BBC Royal Charter archive

The Royal Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC.

Image: the BBC's Royal Charter from 2017. Video: Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at The University of Westminster, and the Official Historian of the BBC explains the importance of continuity in the BBC Royal Charter.

The Royal Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC. It sets out the public purposes of the Corporation, and guarantees its independence. The BBC’s new Charter commenced on 1 January 2017.

The BBC started life as a Company, changing to a Corporation following a report by the Crawford Committee. The Government accepted the Committee's findings and established by Royal Charter, the British Broadcasting Corporation. The Charter set out the way in which the BBC would be governed.

The first Charter ran for 10 years from 1 January 1927 and recognised the BBC as an instrument of education and entertainment. Subsequent Charters expanded this remit to include the dissemination of information. The eighth Charter (1 January 2007) charged the BBC with delivering the latest technology to the public and taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television, and the latest (from 1 January 2017), sets out major changes to the way the BBC is to be run for an 11 year period.

Key elements of the BBC Royal Charter, 2017, include:

  • OFCOM to be the external independent regulator of the BBC.
  • The government to provide "guidance" to OFCOM on "content requirements" for the BBC.
  • A new "unitary board" consisting of four government appointed members and a Chair, and nine BBC appointed members, to consider any "issues or complaints that arise post-transmission".
  • Editorial decisions to "remain the responsibility of the Director-General".
  • The possibility of production by independent companies to exist for all BBC programmes except news and some parts of current affairs.
  • The National Audit Office to have a "stronger role" in looking at how the BBC spends its money.

1927 Charter

1937 Charter

  • 1937 CharterCharter for ten years from 1 January 1937 to 31 December 1946.

1947 Charter

1952 Charter

1964 Charter

  • 1964 CharterCharter for twelve years from 30 July 1964 to 31 July 1976.
  • 1969 amendmentTransferred powers from Postmaster General to Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.
  • 1975 amendmentRelevant ministry changed from Post Office to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and from thence to Home Office.
  • 1976 supplementExtended 1964 Charter for three years.
  • 1979 supplementSupplemental Charter extending 1964 Charter for two further years.

1981 Charter

1997 Charter

  • 1997 CharterCharter for ten years from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006.
  • 1997 CharterSearchable copy of the 1997 Charter.

2007 Charter

2017 Charter