The BBC broadcast appeals for charity from its very beginning. The first was on 17th Feb 1923, three months after broadcasting began. It raised £26 6s 6d for the Winter Distress League, a charity representing homeless veterans of the First World War. The announcer was Ian Hay.
On-air charity appeals continued over the next few years and the BBC took advice from Mr E.C. Price of the Charity Organisation Society as to appropriate causes for airtime.
In 1926 it was decided to regulate appeals centrally through an advisory board. The Central Appeals Advisory Committee first met on 1st December 1927. The Chairman was R.C. Norman, who later became the BBC's Chairman. The Committee was responsible for the administration and allocation of donations.
Local radio stations broadcast appeals fairly autonomously and with more frequency in the 1930s. Regional Advisory Committees were set up in 1934.
Although television appeals were considered in 1938, it was decided not to go ahead because the pre-war television audience was so small.
Initially, the BBC gave some specific charities the status of a guaranteed annual appeal, often on a fixed day. These were the British Legion, St Martin's Fund, Queen Alexandra Rose Day and the Wireless for the Blind Fund, whose first appeal at Christmas 1928 was broadcast by Winston Churchill. The annual Christmas broadcast for children's charities, given from 1934 by Children's Hour's "Uncle Mac" was the predecessor for the current Children In Need appeal. At this time, different regional Children's Hour programmes had their own appeals four times a year.
From 1930, ad-hoc appeals were more regulated and The Week's Good Cause became a regular broadcast. By this time, the BBC had developed a policy governing the kinds of cause they could support and the nature of the broadcast. This changed with the outbreak of the Second World War, when appeals became concentrated on charities connected to the conflict.
History written by Katharine Schöpflin with thanks to Jeff Walden of the Written Archives Centre.
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