BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which began in 1932. The British Broadcasting Corporation has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927.
The British Broadcasting Corporation operates several television networks, television stations (although there is generally very little distinction between the two in the UK) and related programming services in the United Kingdom. As well as being a broadcaster, they also produce a large number of their own programmes in-house, forming one of the world's largest television production companies.
Mechanically scanned, 30-line television broadcasts by John Logie Baird began in 1929, using the BBC transmitter in London, and by 1930 a regular schedule of programmes was transmitted from the BBC antenna in Brookmans Park. Television production was switched from Baird's company to what is now known as BBC One on August 2, 1932, and continued until September 1935. Regularly scheduled electronically scanned television began from Alexandra Palace in London on 2 November 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 World War II caused the service to be suspended in September 1939. 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.
In 1946, TV transmissions resumed from Alexandra Palace. The BBC Television Service (renamed BBC tv in 1960) showed popular programming, including drama, comedies, documentaries, game shows and soap operas, covering a wide range of genres and regularly competed with ITV to become the channel with the highest ratings for that week.
BBC tv was renamed BBC1 in 1964, after the launch of BBC2 (now BBC Two), the third television station (ITV was the second) for the UK; its remit, 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 Denis Tuohy 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.
In July 1967, BBC Two became the first television channel in Europe to broadcast regularly 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 15 November 1969). Unlike other terrestrial channels, BBC Two does not have soap opera or standard news programming, but a range of programmes intended to be eclectic and diverse (although if a programme has high audience ratings it is often eventually repositioned to BBC One). The different remit of BBC2 allowed its first controller, Sir David Attenborough to commission the first heavyweight documentaries and documentary series such as Civilisation, The Ascent of Man and Horizon.
David Attenborough was later granted sabbatical leave from his job as Controller to work with the BBC Natural History Unit which had existed since the 1950s. This unit is now famed throughout the world for producing high quality programmes with Attenborough such as Life On Earth, The Private Life of Plants, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
National and regional variations also occur within the BBC One and BBC Two schedules. England's BBC One output is split up into fifteen 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 other nations of the United Kingdom (Wales and Scotland, and the province of Northern Ireland) have been granted more autonomy from the English network; for example, programmes are mostly introduced by local announcers, rather than by those in London. BBC One and BBC Two schedules in the other 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 such as the popular Eòrpa and Dè a-nis?. 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'). 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 Patrick Kielty Almost Live.
The BBC is also renowned for its production of costume dramas, such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and contemporary social dramas such as Boys from the Blackstuff and Our Friends in the North. The BBC has come under pressure to commission more programmes from independent British production companies, and indeed is legally required to source 25% of its output from such companies by the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1990. Programmes have also been imported mainly from English-speaking countries: notable — though no longer shown — examples include The Simpsons from the United States and Neighbours from Australia. Because of the availability of programmes in English, few programmes need use sub-titles or dubbing unlike much European television.
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.
In March 2003 the BBC announced that from the end of May 2003 (subsequently deferred to 14 July) it intended to transmit all eight of its domestic television channels (including the 15 regional variations of BBC 1) unencrypted from the Astra 2D satellite. This move was estimated to save the BBC £85 million over the next five years.
While the "footprint" of the Astra 2D satellite was smaller than that of Astra 2A, from which it was previously broadcast encrypted, it meant that viewers with appropriate equipment were able to receive BBC channels "free-to-air" over much of Western Europe. Consequently, some rights concerns have needed to be resolved with programme providers such as Hollywood studios and sporting organisations, which have expressed concern about the unencrypted signal leaking out. This led to some broadcasts being made unavailable on the Sky Digital platform, such as Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup football, while on other platforms such broadcasts were not disrupted. Later, when rights contracts were renewed, this problem was resolved.
On 5 July 2004, the BBC celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its television news bulletins (although it had produced the Television Newsreel for several years before 1954). This event was marked by the release of a DVD, which showed highlights of the BBC's television coverage of significant events over the 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 was also produced, as well as a special section of the BBC News Online website.
The BBC Television department headed by Jana Bennett was absorbed into a new, much larger group; BBC Vision, in late 2006. The new group is part of larger restructuring within the BBC with the onset of new media outlets and technology.
In 2008, the BBC began experimenting with live streaming of certain channels in the UK, and in November 2008, all standard BBC television channels were made available to watch online.
BBC's domestic television channels don't show typical advertisements and are instead funded by a television licence fee which viewers who watch TV as is being broadcast are required to pay annually. This includes viewers who watch real-time streams of the BBC's channels online or via their mobile phone. BBC's international channels on the other hand are funded by advertisements and subscription.
Shutdown of all UK analogue television stations began in 2008, leaving only digital transmission for terrestrial services. This will proceed by region finishing with London in 2012.
The BBC's wholly owned commercial subsidiary, BBC Worldwide, also operates several international television channels under BBC branding:
The BBC also co-owns the following channels in joint ventures with other broadcasters:
News channel that broadcasts in Farsi speaking countries including Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the Persian/Dari/Tajiki language.
BBC Japan was a general entertainment channel, which operated between December 2004 and April 2006. It ceased operations after its Japanese distributor folded.