My question this week for Jackie, our British Secret Weapon, concerned the BBC:
Question: Can you tell me a little bit about the differences between the BBCs 1 and 2? How many are there? I have got to find a good history of the BBC to read. Is it commercial or still owned by the government?
BBC1 is the main BBC channel. It was launched in 1936 and strives to produce
“impartial, high-quality and distinctive content and services that inform,
educate and entertain”. It is the most watched channel in the UK and its
services are paid for through a licence fee (which is currently £145.50, per
household, per year). This means that there are no advertisements on the
channel at all – a massive bonus! A typical day begins at 6am with 3 hours
of breakfast news and discussion. The main day-time slots are filled with
vaguely educational entertainment – programmes like Homes Under the Hammer
(about buying property at auction) or The Antiques Roadshow (about the price
of antique items). The evening is filled with popular programmes – new
quality dramas, wildlife documentaries (we particularly love David
Attenborough!), Eastenders (very popular soap opera) or the latest cookery
BBC2 was launched in 1964. It tends to show less mainstream programmes than
BBC, focusing more on culture. On a typical day it will have quiz shows,
news, politics, documentaries and sporting events.
BBC3 was launched in 2003 and aimed at 16 and 34 years old. It moved online
BBC4 was launched in 2002 and is very “high-brow”. It is filled with arts
programmes, historical documentaries, international films, music, and
And I had a follow-up question for that: Could I ask how you pay the licence fee? Does the BBC send you a bill or does it go in with your other taxes? It’s a bill from the government, right? Is everyone assessed it with a TV, or can you choose not to pay it and then not get BBC? We have nothing like that here–our PBS/networks are free if you own a digital converter box for your old-style TV (which is what we have), but of course there are a million ads. Not on PBS but on the networks. And then of course you can pay for cable or wireless TV per month–very expensive–usually starting at 50 bucks a month but that’s what most people have. And there’s still ads! Ridiculous.
Jackie was nice enough to largely side-step my going off-topic and complaining about ads, and here was her reply:
The TV licence isn’t treated as a tax from the state. In theory it is an
independent bill handed out by the BBC board of governors. It isn’t quite
that simple though, as the government allows this bill to be sent out and
There is a lot of debate about whether the government should have control
over what the BBC produces and whether or not the BBC should be allowed to
continue with the licence fee. It all gets quite complicated – especially
over world news. The BBC have recently decided to cut back on their
monitoring of global news – a service for which the government was the major
So. Consider my mind blown–I had no idea there was a licensing fee for the BBC. Also, CAN anyone recommend a good book on the BBC for me? I’m just nerdy enough that it seems to me a book on such a subject would be a cracking good time.