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Media of the United Kingdom: Wikis


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The United Kingdom has an extremely diverse media with an almost unrivalled number of outlets.




Analogue terrestrial television in the United Kingdom is made up of two chartered public broadcasting companies, the BBC and Channel 4 and two franchised commercial television companies, (ITV and Five). There are five major free-to-air analogue channels: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

The BBC is funded by public money accrued from a television licence fee gathered from all UK households with a television set. This fee is legally compulsory and failure to pay it is punishable by prosecution, resulting in a fine or imprisonment. There are exceptions to paying, for homes with a pensioner (person over 65 years old). It is cheaper for those with a black & white TV or eyesight that is impaired. It is currently set at £135.50 , but is not set in stone. The fee chargeable is limited by the government and regulatory authorities. The BBC provides two analogue channels, BBC One (consisting of a network of local BBC stations) and BBC Two.

Channel 4 is similarly chartered to the BBC, with a remit to provide public service broadcasting and schools programs, however it runs commercial advertisements to provide a revenue stream. It produces a single analogue channel, currently branded as Channel 4.

The commercial operators rely on advertising for their revenue, and are run as commercial ventures, in contrast to the public service operators. The ITV franchise transmits one analogue channel known as ITV (consisting of a network of local ITV stations) and Five transmits one analogue channel also.

All the major analogue broadcasters provide additional channels on the free-to-air Freeview digital television service, and all of these channels can be accessed via a cable or satellite provider, such as Virgin Media or BSkyB.

Freesat, a satellite-based free-to-air service similar to Freeview, has been reported to be planned by a consortium led by the BBC.

In the UK the BBC has eight digital channels:

ITV plc (which owns eleven ITV franchises) has eight digital channels:

Channel 4 has nine digital channels:

Five has five digital channels:

  • Five (also available on analogue)
  • Fiver (formerly Five Life)
  • Five USA (formerly Five US)
  • Fiver +1
  • Five USA +1

All four of the mentioned broadcasters also have interactive services on digital.

65% of households in 2005/06 received some digital television service.


The transmission mast above the BBC wing of Alexandra Palace, photographed in 2001.

The first British television channel was launched by the BBC in 1932 and called simply The BBC Television Service. The service used Baird's 30-line system and these transmissions continued until 11 September 1935. On 2 November 1936 the BBC began broadcasting a dual-system service, alternating on a weekly basis between Marconi-EMI's high-resolution (405 lines per picture) service and Baird's improved 240-line standard from Alexandra Palace in London. Six months later, the corporation decided that Marconi-EMI's electronic picture gave the superior picture, and adopted that as their standard. This service is described as "the world's first regular high-definition public television service", since a regular television service had been broadcast earlier on a 180-line standard in Germany. The outbreak of the Second World War caused the service to be suspended. TV transmissions only resumed from Alexandra Palace in 1946.

The BBC Television Service held a complete monopoly on television broadcasting in the UK until ITV was launched in 1955. The station was renamed BBC1 when BBC2 was launched in April 1964.


Picture of a Truetone brand old-fashioned radio

There are many hundreds of radio stations in the United Kingdom, the most prominent of which are the national stations operated by the BBC. Recent advances in digital radio technology have enabled the launch of several new stations by the Corporation.

  • BBC Radio 1 broadcasts pop music output on FM and digital radio, with live music throughout the year
  • BBC Radio 2 is the UK's most listened to radio station, featuring presenters Terry Wogan and Jonathan Ross, with a mix of music from the last thirty years
  • BBC Radio 3 is a serious classical station, broadcasting high-quality concerts and performances. At night, it transmits a wide range of jazz and world music
  • BBC Radio 4 is a current affairs and speech station, with news, debate and radio drama. It broadcasts the daily radio soap The Archers, as well as flagship news programme Today
  • BBC Radio Five Live broadcasts live news and sports commentary with phone-in debates and studio guests
  • BBC 6 Music transmits predominantly alternative rock, with many live sessions. Shaun Keaveny presents the morning show
  • BBC 1Xtra broadcasts rap, RnB and drum'n'bass
  • BBC 7 uses the BBC's large archive of speech programming to broadcast classic comedy and drama, mainly originally from Radio 4

The BBC also provide 40 local radio services, mainly broadcasting a mix of local news and music aimed at an older audience.

Also available nationally are three national commercial channels, namely Absolute Radio, Classic FM and talkSPORT. As with the BBC, digital radio has brought about many changes, including the roll-out of local stations (particularly those based in London) to a national audience. Examples of this are Kiss 100 and Xfm. Commercial radio licences are awarded by government body Ofcom, which advertises a licence for a specific area and holds a so-called beauty contest to determine which station will be granted permission to broadcast in that area. Stations submit detailed application documents containing their proposed format and the outcome of research to determine the demand for their particular style of broadcast.

Most local commercial stations in the United Kingdom broadcast to a city or group of towns within a radius of 20–50 miles, with a second tier of regional stations covering larger areas such as North West England. The predominant format is pop music, but many other tastes are also catered for, particularly in London and the larger cities, and on digital radio.

Rather than operating as independent entities, many local radio stations are owned by large radio groups which broadcast a similar format to many areas. The largest operator of radio stations is Global Radio, owner of the major Heart and Galaxy radio brands. It also owns Classic FM and London's most popular commercial radio station, 95.8 CapitalFM. Other owners are UTV Radio, with stations broadcasting in large city areas and Bauer Radio, holding radio in the North of England. There are also regional stations, Real Radio & the Century Network, broadcasting in some main parts of England, Wales & Scotland.

Many of these stations, including all the BBC radio, are also available via digital television services.



Main articles: List of newspapers in the United Kingdom and History of British newspapers

Newspapers are traditionally categorized into two types in the United Kingdom. Broadsheets which are larger in size and are seen as being more intellectual and upmarket; and tabloids which are smaller in size and seen as being more downmarket than broadsheets, containing more stories about celebrities or gossip. However, some broadsheet papers, such as The Times and The Independent have recently switched to a smaller size, preferring to call themselves compact rather than be stigmatised by the tabloid label.


A bewildering range of magazines are sold in the UK covering most interests and potential topics. Famous examples include Private Eye, Hello!, The Spectator, the Radio Times and NME.

See also

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