LONDON: The British Broadcasting Corporation, more commonly known throughout the world as the BBC, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week, a major milestone for the global media giant.
Over the decades, the broadcaster grew from a small, daily radio service founded by a group of wireless manufacturers to become one of the most prominent and respected British brands in the world.
“For a century, the BBC has been a beacon of trusted news and programming across the world, as well as being part of the fabric of the UK and one of its key institutions,” said Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general.
“It has been a story of a devotion to public service and constant reinvention, which those in the BBC today remain utterly committed to.”
A ubiquitous part of British culture for generations, and affectionately referred as “Auntie” in the UK, the corporation was officially founded on Oct. 18, 1922, with the mission of “informing, educating, and entertaining.” It holds a special place in the history of broadcasting, constantly evolving in an ever-changing media landscape, and has played a part in creating memories and marking special moments in the lives of millions of viewers and listeners.
The BBC quickly established itself as a daily radio service that filled airwaves with “music, drama and ‘talks’ for only a few hours a day.” Then, in 1932, King George V became the first British monarch to deliver a broadcast over the airwaves. Millions around the country heard his voice, many of them for the first time.
The transmission marked the beginning of the BBC Empire Service. It was the precursor to the BBC World Service, as part of which BBC Arabic, the company’s literary Arabic-language radio station, was launched in 1938.
Over the years, BBC Arabic Radio, the corporation’s first foreign-language station, played a vital role in the Arab world, representing a point of contact with the wider world for many people. In September 2022, the BBC announced plans to close BBC Arabic Radio, after more than eight decades on the air, citing financial reasons.
But despite the ups and downs, the BBC has always proved capable of keeping up with modern trends and innovations, and is often praised for its ability to connect with its audience in intelligent and creative ways.
In 1936, the BBC launched what it says was the world’s first regularly scheduled hi-definition TV service. In 1953, its live coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation sparked a boom in TV sales and was the first time that most people in the country had watched a television broadcast.
To mark the centenary, the BBC has organized a series of special events and broadcasts, including a guest appearance from the newly crowned King Charles III on “The Repair Shop,” a program in which expert craftspeople restore antiques.
The centenary comes at a time of uncertainty, however. Drastic budget cuts and changes in viewing habits driven by the digital revolution have sparked debates about the corporation’s future and its ability to continue serving as a “beacon of trusted news and programming around the world.”