|Type||Private company limited by shares|
|Founded||18 October 1922|
|Defunct||31 December 1926|
|Fate||Liquidation sale, re-established in 1927 as the non-commercial and crown-chartered British Broadcasting Corporation|
The British Broadcasting Company Limited (BBC) was a short-lived British commercial broadcasting company formed on 18 October 1922 by British and American electrical companies doing business in the United Kingdom. Licensed by the British General Post Office, its original office was located on the second floor of Magnet House, the GEC buildings in London and consisted of a room and a small antechamber.
On 14 December 1922, John Reith was hired to become the managing director of the company at that address. The company later moved its offices to the premises of the Marconi Company. The BBC as a commercial broadcasting company did not sell air time but it did carry a number of sponsored programmes paid for by British newspapers. On 31 December 1926, the company was dissolved, and its assets were transferred to the non-commercial and crown-chartered British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
In Britain prior to 1922, the General Post Office (GPO) retained exclusive rights given to it by the government to manage and control all means of mass communication – with the exception of the printed word. The laws which evolved into the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1947, upon which all modern British communication laws are built in one way or another, concern four essential activities:
All four of these activities require a government licence which was originally granted by the General Post Office.
The invention of the electrical telegraph came under the control of the Telegraph Act 1869 which was based upon a law that forbade the encoding of electrical cables with messages without a licence. The messages were viewed as electrical forms of a letter. This invention was followed by the wireless telegraph which was then placed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904.
In the US, the development of the telegraph, wireless telegraph, telephone and wireless telephony proceeded according to the dictates of entrepreneurial commercial interests concerned only with supply and demand for profit. Beginning in August 1920, commercial broadcasting stations programming to the general public had begun broadcasting in the United States, licensed by the Department of Commerce (these duties were transferred in 1934 to the Federal Communications Commission) and offering several hours of programming, usually at night. Two of the first stations were WWJ in Detroit (then known as 8MK)  and KDKA in Pittsburgh (which has claimed to be the first station specifically licensed for commercial broadcasting; however commercial licences were actually not awarded until September 1921). These pioneering stations continue in daily 24-hour operation today under the ownership and management of CBS.
In the United Kingdom, all broadcasts were licensed by the GPO, who were reluctant to license any fully commercial stations and only 'experimental' stations were allowed on air.
Beginning in 1920, a number of licences were issued to British and American subsidiary companies in Britain for the purpose of conducting experimental transmissions under terms of a licence issued by the General Post Office in accordance with the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904. On 15 June 1920, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Limited, in Chelmsford, Essex, was licensed to conduct an experimental broadcast from the New Street Works factory, featuring Dame Nellie Melba. The signal was received throughout Europe and as far as Newfoundland, Canada. Further transmissions were also made.
On 23 November 1920, the General Post Office halted all further transmissions due to complaints of alleged interference with military communications. As the number of wireless receiving sets increased during the early 1920s, the General Post Office came under extreme pressure from hobby listeners to allow the experimental wireless broadcasts to resume.
On 14 February 1922, which was two years after ceasing their original transmissions, the Marconi Company was issued a licence for experimental transmissions under the call sign 2MT. Peter Eckersley was given charge of providing both the broadcast entertainment and the engineering. The station operated out of a hut in a field at Writtle near Chelmsford.
On 11 May 1922, the Marconi Company was issued another licence for experimental broadcasts from a station identified as 2LO which was located at Marconi House in the Strand, London. The programme consisted of a boxing commentary of the fight between Kid Lewis and Georges Carpentier. Further tests were also advertised as demonstrations of "Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony" which were "subject to permission from the Postmaster General". These demonstrations were performed by the "Demonstration Department (of) Marconi's London Wireless Station 2LO".
On 16 May 1922, the Metropolitan Vickers Company Ltd. ("Metrovick") commenced test broadcasting from its own station in Manchester, identified as 2ZY.
On 23 May a committee of representatives was appointed from the "Big Six" companies – Marconi, Metropolitan-Vickers, Radio Communication Company, British Thomson-Houston, General Electric Company and Western Electric. The Post Office also pressed for the inclusion of a representative from the smaller firms manufacturing radio equipment in the UK – Frank Phillips of Burndept. George Campbell was one of the members on the committee.