The book BBC is a comprehensive biography of the British Broadcasting Corporation, “the embodiment of public service broadcasting, a template to emulate.” The book offers both a history of the institution and its key personnel and an assessment of its difficulties and successes living up to its self-professed mission “to inform, educate and entertain.” The author offers his personal “version of the BBC story, not an officially approved one”—but one bolstered by “several years of invaluable help from the BBC accessing and navigating my way through its archival treasures.”
He begins with the founders—Cecil Lewis, John Reith, and Arthur Burrows—and its initial incarnation as a radio company in 1922. Early on, the author points out that although the BBC is not a government-run entity, it exists only by Royal Charter, funded by a license fee set by Parliament. Its history is inextricably woven into the fabric of 20th-century Britain: the 1926 General Strike, when the BBC averted a real threat of government takeover; the close collaboration with the World War II–era government, which included the sending of coded messages during broadcasts; an eyewitness account of the direct hit on its home in Broadcasting House during the Blitz; the robust patronage of the new medium, TV; and its ever increasing role as a truly global institution.
He ably dissects the BBC’s approach to popular entertainment and the arts without sparing due criticism. In 1975, for example, reporter Mike Phillips argued that the BBC “failed accurately to reflect the lives, problems and aspirations of immigrant minorities.” Throughout, the author offers brief profiles of numerous outsize personalities across the media, politics and the arts. He also meticulously lays out the many attempts, by both Conservative and Labour governments and by rival media, to derail the BBC’s editorial independence—e.g., during the Suez Crisis and the Falklands War. Much of this history has been told before but never in such well-researched depth and sparkling detail. TW
You can also check free speech