The main broadcasters in the UK are:

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
  • ITV
  • Channel 4
  • Channel 5
  • Sky
  • S4C

These broadcasters have mainstream flagship channels and also cater for various target audiences by offering a choice of more specialist channels:

  • BBC4
  • ITVBe
  • More4
  • 5 USA

Some channels are now very much genre based. For example ITVBe tends to focus on celebrity lifestyle and reality television, whereas 5 USA focuses on American television drama and films.

Other channels are provided by organisations like Sky or Virgin which are subscription fee based TV providers.


Illustration showing the different stages in the development of TV

The first ever UK TV transmission was made by the BBC in 1932.

The BBC is a public service broadcaster.

This means that, in return for payment of a licence fee, the BBC provide viewers with a service of programmes with wide appeal that are guaranteed to conform to its public service remit to 'inform, educate, and entertain.”

In 1955 ITV established themselves as the second British broadcaster.

ITV is a commercially funded broadcaster which means that it is financed by advertising revenue.

Independent commercially funded broadcasters, such as ITV, sell time slots for adverts.

The price of each advertising slot varies according to the day it goes out and the time.

The most expensive slots are during peak viewing times when audience figures are at their highest - this is generally between 6pm and 10.30pm.

As of 2016 the UK has over 60 Freeview TV channels, the majority of which are produced by independent commercial broadcasters.