Milestones

About The BBC

The BBC will be 100 years old in 2022, having made its first radio broadcasts from London in November 1922.

Its timeline is littered with legendary landmarks from the first broadcast of The Archers in 1951 to The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, which attracted an audience of more than 28m on Christmas Day in 1977, to the launch of Comic Relief. Despite these joyous national events, the distinctly British brand has also suffered because of its high-profile status – for instance, in 2001 a bomb was set off outside the BBC Television Centre, thought to have been planted by Irish republican terrorists following a Panorama broadcast about the Omagh bombing outrage.

About 46m people across the country use the BBC every day. While the corporation’s purpose remains to make great programmes and services that ‘inform, educate and entertain’ the BBC has changed (almost) beyond recognition since 1927, when it was awarded its Royal Charter. This change has in large part been down to the rise of digital, requiring the BBC to constantly innovate and adapt to a rapidly changing media landscape.

While the BBC might still stereotypically be associated with the crisp tones and received pronunciation of the BBC World Service of old, today it is a much more diverse beast. It runs nine national TV services, including offerings for niche audiences such as CBBC and BBC Parliament. It has 10 national radio stations that reach a broad range of people, from BBC Asian Network to the sports-focused BBC Radio 5 Live.

A growing proportion of UK consumers is embracing on-demand programming, largely due to the success of the BBC’s iPlayer, rather than making ‘appointments to view’. As well as iPlayer, the BBC’s other digital services include BBC News, Sport, Weather, CBBC and iPlayer Radio. Its top 10 apps have been downloaded 80m times and BBC sites are the third-most popular on mobile devices in the UK. In response to younger audiences migrating online to watch TV, the corporation recently made the decision to take its BBC Three channel entirely online in February 2016.

Another challenge the BBC faces is continuing to cater to local audiences, after a history of programme-making from production centres in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Salford, Bristol and Birmingham – as well as London. Certainly, the corporation’s move of key operations – such as BBC Breakfast and BBC Children’s - to Salford in 2011 sent a clear signal of the importance of the regions to its future.

As well as funding its services via the TV licence fee, the BBC has commercial ventures worldwide, including the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring and BBC World News. It also has a commercial arm – BBC Worldwide, a wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC – from which profits are ploughed back into public-service broadcasting. Perhaps one of the most famous corporate mission statements, the BBC’s public-service remit is to “inform, educate and entertain”, an ethos embedded throughout the organisation.