April 20, 1964: BBC2 launches without much success. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was launched in 1922 by a group of six telecommunications companies and with John Reith as General Manager of the radio station. Radio came alive with the 33-year-old at the helm and daily programming began over the station. Both weather forecasts and news bulletins were first presented to the public on November 14, 1922. Arthur Burrows read each bulletin twice, once quickly and then a second time, more slowly. Listeners were then encouraged to let the station know which presentation was better. In 1927 a Royal Charter transformed the private radio station into a public one paid for by a licensing fee. The Charter expires in 2017. The BBC did not derive from a parliamentary statute.
In 1932 the BBC began experimental television broadcasts which became a regular service in 1936. The BBC Television Service used an upgraded delivery system giving better reception for British citizens. Television broadcasts were suspended during World War II. Competition in television service came in 1955 with the introduction of ITV, but the BBC held on to its monopoly for radio until the 1970s. The quality of ITV was met with disapproval. The picture was less defined and the programming was low quality.
BBC decided to begin a second television station – BBC2 (BBC Two as of 1997). This meant the original station was named BBC1. Higher resolution pictures were broadcast. The station was set to go live at 7:20 PM on this day with a schedule of light entertainment. The Alberts opened the evening’s lineup. Earlier in the day (at 6:45 PM) a fire at the Battersea Power Station caused a loss of power at Television Central. BBC1 could broadcast from Alexander Palace, but BBC2 was forced to shut down by 8 PM.
By 11 AM the next morning, power was restored and BBC2 was back on the air. The first show to actually be broadcast from the station was Play School. The programs from the unsuccessful opening lineup were shown in their entirety the following evening. Today, the BBC has eight national television channels plus regional programming. They have ten national radio stations and forty local stations. They also have a web presence. BBC programming can be seen around the world and is presented in 32 languages. The corporation is governed by the BBC Trust with Sir Michael Lyons the current Trust Chairman.
I believe that the BBC, in spite of the stupidity of its foreign propaganda and the unbearable voices of its announcers, is very truthful. It is generally regarded here as more reliable than the press. – George Orwell
BBC Radio is a never-never land of broadcasting, a safe haven from commercial considerations, a honey pot for every scholar and every hare-brained nut to stick a finger into. – Morley Safer
The word ‘conservative’ is used by the BBC as a portmanteau word of abuse for anyone whose views differ from the insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naive, guilt-ridden, wet, pink orthodoxy of that sunset home of the third-rate minds of that third-rate decade, the nineteen-sixties. - Norman Tebbit
The BBC produces wonderful programmes; it also produces a load of old rubbish. – Jonathan Dimbleby
Also on this day:
Whodunit? – In 1841 the first mystery story is published.
Germ Theory – In 1862, Pasteur demonstrated his new theory.
Ludlow Massacre – In 1914, mining riots took place in Colorado resulting in 22 dead.