The British Broadcasting Company broadcast its first radio bulletin from radio station 2LO on 14 November 1922. Wishing to avoid competition, newspaper publishers persuaded the government to ban the BBC from broadcasting news before 7:00 pm, and to force it to use wire service copy instead of reporting on its own. On Easter weekend in 1930 (18 April), this reliance on newspaper wire services left the radio news service with no information to report after saying
There is no news today. Piano music was played instead. The BBC gradually gained the right to edit the copy and, in 1934, created its own news operation. However, it could not broadcast news before 6 PM until World War II. Gaumont British and Movietone cinema newsreels had been broadcast on the TV service since 1936, with the BBC producing its own equivalent Television Newsreel programme from January 1948. A weekly Children's Newsreel was inaugurated on 23 April 1950, to around 350,000 receivers. The network began simulcasting its radio news on television in 1946, with a still picture of Big Ben. Televised bulletins began on 5 July 1954, broadcast from leased studios within Alexandra Palace in London.
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. 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. That year, there were around two million TV Licences held in the UK, rising to over three million the following year, and four and a half million by 1955.
Television news, although physically separate from its radio counterpart, was still firmly under radio news' control – correspondents provided reports for both outlets–and that first bulletin, shown on 5 July 1954 on the then BBC television service and presented by Richard Baker, involved his providing narration off-screen while stills were shown. This was then followed by the customary Television Newsreel with a recorded commentary by John Snagge (and on other occasions by Andrew Timothy).
It was revealed that this had been due to producers fearing a newsreader with visible facial movements would distract the viewer from the story. On-screen newsreaders were finally introduced a year later in 1955 – Kenneth Kendall (the first to appear in vision), Robert Dougall, and Richard Baker–three weeks before ITN's launch on 21 September 1955.
Mainstream television production had started to move out of Alexandra Palace in 1950 to larger premises – mainly at Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush, west London – taking Current Affairs (then known as Talks Department) with it. It was from here that the first Panorama, a new documentary programme, was transmitted on 11 November 1953, with Richard Dimbleby becoming anchor in 1955. On 18 February 1957, the topical early-evening programme Tonight, hosted by Cliff Michelmore and designed to fill the airtime provided by the abolition of the Toddlers' Truce, was broadcast from Marconi's Viking Studio in St Mary Abbott's Place, Kensington – with the programme moving into a Lime Grove studio in 1960, where it already maintained its production office.
On 28 October 1957, the Today programme, a morning radio programme, was launched in central London on the Home Service.
In 1958, Hugh Carleton Greene became head of News and Current Affairs. He set up a BBC study group whose findings, published in 1959, were critical of what the television news operation had become under his predecessor, Tahu Hole. The report proposed 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 brought about big changes at BBC Television and BBC Television News. BBC Television News had been created in 1955, in response to the founding of ITN. The changes made by Greene were aimed at making BBC reporting more similar to ITN which had been highly rated by study groups held by Greene.
A newsroom was created at Alexandra Palace, television reporters were recruited and given the opportunity to write and voice their own scripts–without the "impossible burden" of having to cover stories for radio too.
In 1987, almost thirty years later, John Birt resurrected the practice of correspondents working for both TV and radio with the introduction of bi-media journalism, and 2008 saw tri-media introduced across TV, radio, and online.
On 20 June 1960, Nan Winton, the first female BBC network newsreader, appeared in vision. 19 September saw the start of the radio news and current affairs programme The Ten O'clock News.
BBC2 started transmission on 20 April 1964, and with it came a new news programme for that channel, Newsroom.
The World at One, a lunchtime news programme, began on 4 October 1965 on the then Home Service, and the year before News Review had started on television. News Review was a summary of the week's news, first broadcast on Sunday, 26 April 1964 on BBC 2 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 superimposition ("super") had to be produced on paper or card, synchronised manually to studio and news , committed to tape during the afternoon, and broadcast early evening. Thus Sundays were no longer a quiet day for news at Alexandra Palace. The programme ran until the 1980s – by then using electronic captions, known as Anchor – to be superseded by Ceefax subtitling (a similar Teletext format), and the signing of such programmes as See Hear (from 1981).
On Sunday 17 September 1967, The World This Weekend, a weekly news and current affairs programme, launched on what was 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 BBC2 moved to an early evening slot, becoming 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.
However, much of the insert material was still in black and white, as initially only a part of the film coverage shot in and around London was on colour reversal film stock, and all regional and many international contributions were still in black and white. Colour facilities at Alexandra Palace were technically very limited for the next eighteen months, as it had only one RCA colour Quadruplex videotape machine and, eventually two Pye plumbicon colour telecines–although the news colour service started with just one.
Black and white national bulletins on BBC 1 continued to originate from Studio B on weekdays, along with
Town and Around, the London regional "opt out" programme broadcast throughout the 1960s (and the BBC's first regional news programme for the South East), until it started to be replaced by Nationwide on Tuesday to Thursday from Lime Grove Studios early in September 1969. Town and Around was never to make the move to Television Centre – instead it became London This Week which aired on Mondays and Fridays only, from the new TVC studios.
Television News moves to Television Centre
The final news programme to come from Alexandra Palace was a late night news on BBC2 on Friday 19 September 1969 in colour. It was said that over this September weekend, it took 65 removal vans to transfer the contents of Alexandra Palace across London. BBC Television News resumed operations the next day with a lunchtime bulletin on BBC1 – in black and white – from Television Centre, where it remained until March 2013.
This move to better technical facilities, but much smaller studios, allowed Newsroom and News Review to replace back projection with colour-separation overlay. It also allowed all news output to be produced in PAL colour, ahead of the transition of BBC1 to colour from 15 November 1969 – and, like Alexandra Palace Studio A, these studios too were capable of operating in NTSC for the US, Canada, and Japan as the BBC occasionally provided facilities for overseas broadcasters. During the 1960s, satellite communication had become possible, however colour field-store standards converters were still in their infancy in 1968, and it was some years before digital line-store conversion was able to undertake the process seamlessly.
Angela Rippon, pictured in 1983, became the first female news presenter in 1975.
On 14 September 1970, the first Nine O'Clock News was broadcast on television. Robert Dougall presented the first week from studio N1 – described by The Guardian as "a sort of polystyrene padded cell"—the bulletin having been moved from the earlier time of 20.50 as a response to the ratings achieved by ITN's News at Ten, introduced three years earlier on the rival ITV. Richard Baker and Kenneth Kendall presented subsequent weeks, thus echoing those first television bulletins of the mid-1950s.
Angela Rippon became the first female news presenter of the Nine O'Clock News in 1975. Her work outside the news was controversial at the time, appearing on The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1976 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. This period corresponded with when the Nine O'Clock News got its next makeover, and would use a CSO background of the newsroom from that very same camera each weekday evening.
Also in the mid-1970s, the late night news on BBC2 was briefly renamed Newsnight, but this was not to last, or be the same programme as we know today – that would be launched in 1980 – and it soon reverted to being just a news summary with the early evening BBC2 news expanded to become Newsday.
News on radio was to change in the 1970s, and on Radio 4 in particular, brought about by the arrival of new editor Peter Woon from television news and the implementation of the Broadcasting in the Seventies report. 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". Newsbeat launched as the news service on Radio 1 on 10 September 1973.
On 23 September 1974, a teletext system which was launched to bring news content on television screens using text only was launched. Engineers originally began developing such a system to bring news to deaf viewers, but the system was expanded. The Ceefax service became much more diverse before it ceased on 23 October 2012: it not only had subtitling for all channels, it also gave information such as weather, flight times and film reviews.
By the end of the decade, the practice of shooting on film for inserts in news broadcasts was declining, with the introduction of ENG technology into the UK. The equipment would gradually become 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 sufficiently reliable for Bernard Hesketh to use an Ikegami camera to cover the Falklands War, coverage for which he won the "Royal Television Society Cameraman of the Year" award and a BAFTA nomination – the first time that BBC News had relied upon an electronic camera, rather than film, in a conflict zone. 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'm not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but 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 earlier, the Iranian Embassy Siege had been shot electronically by the BBC Television News Outside broadcasting team, and the work of reporter Kate Adie, broadcasting live from Prince's Gate, was nominated for BAFTA actuality coverage, but this time beaten by ITN for the 1980 award.
Newsnight, the news and current affairs programme, was due to go on air on 23 January 1980, although trade union disagreements meant that its launch from Lime Grove was postponed by a week. On 27 August 1981 Moira Stuart became the first African Caribbean female newsreader to appear on British television.
The first BBC breakfast television programme, Breakfast Time also launched during the 1980s, on 17 January 1983 from Lime Grove Studio E and two weeks before its ITV rival TV-am. Frank Bough, Selina Scott, and Nick Ross helped to wake viewers with a relaxed style of presenting.
The Six O'Clock News first aired on 3 September 1984, eventually becoming the most watched news programme in the UK (however, since 2006 it has been overtaken by the BBC News at Ten). In October 1984, images of millions of people starving to death in the Ethiopian famine were shown in Michael Buerk's Six O'Clock News reports. The BBC News crew were the first to document the famine, with Buerk's report on 23 October describing it as "a biblical famine in the 20th century" and "the closest thing to hell on Earth". The BBC News report shocked Britain, motivating its citizens to inundate relief agencies, such as Save the Children, with donations, and to bring world attention to the crisis in Ethiopia. The news report was also watched by Bob Geldof, who would organise the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money for famine relief followed by the Live Aid concert in July 1985.
Starting in 1981, the BBC gave a common theme to its main news bulletins with new electronic titles–a set of computer animated "stripes" forming a circle on a red background with a "BBC News" typescript appearing below the circle graphics, and a theme tune consisting of brass and keyboards. The Nine used a similar (striped) number 9. The red background was replaced by a blue from 1985 until 1987.
By 1987, the BBC had decided to re-brand its bulletins and established individual styles again for each one with differing titles and music, the weekend and holiday bulletins branded in a similar style to the Nine, although the "stripes" introduction continued to be used until 1989 on occasions where a news bulletin was screened out of the running order of the schedule.
The combined newsroom for domestic television and radio was opened at Television Centre in West London in 1998.
During the 1990s, a wider range of services began to be offered by BBC News, with the split of BBC World Service Television to become BBC World (news and current affairs), and BBC Prime (light entertainment). Content for a 24-hour news channel was thus required, followed in 1997 with the launch of domestic equivalent BBC News 24. Rather than set bulletins, ongoing reports and coverage was needed to keep both channels functioning and meant a greater emphasis in budgeting for both was necessary. In 1998, after 66 years at Broadcasting House, the BBC Radio News operation moved to BBC Television Centre.
New technology, provided by Silicon Graphics, came into use in 1993 for a re-launch of the main BBC 1 bulletins, creating a virtual set which appeared to be much larger than it was physically. The relaunch also brought all bulletins into the same style of set with only small changes in colouring, titles, and music to differentiate each. A computer generated cut-glass sculpture of the BBC coat of arms was the centrepiece of the programme titles until the large scale corporate rebranding of news services in 1999.
In 1999, the biggest relaunch occurred, with BBC One bulletins, BBC World, BBC News 24, and BBC News Online all adopting a common style. One of the most significant changes was the gradual adoption of the corporate image by the BBC regional news programmes, giving a common style across local, national and international BBC television news. This also included Newyddion, the main news programme of Welsh language channel S4C, produced by BBC News Wales.
Following the relaunch of BBC News the previous year, regional headlines were included at the start of the BBC One news bulletins in 2000. The English regions did however lose five minutes at the end of their bulletins, due to a new headline round-up at 18:55. 2000 also saw the Nine O'Clock News moved to the later time of 22:00. This was in response to ITN who had just moved their popular News at Ten programme to 23:00. ITN briefly returned News at Ten but following poor ratings when head to head against the BBC's Ten O'Clock News, the ITN bulletin was moved to 22.30, where it remained until 14 January 2008.
The retirement of Peter Sissons and departure of Michael Buerk from the Ten O'Clock News led to changes in the BBC One bulletin presenting team on 20 January 2003. The Six O'Clock News became double headed with George Alagiah and Sophie Raworth after Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce moved to present the Ten. A new set design featuring a projected fictional newsroom backdrop was introduced, followed on 16 February 2004 by new programme titles to match those of BBC News 24.
BBC News 24 and BBC World introduced a new style of presentation in December 2003, that was slightly altered on 5 July 2004 to mark 50 years of BBC Television News.
The individual positions of editor of the One and Six O'Clock News were replaced by a new daytime position in November 2005. Kevin Bakhurst became the first Controller of BBC News 24, replacing the position of editor. Amanda Farnsworth became daytime editor while Craig Oliver was later named editor of the Ten O'Clock News. The bulletins also began to be simulcast with News 24, as a way of pooling resources.
Bulletins received new titles and a new set design in May 2006, to allow for Breakfast to move into the main studio for the first time since 1997. The new set featured Barco videowall screens with a background of the London skyline used for main bulletins and originally an image of cirrus clouds against a blue sky for Breakfast. This was later replaced following viewer criticism. The studio bore similarities with the ITN-produced ITV News in 2004, though ITN uses a CSO Virtual studio rather than the actual screens at BBC News. Also, May saw the launch of World News Today the first domestic bulletin focused principally on international news.
BBC News became part of a new BBC Journalism group in November 2006 as part of a restructuring of the BBC. The then-Director of BBC News, Helen Boaden reported to the then-Deputy Director-General and head of the journalism group, Mark Byford until he was made redundant in 2010.
On 18 October 2007, Mark Thompson announced a six-year plan, Delivering Creative Future, merging the television current affairs department into a new "News Programmes" division. Thompson's announcement, in response to a £2 billion shortfall in funding, would, he said, deliver "a smaller but fitter BBC" in the digital age, by cutting its payroll and, in 2013, selling Television Centre.
The various separate newsrooms for television, radio and online operations were merged into a single multimedia newsroom. Programme making within the newsrooms was brought together to form a multimedia programme making department. BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks said that the changes would achieve efficiency at a time of cost-cutting at the BBC. In his blog, he wrote that by using the same resources across the various broadcast media meant fewer stories could be covered, or by following more stories, there would be fewer ways to broadcast them.
A new graphics and video playout system was introduced for production of television bulletins in January 2007. This coincided with a new structure to BBC World News bulletins, editors favouring a section devoted to analysing the news stories reported on.
The first new BBC News bulletin since the Six O'Clock News was announced in July 2007 following a successful trial in the Midlands. The summary, lasting 90 seconds, has been broadcast at 20:00 on weekdays since December 2007 and bears similarities with 60 Seconds on BBC Three, but also includes headlines from the various BBC regions and a weather summary.
As part of a long-term cost cutting programme, bulletins were renamed the BBC News at One, Six and Ten respectively in April 2008 while BBC News 24 was renamed BBC News and moved into the same studio as the bulletins at BBC Television Centre. BBC World was renamed BBC World News and regional news programmes were also updated with the new presentation style, designed by Lambie-Nairn.
The studio moves also meant that Studio N9, previously used for BBC World, was closed, and operations moved to the previous studio of BBC News 24. Studio N9 was later refitted to match the new branding, and was used for the BBC's UK local elections and European elections coverage in early June 2009.
The new newsroom in Broadcasting House
A strategy review of the BBC in March 2010, confirmed that having "the best journalism in the world" would form one of five key editorial policies, as part of changes subject to public consultation and BBC Trust approval.
After a period of suspension in late 2012, Helen Boaden ceased to be the Director of BBC News. On 16 April 2013, incoming BBC Director-General Tony Hall named James Harding, a former editor of The Times of London newspaper as Director of News and Current Affairs.
From August 2012 to March 2013, all news operations moved from Television Centre to new facilities in the refurbished and extended Broadcasting House, in Portland Place. The move began in October 2012, and also included the BBC World Service, which moved from Bush House following the expiry of the BBC's lease. This new extension to the north and east, referred to as "New Broadcasting House", includes several new state-of-the-art radio and television studios centred around an 11-storey atrium. The move began with the domestic programme The Andrew Marr Show on 2 September 2012, and concluded with the move of the BBC News channel and domestic news bulletins on 18 March 2013. The newsroom houses all domestic bulletins and programmes on both television and radio, as well as the BBC World Service international radio networks and the BBC World News international television channel.