The BBC has a powerful television service. It owns two channels: BBC1 and BBC2. Practically all the population of the country lives within the range of the TV transmission. With the exception of a break during the Second World War, the BBC has been providing regular television broadcasts since 1936. All BBC2 programmes and the vast majority of those on BBC1 are broadcasted on the national network. The aim of the Government is that at least 25 per cent of programmes on all channels should be made by independent producers. The BBC television programmes are designed for people of different interests. BBC1 presents more programmes of general interest, such as light entertainment, sport, current affairs, children’s programmes, as well as news and information. BBC2 provides documentaries, travel programmes, serious drama, music, programmes on pastimes and international films. The BBC does not give publicity to any firm or company except when it is necessary to provide effective and informative programmes. It must not broadcast any commercial advertisement or any sponsored programme. Advertisements are broadcasted only on independent television, but advertisers can have no influence on programme content or editorial work. Advertising is usually limited to seven minutes in any one hour of broadcasting time. Both the BBC broadcast education programmes for children and students in schools of all kinds, as well as pre-school children, and for adults in colleges and other institutions and in their homes. Broadcasts to schools cover most subjects of the curriculum, while education programmes for adults cover many fields of learning, vocational training and recreation. The Government has no privileged access to radio or television, but government publicity to support non-political campaigns may be broadcasted on independent radio and television. Such broadcasts are paid for on a normal commercial basis. The BBC is not the mouthpiece of the government. All the major political parties have equal rights to give political broadcasts. Radio and, particularly, television have their greatest impact on public affairs at election time. Each of the principal political parties is granted time on the air roughly in proportion to the number of its candidates for the Parliament. Television and radio coverage of political matters, including elections, is required to be impartial. Extended news programmes cover all aspects of the major parties’ campaigns at national level and in the constituencies. Political parties arrange “photo opportunities”, during which candidates are photographed in such places as factories, farms, building sites, schools and youth centers. They often use these visits to make points about party policies. Special election programmes include discussions between politicians belonging to rival parties. Often a studio audience of members of the public is able to challenge and question senior politicians. Radio “phone-ins” also allow ordinary callers to question, or put their views to political leaders. Broadcast coverage also includes interviews with leading figures from all the parties, reports focusing on particular election issues, and commentaries from political journalists. Arrangements for the broadcasts are made between the political parties and the broadcasting authorities, but editorial control of the broadcasts rests with the parties. Television and the other channels of mass media are playing an increasingly important part in bringing contemporary affairs to the general public. Radio and television programmes for the week are published in the BBC periodical, “Radio Times”. The BBC publishes another weekly periodical, “The Listener”, in which a selection of radio and TV talks are printed. By international standards it could reasonably be claimed that the four regular channels together provide an above – average service, with the balance giving something to please most tastes and preferences. Some quiz-shows and “soap operas”, or long-running sagas, attract large numbers of viewers and to some extent the BBC competes for success in this respect. But minority preferences are not overlooked. In Wales there are Welsh-language programmes for the few who want them. There are foreign language lessons for the general public, as well as the special programmes for schools and the Open University. BBC news has always kept a reputation for objectivity, and the independent news service is of similar quality. Television is probably the most important single factor in the continuous contest for the public’s favour between the political parties. Parties and candidates cannot buy advertising time. At intervals each channel provides time for each of the three main political parties for party-political broadcasts, and during an election campaign a great deal of time is provided for parties’ election, always on an equal basis. Minor parties get time, based partly on the number of their candidates. In Wales and Scotland the nationalist parties get TV time on the same basis as the three others. Studios and transmitters must be provided free of charge. But often a party prefers to film a broadcast outside the studio at its own expense, for greater impact. BBC TV Europe broadcasts some of its own programmes by satellite, and from 1991 BBC TV International began to sell and distribute its World Service TV news in English and some other languages. BBC domestic services are financed almost exclusively by the sale of annual television licenses; World Service radio is financed from a government grant, while World Service Television is self-funding. Popular television drama programs produced for the BBC are shown in America and many other countries around the world.
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