GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: BBC - from Modest Beginnings as a Private Firm Making Radio Broadcasts, the BBC Is Now a Massive Brand in Its Own Right

Marketing, August 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: BBC - from Modest Beginnings as a Private Firm Making Radio Broadcasts, the BBC Is Now a Massive Brand in Its Own Right


No other country in the world has a media entity quite like the British Broadcasting Corporation. Eighty years after it started broadcasting, 'Auntie' remains the most powerful media voice in Britain, with activities in television, radio, magazines and the internet. But many rival media companies now complain that the BBC's public service remit to 'educate, entertain and inform' has been sacrificed in pursuit of ratings and commercial success.

They claim the traditions established by its first director-general, John Reith, have been abandoned by his latest successor, Greg Dyke, and that little now separates it from commercial media - other than the licence fee.

When the private British Broadcasting Company was founded in 1922, Reith immediately stamped his passionate belief in public service on the fledgling organisation. These principles were underpinned when the company became corporation in 1927 thanks to a Royal Charter that gave Parliament ultimate control. The BBC soon built a reputation for impartiality and objectivity.

It was the World Service, launched in 1932 as the Empire Service, that would establish the BBC brand and its values on the international stage.

Today, it broadcasts to more than 140 million listeners around the globe.

Back home, BBC television arrived when the corporation began broadcasting from Alexandra Palace, north London, in 1936. However, it was closed down when war came three years later, not to return until June 1946. During the war, the BBC's radio stations became part of the national fabric as people huddled around their wirelesses to hear the latest news. It was BBC radio that united and informed the country, building its brand as it did so. Nevertheless, when television returned it inevitably and quickly became the more powerful medium.

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953 encouraged thousands of previously unmoved subjects to buy television sets. BBC 2 arrived 11 years later and BBC 1 started colour transmissions in 1969.

From the early days of ITV there has been tension between the BBC and its commercial rivals. ITV arrived in 1955 with new ideas, less deferential broadcasters and a more aggressive style. The BBC learned from its commercial rival, picking up what it wanted to, adjusting its own style, presentation and content accordingly.

It did the same in radio, where youth stations began to dominate mass listening in the 1960s. The BBC introduced pop music station Radio 1 in 1967, simultaneously renaming its other three stations (Light, Third and Home) as Radios 2, 3 and 4 respectively. …

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