by Martin Revis
Visitors to London will be able to assess briefly their broadcasting
skills at a five million pounds sterling exhibition which Queen
Elizabeth II is due to open on 29 October.
The BBC Experience is employing the latest audio visual and
techniques to depict the Corporation's activities over the past 75
and explain the advent of digital transmission promising high
pictures and CD quality sound.
Aspiring actors and technicians may make a three minute radio play
choice of action-packed scripts, do their own sound mixing and hear
the results played back. Would-be television weather presenters and
commentators can similarly record their own attempts and view the
There is also a chance to direct "East Enders", the serial soap drama of
east London life, by selecting and editing recently recorded scenes.
Guides will lead groups of about 30 people, departing at regular time
booked intervals, through the anniversary show located on three
Broadcasting House, the distinctive art deco style building near
Circus which opened in 1932 as the world's first purpose-built radio
The history of "Auntie", as the BBC is affectionately known, is described
from the daily transmissions started in November 1922. Ten years
the first Royal Christmas broadcast scripted by Rudyard Kipling for
delivery by King George V. It reached listeners at home and overseas
via the new Empire Service, the forerunner of the World Service, which
has an estimated 143 million regular listeners, of whom 35 million
into the English language service.
Examples of programmes from six decades of television are being
displayed, starting in 1936 with the opening in London of the world's
first regular relatively high definition service when ten-inch screen
sets for the few thousand subscribers in the London area cost 110
pounds sterling - more than 3,000 pounds in today's money.
The Corporation grew to become Europe's largest programme maker and
exporter of audio visual material. Programme sales totalled 354
million pounds sterling last year when the documentary People's
Century was top earner. Two epic
dramas, Rhodes about the founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and
Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, both flops in terms of British ratings,
were among the best sellers abroad.
BBC World, the commercial 24-hour TV news service now reaches 45
homes across the world, 30 million of them in Europe. The reach is
that of CNN in Asia and the Middle East and the next challenge facing
the Corporation is to make the channel global by securing distribution
At home, despite the multiplication of TV satellite, cable services
andcommercial radio stations following deregulation, 95 per cent of
still tune into BBC television and radio for more than two hours every
The BBC's first clash with politicians came over coverage of the 1926
general strike in Britain and many more were to follow as broadcasters
sought to follow the instruction of Sir John Reith, the corporation's
founding director-general, who said simply in a brief memo "give both
sides." The reputation for unbiased news treatment has helped the World
Service, funded by an annual Parliamentary grant, to retain and
listeners to its 45 language services.
Visitors will be able to sample some of these as they are relayed to
the exhibition from studios elsewhere in London. Earlier this year
the World Service, which has its own English language web site,
introduced a Cantonese version, to be followed next by Arabic as the
Internet service is progressively expanded.
At the Broadcasting House tour assembly point, artefacts from the
collection are being displayed in public for the first time. They
the earliest radio equipment, diaries, telegrams from the doomed
and the microphone used by Dame Nellie Melba for the song recital
during Britain's first advertised public broadcast programme in 1920,
two years before daily transmission began.
The tour moves on to a seven screen presentation of a day in the life
of Broadcasting House, a multi-media presentation of BBC history and
the interactive radio and television studios where visitors can make
broadcasts. In the following technology section there are further "hands
on'' activity opportunities, including a chance to operate a TV camera
The final display explains how digital compressed signals are about to
make better use of the crowded air waves to provide more television
and radio channels with sharper definition pictures and Compact Disc
The BBC launched the world's first digital radio service two years
a pilot project for a sample of listeners provided with prototype
receivers. Models are expected to be in the shops by the end of this
year. The World Service can already be received digitally in Paris and
listeners participating in another pilot scheme undertaken in
with German and French broadcasters.
Digital television, which can be delivered by satellite, land-based
transmitters and cable is expected to start in Britain by the middle
of next year. It will be provided free of charge to licence fee payers
at the existing rate, although set top decoders will have to be paid for.
For more information, contact:
PO Box 7000
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, CF5 2YU
Telephone:+ 44 1222 577771
Fax: +44 1222 578544