100 Years of the BBCBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 18 October 2022 - Reported by Nick Salmond

BBC Logo (Credit: BBC)Today marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the BBC.

The British Broadcasting Company came into existence on 18th October 1922, a private company owned by the leading electronics companies of the day, with a remit to provide radio broadcasts that could be heard on wireless sets manufactured by its owners. 

Its first office was at Magnet House near Covent Garden in London. On its creation, it took over control of the already up-and-running Radio 2LO, owned by Marconi, one of the BBC's investors. 

Over the next five years, new Radio stations were launched in the major cities of the UK and the BBC soon became part of national life. 

On 1st January 1927, the BBC was reborn as a Corporation under a Royal Charter and the British Broadcasting Company became the British Broadcasting Corporation led by its first Director General, Sir John Reith. 

Experimental television broadcasts were started in 1929, using a 30-line system developed by John Logie Baird, using Radio frequencies after normal programmes had closed down for the night. A regular Television service started from Alexandra Palace in November 1936, the world's first High Definition Television service. 

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 saw Television broadcasts suspended, but Radio continued with the BBC, through its home and overseas services, becoming a vital part of the information war. Winston Churchill delivered 33 major wartime speeches by radio and in 1940, French general Charles de Gaulle, in exile in London as the leader of the Free French, made a speech, urging the French people not to capitulate to the Nazis. 

The Power of the DoctorTelevision resumed in 1946, with the BBC having a monopoly of the airwaves until the arrival of ITV in 1955. Almost everything broadcast was live, including drama, with very limited ability to record items in advance.  

When Doctor Who was first broadcast, on 23rd November 1963, there were still only two television channels available in the UK. A third arrived in 1964 with the launch of BBC Two. Recording was still very elementary, and editing was costly and avoided whenever possible.  Early Doctor Who's were recorded 'as live' onto 2 inch magnetic tape. Many of these early recordings were later wiped for reuse, meaning 97 episodes are missing from the archives. 

Colour television arrived towards the end of the 1960s. Doctor Who was made in colour from the start of its seventh season which saw the arrival of the third Doctor. 

Doctor Who would be an important part of the BBC One schedule throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The suspension of the series in 1989 was met by many protests from fans around the world. 

A TV Movie was made in America in 1996 but was not deemed successful enough to merit a new series. 

It was in 2003 that Doctor Who News reported that the BBC would be bringing back the series, under the artistic direction of Russell T Davies. The return in 2005 was spectacularly successful with the series an important part of the BBC schedules ever since. The TV landscape in 2022 is a world away from that when the series launched in 1963 with hundreds of TV stations competing for viewers with hugely well-resourced streaming services. 


Doctor Who has been part of the BBC's identity for over half of the BBC's existence and still remains a vital part of the BBC's output. 

A special 90-minute episode, the Power of the Doctor, will screen next Sunday, part of the events to mark the 100th anniversary. The story will feature the swan song of the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker.  

The episode will mark the end of the Chibnall era of the Doctor's adventures and mark the return of Russell T Davies to the helm. It is clear that Doctor Who will be part of the BBC's ethos for many years to come.

We have adventures for the Tenth Doctor in the pipeline and the series has a brand new Doctor to look forward to.  Ncuti Gatwa will be leading the TARDIS team into the BBC's second Century.