The first contact many people living outside the UK actually have with the country itself is through the British Broadcasting Corporation. Whether it is through the BBC World Service, a TV programme or a camera crew filming their misery as they work, starve, or get bombed and shot at, the BBC’s reach and position as the world’s largest media organisation has undoubtedly made it, and its logo, the most well known of all British icons.
The BBC began life in 1922 as a private company, the British Broadcasting Company Ltd, as a vehicle to test radio broadcasts which it began in November of that year. However in 1927 the company was closed down and replaced by the state-owned organisation we now know as the BBC.
With the motto ‘Nation shall speak unto nation’ BBC Radio became the mouthpiece of the British Empire binding the scattered masses at home and abroad. In 1932 the BBC began experimenting with television broadcasting and was making great leaps in this field until 1939 when BBC Radio broadcast the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s famous quote: “…this country is now at war with Germany,” and all TV work was suspended until the end of World War Two.
The BBC played a major role during the war broadcasting Winston Churchill's speeches which held the nation together as Europe fell to the Nazis and Luftwaffe bombs fell on the UK. However, once the war was over, both radio and Churchill were sidelined and TV, with the BBC at the forefront, heralded a new era.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 was the first mass viewing of any televised event in the UK as any front room with a TV set was crammed full of friends and neighbours to watch the new, young queen being crowned.
Since then, BBC TV, in much the same way as BBC Radio had done before and especially during WWII became synonymous with world history for the people of the UK as all major events have been covered with many reporters' quotes defining the times.
But the BBC isn't just about news, its mandate is to entertain as well as inform, as it collects (some might say coerces) money in the form of a licence fee from anyone who owns a TV set the Corporation has made some of the most memorable TV in history.
Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Black Adder, Doctor Who and Dad's Army are just some of the BBC TV programmes and UK icons that have gone on to form part of the nation's collective memory and even added catchphrases and words to the English lexicon.
However, with the advent of the internet, digital TV and reality TV shows the BBC has come under fire for what many see as a slide in standards as licence fee payers foot the bill for same old famous faces of Cambridge Alumni to go on holiday, have their houses decorated and gardens landscaped.
In these difficult times the future of the BBC is uncertain as tinkering by politicians and financial constraints have signalled the end of certain radio stations born out of the digital hubris of Blair's Britain. What is for sure is the BBC will remain one of the most, if not the most widely recognised of UK icons for many years to come.