BBC News, originally BBC News and Current Affairs, is a major arm of the BBC responsible for the corporation's news-gathering and production of news programmes on BBC television, radio and online. The organisation has been part of the BBC Journalism group since 2006 and is the largest news broadcaster in the world, producing almost 100 hours of output daily. The organisation carries a key objective of the BBC's Royal Charter: to "collect news and information in any part of the world and in any manner that may be thought fit".
The Director of BBC News is currently Helen Boaden; she reports to Mark Byford, Deputy Director General and Head of BBC Journalism.
Based at the News Centre within BBC Television Centre (TVC), Wood Lane, London W12, the department operates regional centres across the United Kingdom as well as 44 news-gathering bureaux around the world. Of these bureaux, 41 are based overseas. Political coverage is based at the Millbank Studios in Millbank, near Westminster. With an annual budget of £350 million, BBC News consists of 3, 500 staff, 2,000 of whom are journalists.
The organisation faces competition within the United Kingdom, from Sky News with its own rolling news channel, as well as ITN, a major provider of news services to commercial networks. Internationally, BBC News competes with other news providers regionally.
The Six O'Clock News was named most popular daily news programme in 2005, a position it currently maintains. The corporations 24 hour rolling news channel BBC News 24 was awarded the RTS News channel of the year award in 2006 for the first time in its history.
The entire News Operation was scheduled to move from the News Centre, to BBC Radio's headquarters, Broadcasting House at Portland Place in Central London in 2008, but problems with building work have delayed this until 2010. The new building will also be home to the BBC World Service when the lease on Bush House expires.
The British Broadcasting Company broadcast its first radio bulletin from 2LO on 14 November 1922. Televised bulletins came later on 5 July 1954, broadcast from leased studios within Alexandra Palace in London. However newsreels had been in use for some time - shown at cinemas and other places of public gathering - and these had been adapted as Television Newsreel programmes, which before the advent of news coverage proper had run on the BBC since 1948. A weekly Children's Newsreel was inaugurated on 23 April 1950.
The public's interest in television and live events was stimulated by Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. It is estimated that up to 27 million people viewed the programme in the UK - overtaking radio's audience of 12 million for the first time - and those live pictures were fed from 21 cameras in central London to Alexandra Palace for transmission, and then on to other UK transmitters opened in time for the event.
Television news, although physically separate from its radio counterpart, was still firmly under its control - with correspondents providing reports for both outlets - and that first bulletin, shown on the then BBC television service and presented by Richard Baker, involved Baker providing narration off-screen while stills were shown - and this was then followed by the customary Television Newsreel with a recorded commentary by John Snagge and Andrew Timothy.
It was revealed that this had been due to producers fearing a newsreader with their facial movements could distract the viewer from the story in question. On-screen newsreaders were finally introduced a year later, in 1955 - Kenneth Kendall (the first to appear in vision), Robert Dougall and Richard Baker - just three weeks before ITN's launch date of 22 September.
Mainstream television production had by now moved out of Alexandra Palace to larger premises - mainly at Lime Grove Studios in west London - taking Current Affairs department with it, and it was here that the topical early-evening programme Tonight (hosted by Cliff Michelmore) started on 18 February 1957. Prior to this, in the same Shepherd's Bush studios, the first Panorama had been presented by Richard Dimbleby on 11 November 1953.
Later in 1957, on 28 October in central London, radio launched its morning programme Today on the Home Service.
In 1958 Hugh Carleton Greene became head of News and Current Affairs, and set up a BBC study group whose findings, published in 1959, were critical of what the television news operation had become under Greene's predecessor Tahu Hole. The solution proposed was that the head of television news should take control (away from radio), and that the television service should have a proper newsroom of its own, with an editor-of-the-day.
On 1 January 1960, Greene became Director General and under him big changes were afoot not only for BBC Television, but also for a new department within it - BBC Television News. A newsroom was created at AP, television reporters recruited, and given the opportunity to write and voice their own scripts - without the "impossible burden" of having to cover stories for radio too. The aim was to make BBC reporting a little more like ITN which had been founded in 1955 and praised by Greene's study group.
Also in 1960, Nan Winton the first female network newsreader appeared in vision on 20 June, and 19 September saw the start of the radio news and current affairs programme The Ten O'clock News.
The World at One (WATO) began on 4 October 1965 on the then, Home Service, and the year before News Review started on television.
News Review was a roundup of the weeks news, first broadcast on Sunday 26 April 1964 and harking back to the weekly Newsreel Review of the Week (produced from 1951) to open programming on Sunday evenings - the difference being that this incarnation had subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. As this was the decade before electronic caption generation, each "super" (superimposition) had to be produced on paper or card, synchronised manually to studio and news footage, committed to tape during the afternoon and broadcast early evening - thus Sundays were no longer a quiet day for news at AP. The programme ran until the 1970s - by then using electronic captions, known as Anchor - to be superseded by Ceefax subtitling (a similar format), and signing of such programmes as See Hear (from 1981).
On Sunday 17 September 1967 The World This Weekend launched on the then, Home Service, but soon-to-be Radio 4.
Preparations for colour began in the autumn of 1967 and on Thursday 7 March 1968 Newsroom on BBC Two, moved to an early evening slot, became the first UK news programme to be transmitted in colour - from Studio A at Alexandra Palace - News Review and Westminster (the latter a weekly review of Parliamentary happenings) were "colourised" shortly after.
Much of the insert material was still in black and white however, as initially only a part of the film coverage shot in and around London was on colour stock - and all regional and many international contributions were still in black and white too. Colour facilities were also technically very limited for the next eighteen months at AP, as it had only one RCA colour videotape machine and, eventually two, Pye colour telecines - although the news colour service started with just one.
Black and white news bulletins for BBC 1 continued to originate from Studio B on weekdays, along with Town and Around - the London regional opt-out programme
The final news programme to come from Alexandra Palace was a late night News on 2 on Friday 19 September 1968 in colour. BBC Television News resumed operations the next day with a lunchtime bulletin on BBC One (in black and white) from Television Centre, where it has remained ever since.
This move to better technical facilities, but smaller studios, allowed Newsroom and News Review to replace back projection with CSO.
And it also allowed all news output to be produced in PAL colour, in preparation for the "colourisation" of BBC One from November 1969 - the studios were capable of operating in NTSC too for the US as the BBC sometimes provided facilities for overseas broadcasters. During the 1960s satellite communication had become not only possible, but popular, however colour field-store standards converters were still in their infancy in 1968 and we would have to wait until the 1970s for line-store conversion to do the job seamlessly.
The first edition of the Nine O'Clock News was broadcast from studio N1 on 14 September 1970. The bulletin had been moved from the earlier time of 8:50pm as a result of the introduction by ITN of the News at Ten. The programme made history later in 1975 with the appointment of Angela Rippon as the first female presenter. Her work outside the news was controversial for the time, appearing on the Morecambe and Wise show singing and dancing.
The first edition of John Craven's Newsround - initially intended only as a short series and later renamed just Newsround - came from studio N3 on 4 April 1972.
Afternoon television news bulletins during the mid to late 1970s were broadcast from the BBC newsroom itself, rather than one of the three news studios. The newsreader would present to camera while sitting on the edge of a desk; behind him staff would be seen working busily at their desks. The period corresponded to when the Nine O'Clock News used a CSO background of the newsroom from that very same camera.
News on Radio 4 was to change in the 1970s with changes brought about by new editor Peter Woon. These included the introduction of correspondents into news bulletins where previously only a newsreader would present, as well as the inclusion of content gathered in the preparation process. New programmes were also added to the daily schedule, PM and The World Tonight as part of the plan for the station to become a "wholly speech network". Over on Radio 1 Newsbeat was introduced on 10 September 1973.
The 23 September 1974 saw the launch of the Ceefax teletext system, developed to bring news content on television screens using text only. Engineers originally began developing such a system as a form of communicating news for deaf viewers but the system was expanded. The service is now much more diverse, listing details such as weather, flight times and film reviews.
The decline in shooting film for news broadcasts became more prevalent, as ENG equipment became less cumbersome - the BBC's first attempts had been using a Philips colour camera with backpack base station and separate portable Sony U-matic recorder in the latter half of the decade.
By 1982 ENG technology had become so stable that an Ikegami camera was used by Bernard Hesketh to cover the Falklands War - winning him the RTS TV Cameraman of the Year award and a BAFTA nomination for his "footage" - the first time that the electronic camera had been relied upon in a conflict zone by BBC News, rather than film. BBC News won the BAFTA for its actuality coverage, however the event has become remembered in television terms for Brian Hanrahan's reporting where he coined the phrase "I counted them all out and I counted them all back" to circumvent restrictions, and which has become cited as an example of good reporting under pressure.
Two years prior to this the Iranian Embassy siege had been shot electronically by the BBC Television News OB team with Kate Adie reporting, again nominated for BAFTA actuality coverage, but this time beaten by ITN for the award.
The early eighties saw the introduction of a common theme for the main news bulletins though by the end of the decade, each had established individual styles with differing titles and music, although the weekend and holiday bulletins were similar in style to the Nine O'Clock News.
Newsnight, the news and current affairs programme still running to this day was due to be launched on 23 January 1980, although trade union disagreements meant this was postponed by a week.
The first BBC breakfast television programme, Breakfast Time also launched during the 1980s, on 17 January 1983 from Lime Grove Studio E. Presenters including Frank Bough, Selina Scott and Nick Ross helped to wake viewers with a relaxed style of presenting.
Throughout the 1990s, the department began to offer a wider range of services. In 1995, BBC World Service Television was split into two new channels: BBC World, and BBC Prime, a light entertainment channel. Content for a 24 hour news and current affairs channel was thus required, followed in 1997 with the launch of domestic equivalent BBC News 24, promoted as the Now O'Clock News. Rather than set bulletins, ongoing reports and coverage was needed to keep both the channels functioning and meant a greater emphasis in terms of budgeting was necessary.
On-screen, changes were made to the appearance of bulletins during the nineties, making use of fairly new technologies such as in 1993 when a new set for bulletins on BBC One made use of Silicon Graphics' systems to create a virtual set which appeared to be much larger than it was physically. Bulletins were no longer based in separate sets but instead used one, with differing colours on panels behind newsreaders and changes to the orchestral theme consistent with BBC News at the time. A computer generated glass sculpture of the BBC coat of arms was the centrepiece of the titles for bulletins until a large rebrand of the corporation's news output in 1999.
On Monday, 10 May 1999, the biggest relaunch occurred, with BBC One bulletins, BBC World and BBC News 24 adopting a common style. Most significantly BBC regional news programmes adopted the new corporate image for the first time, giving a common style across local, national and international BBC television news. This included the Newyddion programme for Welsh language channel S4C, produced by BBC News Wales. It also saw the introduction of regional stories into the Six O'Clock News headlines. The English regions lost some time, however, as these regions now rejoined London for a national round-up at 6.55. Over the next few years the regional news programmes began adopting a unified look in line with the national news. Regional headlines were also added to the one o'clock news, and the main evening news, when it moved from 21:00 to 22:00.
Television news bulletins on BBC One saw a relaunch on Monday, 20 January 2003, coinciding with a change in presenters of the evening bulletins. The new set was smaller then previous and square in design, initially using a projected image of a fictional newsroom as a background; the newsroom shown did not actually exist. The titles introduced in 1999 remained until 16 February 2004.
In December 2003, BBC News 24 introduced new style of their presentation. In 16 February 2004, BBC One bulletins changed their titles into that based on 2003 News 24 title. The BBC celebrated 50 years of Television News on 5 July 2004. Also, News 24 tweaked their titles.
Changes in the way television news bulletins were ran came into effect in 2005, when on 8 November it was announced with the replacement of two single editors for the One and Six O'Clock News with one daytime editor responsible for both. At the same time, the position of Controller of BBC News 24 was created as a replacement for the role of editor, and was awarded to Kevin Bakhurst, then editor of the Ten O'Clock News on 16 December. Amanda Farnsworth became daytime bulletin editor and Craig Oliver was later named editor of the Ten O'Clock News. A further step taken by Head of Television News, Peter Horrocks, was the beginning of simulcasting the main news bulletins on BBC One with News 24. He explained that this was in order to 'beef up' BBC News operations by pooling operations rather than beginning two almost identical bulletins at the main times.
The latest set design and style was introduced for BBC One bulletins on Tuesday 2 May 2006, with similar style titles to previous though in a new glassier finish. The relaunch saw the move of Breakfast into the same studio as the main bulletins for the first time since 1997 with the set markedly larger than before to accommodate this. Large Barco screens provide a backdrop for the set; a view of the London skyline for main news bulletins which becomes progressively darker depending on the time of day, while Breakfast began with images of cirrus clouds against a blue sky but later changed this following criticisms from viewers that it appeared 'too cold' for the time of day. The studio now bears similarities to changes made at ITV News in 2004 though these use CSO graphics rather than the actual screens at BBC News.
On 20 November 2006, the organisation became part of the larger BBC Journalism group as part of a major restructuring of groups within the BBC. Helen Boaden remains as Director of BBC News and reports to Mark Byford, Head of BBC Journalism and Deputy Director-General of the BBC.
The Television News section of BBC News is responsible for the main news bulletins on BBC One and BBC Two, news output on BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament as well as the provision of 22 hours of programming for BBC World.
BBC News content is also output onto the BBC's digital interactive television services under the BBCi brand, and the legacy analogue CEEFAX teletext system.
The distinctive music on all BBC television news programmes was introduced in 1999 and composed by David Lowe. It was part of the extensive rebranding which commenced in 1999. The general theme was used not only on bulletins on BBC One but News 24, BBC World and local news programmes in the BBC's Nations and Regions. Lowe was also responsible for the music on Radio One's "Newsbeat". In 2003, following another relaunch of the corporation's output, all title music and graphics were altered with Lowe remaining as composer.
Since September 2005 the head of television news has been Peter Horrocks, formerly head of Current Affairs.
BBC Radio News produces bulletins for the BBC's national radio stations and provides content for local BBC radio stations via the General News Service (GNS). BBC News does not produce the BBC's regional news bulletins, which are produced by the BBC nations and regions. The BBC World Service broadcasts to some 150 million people in English as well as 32 languages across the globe.
BBC News Online is the BBC's news website. Launched in November 1997, it is one of the most popular news websites in the UK reaching over a quarter of the UK's internet users, and worldwide, with around 4 million global readers every month . The website contains exhaustive international news coverage as well as entertainment, sport, science, and political news. Many reports are accompanied by audio and video from the BBC's television and radio news services within the BBC News player. Certain BBC current affairs programmes such as Newsnight and Question Time are available to view on the site after they have been broadcast. The same is available with BBC News television bulletins and radio programmes. Certain radio broadcasts are available for download as podcasts as part of the BBC's download trial.
The BBC is required by its charter to be free from both political and commercial influence and answers only to its viewers and listeners. Nevertheless, the BBC's political objectivity is sometimes questioned. For instance, The Daily Telegraph (3 August 2005) carried a letter from the KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, referring to it as "The Red Service". Books have been written on the subject, although rarely from people writing neutrally themselves, including anti-BBC works like Truth Betrayed by W J West and The Truth Twisters by Richard Deacon. The BBC tends to be biased towards the left, although not to any particular party.
The BBC is regularly accused by the government of the day of bias in favour of the opposition and, by the opposition, of bias in favour of the government. Similarly, during times of war, the BBC is often accused by the UK government, or by strong supporters of British military campaigns, of being overly sympathetic to the view of the enemy. This gave rise, in 1991 during the first Gulf War, to the satirical name "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation". Conversely, some of those who style themselves anti-establishment in the United Kingdom or who oppose foreign wars have accused the BBC of pro-establishment bias or of refusing to give an outlet to "anti-war" voices. Some have argued that a current of anti-BBC thinking exists in many parts of the political spectrum and that, since the BBC's theoretical impartiality means they will broadcast many views and opinions, people will see the bias they wish to see. This argument is buttressed by the fact that the BBC is frequently accused of bias by all opinions in a dispute.
Prominent BBC appointments are constantly assessed by the British media and political establishment for signs of political bias. The appointment of Greg Dyke as Director-General was highlighted by press sources because Dyke was a Labour Party member and former activist, as well as a friend of Tony Blair. The BBC's current Political Editor, Nick Robinson, was some years ago a chairman of the Young Conservatives and has, as a result, attracted informal criticism from the current Labour government, but his predecessor Andrew Marr faced similar claims from the right because he was editor of the liberal leaning Independent newspaper before his own appointment in 2000.
Despite these criticisms in some areas the BBC World Service radio is the only available free media.
BBC News was at the centre of one the largest political controversies in recent years. Three BBC News reports (Andrew Gilligan's on Today, Gavin Hewitt's on The Ten O'Clock News and another on Newsnight) quoted an anonymous source that stated the British government (particularly the Prime Minister's office) had embellished the September Dossier with misleading exaggerations of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities. The government denounced the reports and accused the corporation of poor journalism.
In subsequent weeks the corporation stood by the report, saying that it had a reliable source. Following intense media speculation, David Kelly was named in the press as the source for Gilligan's story on 9 July 2003. Kelly was found dead, by suicide, in a field close to his home early on 18 July. An inquiry led by Lord Hutton was announced by the British government the following day to investigate the circumstances leading to Kelly's death, concluding that "Dr. Kelly took his own life."
In his report on 28 January 2004, Lord Hutton concluded that Gilligan's original accusation was "unfounded" and the BBC's editorial and management processes were "defective". In particular, it specifically criticised the chain of management that caused the BBC to defend its story. The BBC Director of News, Richard Sambrook, the report said, had accepted Gilligan's word that his story was accurate in spite of his notes being incomplete. Davies had then told the BBC Board of Governors that he was happy with the story and told the Prime Minister that a satisfactory internal inquiry had taken place. The Board of Governors, under BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies' guidance, accepted that further investigation of the Government's complaints were unnecessary.
Because of the criticism in the Hutton report, Davies resigned on the day of publication. BBC News faced an important test, reporting on itself with the publication of the report, but by common consent managed this both independently and impartially. Davies' resignation was followed by the resignation of Director General Greg Dyke the following day, and the resignation of Gilligan on 30 January. While doubtless a traumatic experience for the corporation, an ICM poll in April 2003 indicated that it had sustained its position as the best and most trusted provider of news.
In October 2006 Chief Radio Correspondent for BBC News since 2001 and Washington correspondent Justin Webb said that the BBC is so biased against America that deputy director general Mark Byford had secretly agreed to help him to "correct" it in his reports, and that the BBC treated America with scorn and derision and gave it "no moral weight".
The BBC has faced accusations of holding an anti-Israel bias, to the extreme of being anti-semitic.
For example, Douglas Davis, the London correspondent of The Jerusalem Post, has described the BBC's coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict as "a relentless, one-dimensional portrayal of Israel as a demonic, criminal state and Israelis as brutal oppressors which bears all the hallmarks of a concerted campaign of vilification that, wittingly or not, has the effect of delegitimizing the Jewish state and pumping oxygen into a dark old European hatred that dared not speak its name for the past half-century."
More independent commentators tend to point out the differences in terminology used by the BBC to describe Israeli and Palestinian military actions. Israeli shootings are usually described as "security sweeps" or "incursions", while Palestinian shootings are described as "terrorist killings" committed by "gunmen". Such differences are said to indicate the common institutional bias typical of Western thinking, which, while it may indeed sometimes be anti-Semitic, is usually far more inclined to anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiment in the modern world.
Noam Chomsky, and David Edwards of Medialens.org have been particularly active in voicing this type of criticism.
An independent inquiry was set up in 2006 to assess the impartiality of the BBC's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict The inquiry determined that there was no systematic bias, but that coverage could give an incomplete picture, which may have misled viewers and affected their understanding of the situation. The report listed examples of how the BBC could be said to be biased in favour of Israel. The Guardian also has also noted that "The BBC has had a difficult time over its coverage of Israel, with regular accusations of bias coming from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides".
The description by one BBC correspondent reporting on the funeral of Yassir Arafat that she had been left with tears in her eyes led to other questions of impartiality, particularly from Martin Walker'" of The Times, who picked out the apparent case of Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC Arabic Service correspondent, who told a Hamas rally on 6 May, 2001, that journalists in Gaza were "waging the campaign shoulder to shoulder together with the Palestinian people."
Walker argues that the independent inquiry was flawed for two reasons. First, because the time period over which it was conducted (August 2005 to January 2006) surrounded the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Ariel Sharon's stroke, which produced more positive coverage than usual. Furthermore, he wrote, the inquiry only looked at the BBC's domestic coverage, and excluded output on the BBC World Service and BBC World.
BBC News reporters and broadcasts are now and have in the past been banned in several countries primarily for reporting which has been unfavourable to the ruling government. For example, correspondents were banned by the former apartheid régime of South Africa. The BBC is currently banned in Zimbabwe, whose government has proscribed it as a terrorist organisation. Other cases have included Uzbekistan, China, and Pakistan. The BBC online news site's Persian version was recently blocked from the Iranian internet.