The papers relate to the British Broadcasting Company, which was formed on 18 October 1922, registered on 15 December 1922 and dissolved on 31 December 1926. The liquidation of the British Broadcasting Company took almost three years - it was not until 12 December 1929 before the British Broadcasting Company finally ceased to exist. The British Broadcasting Company was succeeded by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which was established on 01 January 1927 by Royal Charter.
Apart from a few papers on experimental broadcasts and initial proposals of radio manufacturers, the majority of the papers in this series cover the broadcasting service of the British Broadcasting Company in the UK between 1922 and 1926. The papers are the earliest holdings of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Written Archives Centre and resemble those kept by any commercial company under the provisions of the Companies Acts (Certificate of Registration, Memorandum and Articles of Association).
The papers include correspondence and documentation on the following: the company’s formation, organisation and liquidation; the company’s relations with the radio trade, politicians, and the press; negotiations with the Post Office; attempts to deal with programming policy through public representation (Broadcasting Board); views on programmes and opinions expressed by shareholders.
The papers of the British Broadcasting Company contain a large number of files relating to the Board of Directors, Finance and the General Strike.
Board of Directors papers
The Board of Directors formed the British Broadcasting Company at a meeting on 18 October 1922. At this meeting held at the Institution of Electrical Engineers there were representatives present from over 200 radio manufacturing firms. The assembled manufacturers were told that an agreement with the Postmaster General had been reached and the meeting welcomed the creation of the new British Broadcasting Company.
The first Chairman of the British Broadcasting Company was Lord Gainford. The first Directors of the Company were: Major Basil Binyon (Radio Communication Company); John Gray (British Thomson-Houston); Godfrey C. Isaacs (Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company); Archibald McKinstry (Metropolitan-Vickers); Sir William Noble (General Electric) and Henry Mark Pease (Western Electric Company). Two independent directors were elected by the smaller firms: Sir William Bull, Conservative leader of London’s Unionist MPs, and W.W. Burnham.
The first object of the new Company was to acquire from the Postmaster General a licence. The first Board meeting was held at Magnet House on 21 December1922, the last meeting on 20 December 1926. The Board of Directors met frequently at the beginning of 1923, and, after the company was more established, on a monthly basis, but not all minutes have survived.
Papers relating to the accounts and finance of the British Broadcasting Company form another major part of the records in this series. The main source of the British Broadcasting Company’s revenue was derived from radio receiving licences.
The British Broadcasting Company operated under its Deed of Licence and Agreement between the Postmaster General and the British Broadcasting Company. The first Licence and Agreement granted to the Company was signed on 18 January 1923.
The first financial calculations were based on the assumption that there would be 200,000 receiving licences during the first year and that annual expenditure on the operation would be about £160,000. With the development of additional relay stations, the extension of transmitting hours, and the continued increase in the cost of programmes, these calculations were completely upset.
During the period from 18 January 1923 until 31 March 1925 the British Broadcasting Company received less than £500,000 from the Post Office, and the method of payment was changed four times between 1922 and 1926. Other sources of revenue for the British Broadcasting Company came from tariffs on manufactured radio sets and The Radio Times .
General Strike papers
Papers relating to the General Strike also form a large part of this series. The General Strike began on 03 May 1926. The end of the strike was announced on 12 May1926 when J.C.W. Reith (Managing Director, British Broadcasting Company) read a message from King George V on the radio. During this period the British Broadcasting Company became almost the sole purveyor of news and broadcast five bulletins each day, rather than being restricted to one evening bulletin. Copies of news bulletins are contained in CO1/31 to CO1/33.
During the General Strike the British Broadcasting Company tried to maintain independence. Three issues caused problems, however. They were the failure to put on the air a Labour or a Trade Union Congress speaker; the delaying of news of an important announcement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the British Broadcasting Company’s ‘editorials’.
The General Strike left the British Broadcasting Company as a major news source and appreciation of the British Broadcasting Company’s role was quick to follow.