British broadcasting has traditionally been based on the principle that it is a public service accountable to the people through Parliament. Following 1990 legislation, it is also embracing the principles of competition and choice. Three public bodies are responsible for television and radio services throughout Britain. They are: 1. the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcasts television and radio services; 2. the Independent Television Commission (ITC) licenses and regulates non-BBC television services, including cable and satellite services, and; 3. the Radio Authority licenses and regulates all non-BBC radio services. Since the 1970s 98% of British households have had television sets able to receive four channels, two put out by the BBC, two by commercial companies. Commercial satellite and cable TV began to grow significantly in 1989 – 1990, and by 1991 the two main companies operating in Britain had joined together as British Sky Broadcasting. By 1991 about one household in ten had the equipment to receive this material. Every household with TV must by law pay for a license, which costs about the same for a year as a popular newspaper every day. Unlike the press, mass broadcasting has been subject to some state control from its early days. One agreed purpose has been to ensure that news, comment and discussion should be balanced and impartial, free of influence by government or advertisers. From 1926 first radio, then TV as well, were entrusted to the BBC, which still has a board of governors appointed by the government. The BBC’s monopoly was ended in 1954, when an independent board was appointed by the Home Secretary to give licenses to broadcast (“franchises”) to commercial TV companies financed by advertising, and called in general independent television (ITV). These franchises have been given only for a few years at a time, then renewed subject to various conditions. In 1990 Parliament passed a long and complex new Broadcasting Act which made big changes in the arrangements for commercial TV and radio. The old Independent Broadcasting Authority, which had given franchises to the existing TV and radio companies, was abolished. In its place, for TV alone, a new Independent Television Commission was set up in 1991, with the task of awarding future franchises, early in the 1990s, either to the existing companies or to new rivals which were prepared to pay a higher price. The Commission also took over responsibility for licensing cable programme services, including those satellite TV channels which are carried on cable networks. The new law did not change the status of the BBC, but it did have the purpose of increasing competition, both among broadcasters and among producers. It envisaged that a new commercial TV channel, TV5, would start in the early 1990s. The general nature of the four TV channels functioning in 1991, seems likely to continue, with BBC1 and ITV producing a broadly similar mixture of programmes in competition with each other. ITV has a complex structure. Its main news is run by one company, Independent Television News, its early morning TV – a.m. by another. There are about a dozen regional companies which broadcast in their regions for most each day, with up to ten minutes of advertisements in each hour, between programmes or as interruptions at intervals of twenty or thirty minutes. These regional companies produce some programmes of local interest and some which they sell to other regions, so that for much of each day the same material is put out all through the country. Some of BBC1’s progarmmes are similarly produced by its regional stations. BBC2 and the independent Channel 4 (which has its own company) are both used partly for special interest programmes and for such
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