34. BBC

Revenues 2017/18: £ 5.040 billion (€ 5.700 billion)



The British Broadcasting Corporation is the largest radio broadcasting corporation in the world. The BBC produces an exclusively fee-based radio and television program within Great Britain that seeks to 'inform, educate and entertain' its viewers. On an international stage, the commercial branch of the BBC – BBC Worldwide – generates additional revenue through the operation of television stations, the licensing of television formats and the publication of books. The revenue of which are again returned to the BBC base corporation to further unburden the fee payers. BBC's homepage is one of most frequented website in Europe.

General Information


Broadcasting House, Portlands Place, London W1A 1AA, UK
Phone: 0044-20-7580-4468
Fax: 0044-20-7765-1630
Website: www.bbc.co.uk

Branches: Television, radio, licensing, magazines, book publishing
Legal form: Institution under public law 
Financial year: 06/01 - 05/31
Founding year: (1922) 1927

Table I: Economic Performance

Budget (£ Mio.)4,8274,8055,0665,1025,0864,9934,7904,6064,4154,117
Licence Fees (in £ Mio.)3,7433,7353,7263,6563,6063,5133,4473,4943,3693,243
other (in £ Mio.)1,0841,0701,3401,4461,4801,4801,3431,1161,046934



Executives and Directors


Executive Directors:

  • Tony Hall, Director-General
  • James Harding, Director, News & Current Affairs
  • Mark Linsey, Director, BBC Studios
  • Anne Bulford, Deputy Director-General
  • Tim Davie, CEO, BBC Worldwide
  • Ken MacQuarrie, Director, Nations and Regions
  • Charlotte Moore, Director, Content
  • Matthew Postgate, Chief Technology and Product Officer
  • James Purnell, Director, Radio and Education
  • Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth, Director, Human Relations



In 1926, three years after its initial founding, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) received its first 'Royal Charter' that made it an official institution operating outside the governments sphere of influence, but not the parliament, not unlike the Bank of England. Solely financed through so-called 'license fees', the independent public-service radio was born. To this day, the core philosophy underlying BBC's programming is to 'serve the public interest' by means of information, education and entertainment.

Initially restricted to radio, the BBC launched its regular television operation in 1946 and a first international breakthrough for the medium happened in 1952 with the live transmission of Elisabeth II.'s coronation. The BBC television program enjoyed some commercial competition as early as 1955 with the introduction of ad-financed and regionally organised ITV channels (Independent Television).
In the mid 1960s, the BBC was granted a further channel, later followed by a second program for private television as well in, the early 1980s (BBC2 and Channel 4). Ever since launching its digital television service in the mid-90s, the BBC continues to extend its program range systematically.

Through the acquisition of a license for terrestrial digital television in Great Britain, which had initially been intended for commercial operators, by a consortium of BBC and Rupert Murdoch's Pay TV platform BSkyB (FreeView), the public-service institution is the dominating force in the British TV market.

All commercial activities of the BBC – both national and international – are bundled in the BBC Worldwide subsidiary since 1994. BBC Worldwide markets program content and spin-offs that are financed by radio fees, such as magazines, books etc. In its own right, BBC Worldwide is a broadcaster both for Pay TV and Free TV, primarily abroad, All profits of BBC Worldwide are returned to the BBC base company.
All BBC TV and radio programs are devoid of adverts and are being financed by radio fees, which are subject to payment only by the TV audiences in Great Britain. The reception of radio programs is free.

The BBC was granted a gradual increase of the fees to 151,50 Pounds p.a. In 2012. However, the day during which the readjustment of BBC's radio fees was announced, other, more trivial events overshadowed the announcement in the media: The British 'Celebrity Big Brother' incarnation witnessed a plethora of racist remarks made by the national B-league of celebrities. The laments by the BBC about the circumstance that they would have to make do with 2 billion Pounds less than scheduled due to unsatisfying deals, fell on deaf ears.

And yet, the adjustment of fees is quite a detour of the traditional modus operandi. Ever since 1988, the 'license fee' – which is subject to government and House of Commons' regulation – had been linked with the inflation rate. This specific form of indexing in Great Britain– which is the subject of a current debate in Germany, where potential models for a reform of the local radio fee system are discussed – is now a thing of the past. In 2007/2008, the fee once again grew by three percent respectively. The journalists' union NUJ voiced energetic protests regarding this 'Below-inflation-Settlement', and there were a few singular strikes happening at the BBC and the Director General emphasised that the lack of finances could have consequences that would be palpable in the program as well. An in-house financial review is supposed to point out possible means of saving money.



The new 'Royal Charter' is valid from January 2007 to 2016 and introduces far-reaching reforms at the BBC, especially in top-level management and the institution's internal supervision. The BBC is fronted by a management team (BBC Executive Board) at the top of which resides the Director General. The Director General is the 'highest ranked editor-in-chief' and responsible for all programs at the same time . The new charter includes a binding stipulation on the inclusion of at least four so-called non-Executive-Members in the board, whose position can be compared to that of a supervisory board. The position of the Deputy Director General that was introduced in 2004 is specifically intended to be a preventive measure regarding eventual 'single-handed decisions' by the Director General or other top tier managers. The trigger of this measures had been the bitter fights between the acting Labour government and the BBC, especially in regards to the coverage of the Iraq war and the political background affairs leading to the British participation in the most recent Iraq war.

It had been for the same reason that the BBC Board of Governors' formerly self-controlled form of supervision was re-organized. Instead of the governors, who had been the highest authority in management as well as the institution's own supervisory gremium, now emerged the 'BBC Trust'. It may not dispose of any direct management responsibilities any more, but sports considerably more authority when it comes to the Executive Board's allocation, which  itself has been operating under the title of BBC Executive since January 2007 and contains so-called Non-Executive-Directors as it is common practice in British board of directors. Furthermore, the Trust is supposed to survey the quality of BBC's program and ensure its compliance with the programming commission. As of now, the Trust is comprised of twelve members. In formal terms – not unlike the broadcasting councils in Germany – they represent the social versatility in the country. Due to their rather small numbers, at least when compared to German supervisory boards, the individual members of the Trust are far more powerful. Also unlike Germany, they are not nominated by respective 'key figures of public life', but appointed by the queen in concordance with the government's recommendation.

Business Fields


Unlike the public-service stations in Germany, the BBC is already a more prominent factor in the world of digital radio and considers itself to be the driving force behind the 'switch off' of analogue stations that is scheduled for 2012. Until then, the BBC continues to distribute its two analogue TV programs BBC1 (with regional windows for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) and BBC 2.

In television, BBC operates six digital programs in DVB-T standard through FreeView: BBC Three (for young adults), BBC Four (Culture / Education), BBC News 24 (News Channel), BBC Parliament (Live-transmissions from Westminster), as well as the two kids' channels Children's BBC (CBBC) and CBeebies, which caters for small children.
Currently, BBC Worldwide operates 11 TV-stations, some of which as PAY TV or joint ventures with other media companies. For the most part, the channels transmit outside of Great Britain. These include BBC Prime (BBC program highlights), the international news channel BBC World, cable stations such as BBC America, BBC Japan, BBC Canada, BBC Food, USA (Since 1998, US cable station), Animal Planet and People & Arts (Joint-Venture with  Discovery Communications) as well as the Pay TV package UKTV (Joint-Venture with Virgin Media), which can be received in Great  Britain. 

At the moment, BBC operates five analogue UKW radio chains: Radio 1 (Pop, Youth), Radio 2 (general entertainment),  Radio 3 (E-Music, Culture), Radio 4 (Entertainment, News, Audio plays) and Radio 5 Live (News, Sports), plus regional radio programs for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as 40 local BBC stations in England. Furthermore, five additional programs are available via the DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting)-standard) – see digital radio.
BBC World Service is sending in over 30 languages and is received by a minimum of 140 million listeners per week from all over the world. Initially transmitted via short wave, the 'World Service' is available in more and more countries via UKW or medium wave frequencies. Despite being the subject of severe internal and partially public criticism due to its restricted programming range, it is completely financed by means of a 'Grant in Aid' – a fixed budget item by the foreign ministry that does not influence the content of the program in any way. The World Service also finances new projects such as the Arabian news channel BBC Arabia that launched in March 2008.

Digital Radio: 
Unlike the public-service stations in Germany, the BBC is already a more prominent factor in the world of digital radio and considers itself to be the driving force behind the 'switched off' of analogue stations that is scheduled for 2012. Until then, the BBC will continue to distribute its analogue TV and radio programs. In radio, the BBC currently operates five additional stations through the DAB standard, which seems to be widely accepted as standard in Great Britain, unlike Germany, but has been the subject of a few setbacks quite recently too: 1Xtra (current music), Five Live Sports Extra, 6 Music (Rock and Pop), BBC 7 (Comedy, Audio Plays, Kids program), as well as Asian Network, which caters for migrants from the Asian parts of the world. The Asian Network transmits primarily in English but also in several Asian languages.

BBC Director General Thompson had been successful in the bid to advance further extension plans for the BBC in the digital age: By the end of April 2007, the BBC Trust agreed to the introduction of a freely available digital satellite platform for up to 300 TV and radio programs. This translates to an enormous extension for the transmission capacities – Freeview, the BBC's digital terrestrial platform currently only offers 75 programs and cannot be received in all parts of the country. With Freeview and Freesat, the BBC will irrevocably become the crucial factor in the media landscape of the future.

The reactions of BSkyB, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Pay-TV platform and other Pay TV provides regarding BBC Freesat plans turned out to be adequately fierce. On top of that, Murdoch was angered by Thompson's intention to transform the BBC into its own brand for young adults one step at a time. The BBC boss noticed that for youth in Great Britian, the television has ceased to be the number one medium a long time ago and the increasing usage of the Internet has a negative impact on the degree of the television consumption. A quarter of all English youth does not consume any form of public-service television at all. Hence, Thompson is in the process of remodelling the BBC homepage (the most frequented website in Europe) into a online media service which is supposed to compete with mp3 download pages and Web 2.0 services such as Myspace.com. However, Thompson's 'Creative Future Strategy', that includes a cooperation with the YouTube video platform and even Myspace itself since 2008, is not an endeavour devoid of potential shipwreck. The yellow press paper 'The Sun', also part of News Corp.,  already initiated a large-scale campaign against the 'bloated' BBC. The 'Daily Mail' describes the youth strategy as 'dumbing down to win over young audiences'.

Another project that had been greenlit by the BBC Trust in late April 2007, was the BBC iPlayer, a BBC media library on the Internet.  Up to seven days after the initial transmission, most of BBC's programs can be viewed online. A similar service is scheduled to be provided through the TV cable as well. In total, the iPlayer can dispose of more than 130 Million Pounds out of the TV fee pool until 2012.

Licensing Trade: BBC Worldwide is responsible for the international licensing trade with BCC programs and co-productions.

Magazines/Video and Music:
BBC Worldwide also published several dozen magazines such as the Radio Times programming magazine, a whole range of cooking and gardening titles. As well as magazines which have been specifically created for individual BBC programs, such as 'Top of the Pops, or 'Doctor Who Adventures'. Furthermore, there are audio books, sound storage mediums (CD/DVD etc.) and educational material for the multitude of BBC educational programs as well as the 'Lonely Planet' series of travel guides. 


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Media Pluralism in Europe




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the Open Society Foundations' Media Program,


Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,


the Rudolf Augstein Foundation,


the city of Cologne, Germany,


and the State of Thuringia, Department of Commerce.