In 1922 the British Government granted a two-year exclusive license to the British Broadcasting Company, a commercial organisation formed by merging the broadcasting interests of six manufacturers.
By 1926—when the original company’s license has been renewed twice—there were two million radio receivers in Britain, and the Government established the British Broadcasting Corporation by Royal Charter as a system of public service broadcasting.
Under John Reith (later Lord Reith) the BBC created a worldwide reputation for independence and authority, despite its nominal subservience to governments.
Since it was financed by license free, it was free of commercial pressures and the need to gather in advertising, which has increasingly burdened the British press and debased the commercial radio networks of other countries.
It was not until the Second World War that radio news became a significant challenge to newspapers. But then the work of the BBC’s war reporters brought a sound-picture of the truth of war into people’s homes.
Churchill’s broadcasts were a rallying-point for Britons, as de Gaulle’s were for Frenchmen: and in America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his fireside chats, to the people of the United States, while Ed Murrow, broadcasting from London, revealed to them the facts and emotions of wartime London.
One of the remarkable achievements of the BBC was in widening public appreciation of classical music; and in 1946 the Third Programme was founded.
The development of an international ‘pop’ culture in the 1960s led to a proliferation of ‘pirate’ radio stations offshore, and in 1967 the Government took action to close these down.
Shortly afterwards, in its channel divisions to provide one channel of ‘pop’ (Radio 1), one of light music (Radio 2), one of music and the arts (Radio 3), and one of news, documentaries and plays (Radio 4). In place of the old regional specialisation, the BBC set up eight local radio stations, concentrations on local news and affairs—the BBC proposed to increase these to forty.
In 1971 the Government announced the creation of an Independent Broadcasting Authority, to control sixty independently financed (commercial) radio stations through Britain.
These changes paralleled the development of newspapers, where local newspapers were becoming increasingly significant for regional news while the major news stories became the province of the BBC’s national news on radio and television.
On the radio there was a revolution in journalism when to the straight-forward narrative news bulletin was added on-the- spot telephoned or recorded reportage with a mixture of commentary, as in such programmes as ‘The World At One’, ‘PM’ and the ‘Ten O’Clock’ programme. These were perhaps a feedback from the techniques of television news, where the impact of on-the-spot film reporting is dramatic.
The principle of television was first demonstrated in Britain by John Logic Baird at the Royal Institution in 1926. Baird devised a system of mechanical scanning: that is, the picture was divided into lines for transmission by mechanical means.
Meanwhile the Marconi-EMI system, using electronic scanning, was evolved in America and developed in Britain.
When on 2 November, 1936 the BBC began regular television transmissions in Britain, putting out two hours of programmes each day, six days a week, the Baird and Marconi-EMI system was adopted as standard. Regular television programmes began to be transmitted in the United States on 30 April, 1939.
During the Second World War television transmission was suspended in Britain, and resumed in 1946, again by the BBC. In 1954 the Television Act established an Independent Television Authority to provide alternative television programmes supplied regionally by programme contractors who finance their programmes by advertising (but not, as in the United States and other countries, by allowing advertisers to ‘sponsor’ specific programmes).
The first independent television programmes were transmitted in September 1955, and in the following year the number of households in Britain with TV sets rose above 80 percent.
Hard news bulletins on Independent Television, as distinct from news documentaries, are provided by Independent Television News Limited.
This is an autonomous company financed by the independent television contractors who are its shareholders.
ITN operates as a newspaper’s editorial department, with its own editorial staff and reporters. On Mondays to Fridays ITN produces a ten-minute news bulletin at 5.50 pm and a half-hour programme, ‘News at Ten’ which has consistently appeared high on the ratings of viewer interest. ITN also produces special programmes for major news events, which are then network, i.e. put out on all the independent television regional stations.
Such programmes have been produced for Parliamentary and local elections, Budgets, party conferences, US presidential elections and moon landings,.
Following the Pilkington Committee on broadcasting (1960) the BBC was given a second television channel, BBC 2, which began transmissions in April 1964, on 625 lines. In 1967 BBC 2 began regular colour transmissions, and shortly afterwards colour was introduced by BBC 1 and ITV.
Both the BBC and IBA are responsible to Parliament, reporting through the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The British Broadcasting Corporation is run by twelve governors, appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Government.
There is a Generally Advisory Council regional councils and specialist councils (e.g. for religious broadcasting, schools broadcasting, etc.). The permanent staff the BBC is headed by the Director- General.
The Independent Broadcasting Authority is run by a chairman and twelve members appointed by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The IBA builds, owns and operates transmitting stations, and licenses programme contractors, retaining overall control over programme standards and advertising through its permanent staff led by its Director- General.
The programme contracting companies each of which produces regional news programmes in addition to networking the news bulletins of ITN are: Anglia Television Ltd Border Television Ltd Central Television Ltd Channel Television Ltd Grampian Television Ltd Granada Television Ltd,
(a) HTV Wales Ltd (Cardiff), HTV West Ltd (Bristol)
(b) London Weekend Television Ltd
(c) Scottish Television Ltd
(d) Television South Ltd
(e) Television South West Ltd
(f) Thames Television Ltd
(g) Tyne-Tees Television Ltd
(h) Ulster Television Ltd
(i) Yorkshire Television Ltd
A fourth television channel operates in Britain from November 1982. The Channel Four Television Company Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the IBA, was intended to cater for special interests and concerns for which television has until now lacked adequate time, and also foster new and experimental programme ideas. Breakfast-time television, operated by the TV AM Company, was due to begin in Britain in 1983.
While no newspaper group may wholly own a programme contracting company, several companies are partly owned by newspaper groups.