The Light Programme was split into Radio 1 offering continuous rock music and Radio 2 more "Easy Listening". The "Third" programme became Radio 3 offering classical music and cultural programming. The Home Service became Radio 4 offering news, and non-musical content such as quiz shows, readings, dramas and plays. As well as the four national channels, a series of local BBC radio stations was established .

In 1974, the BBC's teletext service, Ceefax, was introduced,, developed initially to provide subtitling, but developed into a news and information service. In 1978, the BBC went on strike just before the Christmas of that year, thus blocking out the transmission of both channels and amalgamating all four radio stations into one.

Since the deregulation of the UK television and radio market in the 1980s, the BBC has faced increased competition from the commercial sector (and from the advertiser-funded public service broadcaster Channel 4), especially on satellite television, cable television, and digital television services.

The BBC Research Department has played a major part in the development of broadcasting and recording techniques. In the early days it carried out essential research into acoustics and programme level and noise measurement.

The 2004 Hutton Inquiry and the subsequent Report raised questions about the BBC's journalistic standards and its impartiality. This led to resignations of senior management members at the time including the then Director General, Greg Dyke. In January 2007, the BBC released minutes of the Board meeting which led to Greg Dyke's resignation. Many commentators have considered the discussions documented in the minutes to have made Dyke's ability to remain in position untenable and tantamount to a dismissal.

Unlike the other departments of the BBC, BBC World Service is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, more commonly known as the Foreign Office or the FCO, is the British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom abroad.

On 18 October 2007, BBC Director General Mark Thompson announced a controversial plan to make major cuts and reduce the size of the BBC as an organisation. The plans include a reduction in posts of 2,500; including 1,800 redundancies, consolidating news operations, reducing programming output by 10% and selling off the flagship Television Centre building in London. These plans have been fiercely opposed by unions, who have threatened a series of strikes, however the BBC have stated that the cuts are essential to move the organisation forward and concentrate on increasing the quality of programming.

Corporation

Royal Charter

The BBC is a quasi-autonomous Public Corporation operating as a public service broadcaster incorporated under a Royal Charter that is reviewed every 10 years; this makes it technically a quango and non-departmental public body, but it is rarely called such, as its existence goes back further than the minting of these terms. Until 2007, the Corporation was run by a board of governors appointed by The Queen or King on the advice of the government for a term of four years, but on 1 January 2007 the Board of Governors was replaced with the BBC Trust. The BBC is required by its charter to be free from both political and commercial influence and to answer only to its viewers and listeners.

The most recent Charter came into effect on 1 January 2007. It has created a number of important changes to the Corporation's management and purpose:

  • Abolition of the Board of Governors, and their replacement by the BBC Trust.
  • A redefinition of the BBC's "public services" (which are considered its prime function):
    • Sustaining citizenship and civil society;
    • Promoting education and learning;
    • Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
    • Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
    • Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
    • Helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services, and taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.
  • The BBC must display at least one of the following characteristics in all content: high quality, originality, innovation, to be challenging and to be engaging.
  • The BBC must demonstrate that it provides public value in all its major activities.

Corporate structure

  • Governance Unit
  • Content Groups
    • Journalism (incorporates News, Sport, Global News and Nations and Regions)
    • Vision (incorporates all TV production)
    • Audio and Music (incorporates all radio production, music commissioning and BBC Radio Resources)
    • Future Media and Technology (Incorporates New Media, R&D, Information and Archives)
  • Professional Services
    • Strategy (formerly Strategy and Distribution and merged with Policy and Legal)
    • Marketing, Communications and Audiences
    • Finance
    • BBC Workplace (Property)
    • BBC People (to 2004, Human Resources & Internal Communications)
    • BBC Training & Development
  • Commercial Groups
    • BBC Resources Ltd
    • BBC Worldwide Ltd

Management

The BBC is a nominally autonomous corporation, independent from direct government intervention, with its activities being overseen by the BBC Trust, formerly the Board of Governors. General management of the organisation is in the hands of a Director-General, who is appointed by the Trust.

BBC Trust

The BBC Trust came into effect on 1 January 2007, replacing the Board of Governors.

The BBC Trust works on behalf of licence fee payers: it ensures the BBC provides high quality output and good value for all UK citizens and it protects the independence of the BBC. — BBC Trust

The Trust sets the overall strategic direction for the corporation and assess the performance of the BBC Executive Board. The Trust has twelve trustees, currently:

  • Sir Michael Lyons (Chair)
  • Chitra Bharucha (Vice-Chair)
  • Diane Coyle
  • Alison Hastings
  • Patricia Hodgson
  • Rotha Johnston
  • Janet Lewis-Jones
  • David Liddiment
  • Mehmuda Pritchard

The original trustees, three former governors and eight new members, were announced by Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, in October 2006. Michael Grade, then Chairman of the Governors, was to become Chairman of the Trust at the time of the announcement, but due to his move to ITV, Chitra Bharucha became the Acting Chair. Sir Michael Lyons took over as Chairman from 1 May 2007.

Executive Board

The Executive Board oversees the effective delivery of the corporation's objectives and obligations within a framework set by the BBC Trust, and is headed by the Director-General, Mark Thompson. In December 2006, Thompson announced the final appointments to the new Executive Board, consisting of ten directors from the different operations of the group, and five non-executive directors, appointed to provide independent and professional advice to the Executive Board. The members are:

  • Mark Thompson (Board Chairman and Director-General)
  • Mark Byford (Deputy Chairman and Deputy Director-General; Director, Journalism Group)
  • Caroline Thomson (Chief Operating Officer)
  • Jana Bennett (Director, BBC Vision)
  • Jenny Abramsky (Director, BBC Audio and Music)
  • Ashley Highfield (Director, Future Media and Technology)
  • John Smith (Chief Executive, BBC Worldwide)
  • Zarin Patel (Group Finance Director)
  • Steve Kelly (Director, BBC People)
  • Tim Davie (Director, Marketing, Communications and Audiences)

Non-executive directors:

  • Marcus Agius (Senior non-executive director), Chairman, Barclays
  • Dr Mike Lynch OBE, co-founder and Chief Executive, Autonomy Corporation
  • David Robbie, Group Finance Director, Rexam
  • Dr Samir Shah OBE, Chief Executive, Juniper Communications
  • Robert Webb QC, General Counsel, British Airways

Governors

The Board of Governors regulated the group from incorporation in 1927 until 31 December 2006, when the Board was replaced by the BBC Trust. The governors as of the dissolution of the Board were:

  • Anthony Salz (Acting Chairman)
  • Professor Ranjit Sondhi (National Governor for the English regions)
  • Professor Fabian Monds (National Governor for Northern Ireland)
  • Professor Merfyn Jones (National Governor for Wales)
  • Jeremy Peat (National Governor for Scotland)
  • Deborah Bull
  • Baroness Deech
  • Dermot Gleeson
  • Angela Sarkis
  • Richard Tait

Finance

The BBC has the largest budget of any UK broadcaster with an operating expenditure of £4 billion in 2005 compared to £3.2 billion for British Sky Broadcasting, £1.7 billion for ITV and £79 million (in 2006) for GCap Media (the largest commercial radio broadcaster).

Revenue

The principal means of funding the BBC is through the television licence, costing £11.37 a month if paid by direct debit (as of February 2007). Such a licence is required to operate a broadcast television receiver within the UK. The cost of a television licence is set by the government and enforced by the criminal law. The revenue is collected privately and is paid into the central government Consolidated Fund, a process defined in the Communications Act 2003. Funds are then allocated by the DCMS and Treasury and approved by Parliament via the Appropriation Act(s). Additional revenues are paid by the Department for Work and Pensions to compensate for subsidised licences for over-75s. As the state controls BBC's funding, it is sometimes referred to as a "state" broadcaster, considered as a calumny by many because of the checks and balances which ensure its editorial independence.

Income from commercial enterprises and from overseas sales of its catalogue of programmes has substantially increased over recent years, with BBC Worldwide contributing some £145 million to the BBC's core public service business.

According to the BBC's 2005-2006 Annual Report, its income can be broken down as follows:

  • £3,100.6 m licence fees collected from consumers.
  • £620.0 m from BBC Commercial Businesses.
  • £260.2 m from the World Service, of which £239.1 m is from grants (primarily funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), £15.8 m from subscriptions, and £5.3 m from other sources.
  • £24.2 m from other income, such as providing content to overseas broadcasters and concert ticket sales.

Expenditure

The BBC gives two forms of expenditure statement for the financial year 2005-2006.

The amount of each licence fee spent monthly breaks down as follows:

Department Monthly cost (GBP)
BBC ONE £3.52
BBC TWO £1.52
Transmission and collection costs £1.08
Nations and English Regions television £1.04
BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and Five Live £1.02
Digital television channels £1.00
Nations' and local radio 68p
bbc.co.uk 36p
BBC jam 14p
Digital radio stations 10p
Interactive TV ( BBCi) 8p
Total £10.54

The total broadcasting spend for 2005-2006 is given as:

Department Total cost (£million)
Television 1443
Radio 218
bbc.co.uk 72
BBC jam 36
Interactive TV (BBCi) 18
Local radio and regional television 370
Programme related spend 338
Overheads and Digital UK 315
Restructuring 107
Transmission and collection costs 320
Total 3237

Headquarters and regional offices

Main BBC headquarters, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, Central London.
Main BBC headquarters, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, Central London.
BBC Northern Ireland headquarters on Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.
BBC Northern Ireland headquarters on Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London, England, UK is the official headquarters of the BBC. It is home to three of the ten BBC national radio networks. They are BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and BBC 7. On the front of the building are statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) sculpted by Eric Gill.

Renovation of Broadcasting House began in 2002 and is scheduled for completion in 2010. As part of a major reorganisation of BBC property, Broadcasting House is to become home to BBC News (both television and radio), national radio, and the BBC World Service. The major part of this plan involves the demolition of the two post-war extensions to the building and construction of a new building beside the existing structure. During the rebuilding process many of the BBC Radio networks have been relocated to other buildings in the vicinity of Portland Place.

In 2010, the entire BBC News operation is expected to relocate from the News Centre at BBC Television Centre to the refurbished Broadcasting House in what is being described as "one of the world's largest live broadcast centres".

By far the largest concentration of BBC staff in the UK exists in White City. Well known buildings in this area include the BBC Television Centre, White City, Media Centre, Broadcast Centre and Centre House.

As well as the various BBC buildings in London, there are major BBC production centres located in Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and Newcastle upon Tyne. Some of these local centres (for example Belfast) are also known as "Broadcasting House" (see Broadcasting House (disambiguation)). There are also many smaller local and regional studios scattered throughout the UK.

In 2011, the BBC is planning to move several departments including BBC Sport and BBC Children's north to newly built premises in Salford Quays, Greater Manchester. This will mark a major decentralisation of the corporation's operations from London.

News

BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world, providing services to BBC domestic radio as well as television networks such as BBC News 24, BBC Parliament and BBC World, as well as BBCi, Ceefax and BBC News Online. New BBC News services that are also proving popular are mobile services to mobile phones and PDAs. Desktop news alerts, e-mail alerts, and digital TV alerts are also available.

Weekly reach of all the BBC's services in the UK
Weekly reach of all the BBC's services in the UK
Weekly reach of the BBC's five national analogue radio stations
Weekly reach of the BBC's five national analogue radio stations
Weekly reach of the BBC's domestic television services
Weekly reach of the BBC's domestic television services
BBC Television Centre at White City, West London.
BBC Television Centre at White City, West London.

Ratings figures suggest that during major crises such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings or a royal funeral, the UK audience overwhelmingly turns to the BBC's coverage as opposed to its commercial rivals. On 7 July 2005, the day that there were a series of coordinated bomb blasts on London's public transport system, the bbc.co.uk website recorded an all time bandwidth peak of 11  Gb/s at 12:00 on 7 July. BBC News received some 1 billion total hits on the day of the event (including all images, text and HTML), serving some 5.5 terabytes of data. At peak times during the day there were 40,000 page requests per second for the BBC News website. The previous day's announcement of the 2012 Olympics being awarded to London caused a peak of around 5 Gbit/s. The previous all time high at bbc.co.uk was caused by the announcement of the Michael Jackson verdict, which used 7.2 Gbit/s.

Radio

The BBC has five major national stations, Radio 1 ("the best new music and entertainment"), Radio 2 (the UK's most listened to radio station, with 12.9 million weekly listeners), Radio 3 (specialist-interest music such as classical, world, arts, drama and jazz), Radio 4 (current affairs, drama and comedy), and Radio 5 Live (24 hour news, sports and talk).

In recent years some further national stations have been introduced on digital radio platforms including Five Live Sports Extra (a companion to Five Live for additional events coverage), 1Xtra (for black, urban and gospel music), 6 Music (less mainstream genres of music), BBC 7 (comedy, drama & children's programming) and BBC Asian Network ( British South Asian talk, music and news in English and in many South Asian languages), a station which had evolved from BBC Local Radio origins in the 1970s and still is broadcast on Medium Wave frequencies in some parts of England. In addition the BBC World Service is now also broadcast nationally in the UK on DAB.

There is also a network of local stations with a mixture of talk, news and music in England and the Channel Islands as well as national stations (Nations' radio) of BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru (in Welsh), BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal (in Scots Gaelic), BBC Radio Ulster, and BBC Radio Foyle.

For a world-wide audience, the BBC produces the Foreign Office funded BBC World Service, which is broadcast worldwide on shortwave radio, and on DAB Digital Radio in the UK. The World Service is a major source of news and information programming and can be received in 150 capital cities worldwide, with a weekly audience estimate of 163 million listeners worldwide. The Service currently broadcasts in 33 languages and dialects (including English), though not all languages are broadcast in all areas.

In 2005, the BBC announced that it would substantially reduce its radio broadcasting in Eastern European languages and divert resources instead to a new Arabic language satellite TV broadcasting station (including radio and online content) in the Middle East to be launched in 2007.

Since 1943, the BBC has also provided radio programming to the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which broadcasts in countries where British troops are stationed.

All of the national, local, and regional BBC radio stations, as well as the BBC World Service, are available over the Internet in the RealAudio streaming format. In April 2005, the BBC began trials offering a limited number of radio programmes as podcasts.

Historically, the BBC was the only (legal) radio broadcaster based in the UK mainland until 1967, when University Radio York (URY), then under the name Radio York, was launched as the first (and now oldest) legal independent radio station in the country. However the BBC did not enjoy a complete monopoly prior to this as several Continental stations (such as Radio Luxembourg) broadcast programmes in English to Britain since the 1930s and the Isle of Man based Manx Radio began in 1964.

Television

The back of the BBC Birmingham headquarters in The Mailbox.
The back of the BBC Birmingham headquarters in The Mailbox.

BBC One and BBC Two are the BBC's flagship television channels. The BBC is also promoting the new channels BBC Three and BBC Four, which are only available via digital television equipment (now in widespread use in the UK, with analogue transmission being phased out by December 2012). The BBC also runs BBC News 24, BBC Parliament, and two children's channels, CBBC and CBeebies, on digital.

BBC One is a regionalised TV service which provides opt-outs throughout the day for local news and other local programming. These variations are more pronounced in the BBC 'Nations', i.e. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where the presentation is mostly carried out locally on BBC One and Two. BBC Two variations within England are currently rare, though most regions still have the ability to 'opt out' of the main feed, albeit on analogue only. BBC Two was also the first channel to be transmitted on 625 lines in 1964, then carry a small-scale regular colour service from 1967. BBC One would follow in December 1969.

In the Republic of Ireland, the BBC channels are available in a number of ways. All multichannel platforms carry them, although many viewers also receive BBC services via 'overspill' from transmitters in Northern Ireland or Wales, or via 'deflectors' - transmitters in the Republic which rebroadcast broadcasts from the UK, received off-air, or from Digital Satellite.

From June 9, 2006, the BBC began a 6-12 month trial of High-definition television broadcasts under the name BBC HD. The corporation has been producing programmes in the format for many years, and states that it hopes to produce 100% of new programmes in HDTV by 2010.

Since 1975, the BBC has also provided its TV programmes to the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), allowing members of HM Forces serving all over the world to watch and listen to their favourite programmes from home on two dedicated TV channels.

Internet

The bbc.co.uk website, formerly known as BBCi and before that BBC Online, includes a comprehensive news website and archive. The website uses GeoIP technology and carries advertisements when viewed outside of the UK. BBC claims the site to be "Europe's most popular content-based site" and states that 13.2 million people in the UK visit the site's more than two million pages. According to Alexa's TrafficRank system, in May 2007 bbc.co.uk was the 20th most popular English Language website in the world, and the 33rd most popular overall.

Another version of the BBC website is available called BBC Beta. if you go to www.bbc.co.uk/home/beta, then you can customise and create your own BBC homepage to your own specific needs. This service was created in December 2007.

The website allows the BBC to produce sections which complement the various programmes on television and radio, and it is common for viewers and listeners to be told website addresses for the bbc.co.uk sections relating to that programme. The site also allows users to listen to most Radio output live and for seven days after broadcast using its RealPlayer-based "Radio Player"; some TV content is also distributed in RealVideo format. A new system known as iPlayer was launched on July 27, 2007, which uses peer-to-peer and DRM technology to deliver both radio and TV content of the last seven days for offline use for up to 30 days. Also, through participation in the Creative Archive Licence group, bbc.co.uk allowed legal downloads of selected archive material via the internet.

BBC jam is a free online service, delivered through broadband and narrowband connections, providing high-quality interactive resources designed to stimulate learning at home and at school. Initial content was made available in January 2006. BBC jam was suspended on 20th March 2007.

In recent years some major on-line companies and politicians have complained that the bbc.co.uk website receives too much funding from the television licence, meaning that other websites are unable to compete with the vast amount of advertising-free on-line content available on bbc.co.uk. Some have proposed that the amount of licence fee money spent on bbc.co.uk should be reduced — either being replaced with funding from advertisements or subscriptions, or a reduction in the amount of content available on the site. In response to this the BBC carried out an investigation, and has now set in motion a plan to change the way it provides its online services. bbc.co.uk will now attempt to fill in gaps in the market, and will guide users to other websites for currently existing market provision. (For example, instead of providing local events information and timetables, users will be guided to outside websites already providing that information.) Part of this plan included the BBC closing some of its websites, and rediverting money to redevelop other parts. More recent information on web plans at

Interactive television

BBCi is the brand name for the BBC's interactive digital television services, which are available through Freeview (digital terrestrial), as well as Sky Digital (satellite), and Virgin Media (cable). Unlike Ceefax, BBCi is able to display full-colour graphics, photographs, and video, as well as programmes. Recent examples include the interactive sports coverage for football and rugby football matches, BBC Soundbites which starred young actress Jennifer Lynn and an interactive national IQ test, Test the Nation. All of the BBC's digital television stations, (and radio stations on Freeview), allow access to the BBCi service.

BBCi provides viewers with over 100 interactive TV programmes every year, as well as the 24/7 service. It also offers video news and weather.

Commercial services

BBC Worldwide Limited is the wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC responsible for the commercial exploitation of BBC programmes and other properties, including a number of television stations throughout the world. The cable and satellite stations BBC Prime (in Europe, Africa the Middle East, and Asia), BBC America, BBC Canada (alongside BBC Kids), broadcast popular BBC programmes to people outside the UK, as does UK.TV (co-run with Foxtel and Fremantle Media) in Australasia. A similar service, BBC Japan, ceased broadcasts in April 2006 after its Japanese distributor folded. BBC Worldwide also runs a 24-hour news channel, BBC World and co-runs, with Virgin Media, the UKTV network of stations in the UK, producers of amongst others UKTV Gold. In addition, BBC television news appears nightly on many Public Broadcasting Service stations in the United States, as do reruns of BBC programmes such as EastEnders, and in New Zealand on TV One.

Many BBC programmes (especially documentaries) are sold via BBC Worldwide to foreign television stations, and comedy, documentaries and historical drama productions are popular on the international DVD market.

BBC Worldwide also maintains the publishing arm of the BBC and it is the third-largest publisher of consumer magazines in the United Kingdom. BBC Magazines, formerly known as BBC Publications, publishes the Radio Times (and published the now-defunct The Listener) as well as a number of magazines that support BBC programming such as BBC Top Gear, BBC Good Food, BBC Sky at Night, BBC History, BBC Wildlife and BBC Music.

BBC Worldwide also produces several branded channels available on satellite in Asia and India, including BBC Lifestyle, BBC Knowledge and BBC Entertainment. In December 2007, a polish version of BBC Entertainment launched.

The BBC has traditionally played a major role in producing book and music tie-ins with its broadcast material. BBC Records produced soundtrack albums, talking books and material from radio broadcasts of music.

Between 2004 and 2006, BBC Worldwide owned the independent magazine publisher Origin Publishing.

BBC Worldwide also licences and directly sells DVD and audio recordings of popular programmes to the public, most notably Doctor Who (including books and merchandise), and archive classical music recordings, initially as BBC Radio Classics and then BBC Legends.

Unions

Union membership is a private matter between staff and their chosen union: staff are not automatically covered by a union, but since the BBC is a large employer (in the media sector), membership numbers are considerable.

Staff at the BBC are normally represented by BECTU, along with journalistic staff by the NUJ and electrical staff by Amicus. Union membership is optional, and paid for by staff members and not by the BBC.

Cultural significance

The BBC was the only television broadcaster in the United Kingdom until 1955 and the only legal radio broadcaster until 1973. Its cultural impact was therefore significant since the country had no choice for its information and entertainment from these two powerful media.

Even after the advent of commercial television and radio, the BBC has remained one of the main elements in British popular culture through its obligation to produce TV and radio programmes for the mass audiences. However the arrival of BBC2 allowed the BBC also to make programmes for minority interests in drama, documentaries, current affairs, entertainment and sport. Examples are cited such as I, Claudius, Civilisation, Tonight, Monty Python's Flying Circus, and Pot Black, but many other ground-breaking examples can be given in each of these fields as shown by the BBC's entries in the British Film Institute's 2000 list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. In radio the BBC has also maintained a high standard of news, drama, entertainment, documentaries, sport and music for all tastes, and still draws large audiences, while also serving minority tastes.

The BBC's objective of providing a service to the public, rather than just entertainment, has changed the public's perception in a wide range of subjects from health to natural history. By maintaining a high standard the BBC also defined a quality threshold that the commercial companies had to reach to retain their licences, but the advent of the multi-channel age is lessening this effect. The export of BBC programmes, the BBC World Service and BBC World have meant that the cultural impact of the BBC has been also experienced world-wide.

Although the BBC has changed society, the society has also changed the BBC. The term BBC English (Received Pronunciation) refers to the former use of Standard English with this accent. However the organisation now makes more use of regional accents in order to reflect the diversity of the UK, though clarity and fluency are still expected of presenters. From its 'starchy' beginnings, the BBC has also become more inclusive, and now accommodates the interests of all strata of society and all minorities, because they all pay the licence fee. The BBC therefore plays a major role in maintaining a cohesive society.

Competition from Independent Television, Channel 4, Sky and other broadcast television stations, has slightly lessened the BBC's reach, but nevertheless it remains a major influence on British popular culture. Many popular everyday sayings are derived from BBC-produced television shows.

Criticism

The BBC has long faced allegations of a left-wing or liberal bias, and such criticism has been repeated most recently by past and present employees such as Antony Jay, Jeff Randall, Justin Webb and Andrew Marr. Left-wing figures, such as the journalist John Pilger, have frequently accused the BBC of a right-wing bias (a view supported by the left-wing website Media Lens); the anti-Iraq war MP George Galloway has referred to it as the "Bush and Blair Corporation".

The BBC received its most serious criticism of recent times over its coverage of the events leading up to the war in Iraq. The controversy over what it described as the "sexing up" of the case for war in Iraq by the government, led to the BBC being heavily criticised by the Hutton Inquiry, although this finding was much disputed by the British press.

In August 2007 Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price highlighted what he perceived as a lack of a Welsh focus on BBC news broadcasts. Price threatened to withhold future television license fees in response to a lack of thorough news coverage of Wales, echoing a BBC Audience Council for Wales July report citing public frustration over how the Welsh Assembly is characterized in national media. Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins agreed with Price and called for responsibility for broadcasting to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly, voicing similar calls from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. Criticism of the BBC's news coverage for Wales and Scotland since devolution prompted debate of possibly providing evening news broadcasts with specific focus for both countries.

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