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All British broadcasting is based on the tradition that it is a public service accountable to the people through Parliament. Two public bodies - The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) – provide television and radio services; they work to broad requirements and objectives placed on them by Parliament. The Home Secretary regulates broadcasting generally, is answerable to Parliament on broad policy questions, and may issue directions on a number of technical and other matters.

Television viewing is by far the most popular leisure pastime in Britain. Average viewing time per person is nearly 24 hours a week. Households with television must buy a licence each year; they cost £12 for black and white and £ 34 for colour.

The constitution and finances of the BBC are governed by the Royal Charter and a Licence and Agreement. The Corporation of 12 governors (each appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Government and including separate governors for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), is responsible for all aspects of broadcasting. Committees advise them on a wide range of matters including the social effects of television, religious broadcasting, music, agriculture, schools broadcasting, further education, programmes for immigrants, science and engineering and charitable appeals. The governors appoint the Director General who is chairman of the BBC's board of management.

The IBA's constitution and finances are governed by statute. Its members (three of whom have responsibility for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are appointed by the Home Secretary. The IBA does not produce radio or television programmes; these are provided by commercial programme companies. Its main functions are to appoint the companies, supervise programme arrangements, control advertising and build, own and operate transmitting stations. The chief executive officer of the IBA, the Director General, is supported by headquarters and regional office staff covering all technical and administrative services.

Fifteen television programme companies hold contracts to provide television programmes in the 14 independent television regions.

In consultation with the IBA, each company plans the content of the programmes to be broadcast in its area. These are produced by the company itself and by other programme companies or purchased from elsewhere.

Four television channels are in operation. Through coordinated planning on its two services the BBC caters simultaneously for people of different interests. BBC-1 presents more programmes of general interest, such as light entertainment, sport, current affair, children's programmes, while BBC-2 places greater emphasis on minority interests, providing a larger element of documentaries, travel programmes, serious drama, music, and international films.

BBC radio has four national channels. Radio 1 provides a programme of pop music, while radio 2 provides light entertainment and music as well as being the principal channel for the coverage of sport. Radio 3 provides mainly classical music and in the evening also offers adult education programmes. Radio 4 is the main speech programme, providing the principal news and information service.

The BBC External Services broadcast by radio to most countries overseas, using English and many other languages. The language in which the External Services broadcast and the length of time each is on the air are prescribed by the Government. Radio for overseas is also produced by the radio services of the Central Office of Information (COI).


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