In two feature-length documentaries The BBC’s first 50 years will explore how the challenges and triumphs of today’s BBC have their roots in the corporation’s first half century.
Ever since John Reith launched BBC Radio in 1922, the rapid pace of technological change has driven editorial priorities and opened up fresh opportunities – and the changing shape of British society has fuelled the debate over whether the national broadcaster should lead or follow new social attitudes.
At the same time, the BBC’s international broadcasting has exported British values, while giving domestic audiences a window on the world.
Mixing extraordinary material from the BBC archive with revelatory testimony collected by film maker John Bridcut over a number of years, these programmes feature occasionally comical eye-witness accounts of the way the BBC developed, often at breakneck speed.
The BBC’s first 50 years range from the earliest outside radio broadcasts, through pre-war television to the launch of a second TV channel, colour television, local radio, and the lead-up to the first news-on-demand service.
Along the way came the challenges of political impartiality, the coverage of sex and violence, and the protests of those who believed the BBC’s ambitions risked overturning life as they knew it.