BBC marks unhappy 90th birthday

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London - The BBC marked the 90th anniversary of its first ever transmission on Wednesday beset by doubts about its future after scandals surrounding its reporting of child sex abuse allegations.

A composition by Damon Albarn, frontman of the pop group Blur, will be played simultaneously on all the British Broadcasting Corporation's domestic radio stations and parts of the World Service to celebrate the milestone.

What was then known as the British Broadcasting Company crackled into life on November 14, 1922, with a radio news bulletin featuring stories about a train robbery, a “rowdy meeting” involving Winston Churchill, and billards scores.

But 90 years later the BBC, now the world's largest broadcasting organisation, faces one of the most serious crises in its history as it seeks to defend its reputation and the public funding that sustains it.

The BBC was first hit by scandal in October over a decision by its flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, to shelve an investigation into claims of paedophilia surrounding its late television star Jimmy Savile.

Weeks later Newsnight was forced to retract false allegations that a senior Conservative politician abused children at a care home in Wales in the 1970s.

The BBC's director-general George Entwistle resigned on Saturday after 54 days in the job and the corporation has launched a series of investigations into both of the scandals, while it searches for a new leader.

The magnitude of the scandal reflects the extent to which the BBC - nicknamed “the Beeb” or “Auntie” in Britain - has become part of the fabric of British national life over the past 90 years.

The first broadcast at 6.00pm on November 14, 1922 was by its then director of programmes Arthur Burrows, who was one of only four staff of a company set up a few weeks earlier by early radio manufacturers.

Albarn's composition is named “2LO Calling”, after the original 2LO transmitter used for the 1922 broadcast, and will feature on a live broadcast from London's Science Museum, according to the BBC.

Publicly funded under a royal charter, the BBC has nearly 23 000 employees and a global audience of around 239 million people, according to the corporation's own figures. - AFP

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