A huge happy birthday to the BBC!

How the BBC Began (BBC Two, 7pm)

Happy birthday BBC!

Unless you’ve been living on Mars lately, you can’t fail to have noticed that the corporation has been gearing up for a big centenary celebration for months – well, it’s here at last.

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A variety of programmes tied to the event begin today (Saturday) with a themed Strictly Come Dancing, and last until next weekend. Expect to see special editions of Top Gear, Antiques Roadshow, The One Show (renamed The One Hundred Show), Doctor Who and The Repair Shop (featuring an appearance by King Charles), as well as one-off shows including Kids TV: The Surprising Story, Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice and the mockumentary The Love Box In Your Living Room. We’re promised lots to enjoy on radio too.

“For 100 years the BBC has been informing, educating and entertaining the nation and our centenary year has been no different,” claims James Stirling, executive editor of the BBC 100 season. “From an incredible summer of sport, to the epic return of Glastonbury, we’ve seen audiences come to the BBC in record numbers.

“Our centenary celebrations are at the forefront of our October schedule. During our special week of BBC 100 content, audiences can look forward to a mix of exciting new commissions alongside some our best-loved shows, as they mark a century of broadcasting in their own unique way. There really is something for everyone and we’re looking forward to sharing this moment with audience across the UK and beyond.”

But the Beeb hasn’t simply concentrated on broadcasting – in January it launched a new BBC History website, among other schemes, as Stirling explains: “Alongside brilliant programming, we’ve been visiting hundreds of schools up and down the UK with our ambitious education initiative, BBC 100 Share Your Story, and audiences are continuing to uncover the story of the nation through our most extensive digital archive collection ever, BBC Rewind.”

But of perhaps most interest to history-lovers out there is How the BBC Began, a two-part documentary focusing on the corporation’s first 50 years. It takes viewers right back to October 18, 1922, when the British Broadcasting Company was officially created by the country’s major radio manufacturing companies in an effort to promote the sale of sets to a blossoming audio market. It eventually went live less than a month later, on November 14; a news bulletin was the first broadcast.

Other key moments set to feature include the Queen’s coronation, as well as coverage of JFK’s assassination and the Apollo moon landing, while among those offering anecdotes are David Attenborough, Joan Bakewell, Richard Baker and Dorothy Singer, who was the secretary of the BBC’s first director-general, Lord Reith.

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Look out too for David Dimbleby, whose father, Richard, played a key role in the Beeb’s success during the 1950s.

“Milestones are obviously a cause for celebration but actually, when you hit 100 years, what you should be looking at is the next 100 years,” says the veteran broadcaster. “The past is very interesting but it is gone. It’s what it teaches us for the future that matters.”

With that in mind, perhaps we should all raise a glass to the next centenary which, hopefully, will be celebrated by viewers and listeners in 2122.

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James Burke describes an aspect of the Apollo moon mission, May 1969
James Burke and Patrick Moore in the studio describing the Apollo moon mission, May 1969
Churchill & Lady Churchill appear on a BBC special celebrating his 80th birthday, 1954