Last updated

BBC Two.svg
Launched21 April 1964;55 years ago (1964-04-21)
Owned by BBC
Picture format 1080i HDTV
(downscaled to 16:9 576i for the SDTV feed)
Audience share5.9% (June 2019 (2019-06), BARB)
Country United Kingdom
Broadcast areaNationwide Ireland and Worldwide
HeadquartersBroadcasting House, London
Formerly calledBBC2(21 April 1964 – 4 October 1997)
Sister channel(s) BBC One
BBC Four
BBC News
BBC Parliament
Website BBC Two
  • Channel 2
  • Channel 102 (HD)
Channel 20 (HD)
  • Channel 102
    (SD: NI; HD: Eng/Scot/Wal)
  • Channel 106
    (HD: NI)
  • Channel 110
    (SD: Eng/Scot/Wal)
  • Channels 968, 969, 971, 979
    (regional variations)
Sky (UK)
  • Channel 102
    (SD: NI; HD: Eng/Scot/Wal)
  • Channel 115
    (HD: NI)
  • Channel 802
    (SD: Eng/Scot/Wal)
  • Channels 969, 971, 972, 980 (regional variations)
Sky (Ireland)
  • Channel 142
  • Channel 347 (HD)
  • Channel 969 (Eng/Scot)
Astra 2E (28.2°E)
  • 10773 H 22000 5/6
  • 10788 V 22000 5/6
  • 10803 H 22000 5/6
  • 10818 V 22000 5/6
  • 10847 V 23000 2/3 (HD)
  • Channel 2
  • Channel 12 (delayed)
Virgin Media (UK)
  • Channel 102 (HD)
  • Channel 852, 865 (network variation)
Virgin Media (Ireland)
  • Channel 109
  • Channel 140 (HD)
Ziggo (Netherlands)Channel 62 (HD)
Naxoo (Switzerland)Channel 214
UPC Switzerland (Switzerland)Channel 202 (HD)
WightFibre Channel 2
Telenet (Belgium)Channel 121
KPN/XS4ALL/Telfort (Netherlands)Channel 24
Belgacom TV (Belgium)
  • Channel 68 (Brussels)
  • Channel 24 (Flanders)
  • Channel 214 (Wallonia)
Eir Vision
  • Channel 202
  • Channel 209 (HD)
Streaming media
BBC iPlayer Watch live (UK only)
TVPlayer Watch live (UK only)
Virgin TV Anywhere Watch live (Ireland only)
Ziggo GO Watch live (Netherlands only)

BBC Two is the second flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tends to broadcast more "highbrow" programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio channels, it is funded by the television licence, and is therefore free of commercial advertising. It is a comparatively well-funded public-service network, regularly attaining a much higher audience share than most public-service networks worldwide.

A television channel is a terrestrial frequency or virtual number over which a television station or television network is distributed. For example, in North America, "channel 2" refers to the terrestrial or cable band of 54 to 60 MHz, with carrier frequencies of 55.25 MHz for NTSC analog video (VSB) and 59.75 MHz for analog audio (FM), or 55.31 MHz for digital ATSC (8VSB). Channels may be shared by many different television stations or cable-distributed channels depending on the location and service provider

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

Isle of Man British Crown dependency

The Isle of Man, often referred to simply as Mann, is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann and is represented by a lieutenant governor. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.


Originally styled BBC2, it was the third British television station to be launched (starting on 21 April 1964), and from 1 July 1967, Europe's first television channel to broadcast regularly in colour. It was envisaged as a home for less mainstream and more ambitious programming, and while this tendency has continued to date, most special-interest programmes of a kind previously broadcast on BBC Two, for example the BBC Proms, now tend to appear on BBC Four instead.

The Proms Summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts in London, UK

The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts and other events held annually, predominantly in the Royal Albert Hall in central London. The Proms were founded in 1895, and are now organised and broadcast by the BBC. Each season consists of concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, chamber music concerts at Cadogan Hall, additional Proms in the Park events across the UK on the Last Night of the Proms, and associated educational and children's events. The season is a significant event in British culture and in classical music. Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek described the Proms as "the world's largest and most democratic musical festival".

BBC Four television channel operated by the BBC

BBC Four is a British free-to-air television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation. It was launched on 2 March 2002, with a schedule running from 7:00 pm to 3:35 am. The channel shows "a wide variety of programmes including comedy, documentaries, music, international film, original programmes, drama and current affairs ... an alternative to programmes on the mainstream TV channels". It is required by its licence to air at least 100 hours of new arts and music programmes, 110 hours of new factual programmes and to premiere 20 foreign films each year.



British television at the time of BBC2's launch consisted of two channels: the BBC Television Service and the ITV network made up of smaller regional companies. Both channels had existed in a state of competition since ITV's launch in 1955, and both had aimed for a populist approach in response. The 1962 Pilkington Report on the future of broadcasting noticed this, and that ITV lacked any serious programming. It therefore decided that Britain's third television station should be awarded to the BBC. [1]

BBC One is the first and principal television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution. It was renamed BBC TV in 1960, using this name until the launch of the second BBC channel BBC2 in 1964, whereupon the BBC TV channel became known as BBC1, with the current spelling adopted in 1997.

ITV (TV network) TV network in the United Kingdom

ITV is a British free-to-air television network with its headquarters in London. It was launched in 1955 as Independent Television, under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority (ITA), to provide competition to BBC Television which had been established in 1932. ITV is the oldest commercial network in the UK. Since the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1990, its legal name has been Channel 3, to distinguish it from the other analogue channels at the time, namely BBC 1, BBC 2 and Channel 4. In part, the number 3 was assigned because television sets would usually be tuned so that the regional ITV station would be on the third button, with the other stations being allocated to the number within their name.

The Pilkington Committee was set up on 13 July 1960 under the chairmanship of British industrialist Sir Harry Pilkington to consider the future of broadcasting, cable and "the possibility of television for public showing". One of the Pilkington Report's main conclusions was that the British public did not want commercial radio broadcasting, and it offered criticism of the existing commercial television licensees.

Prior to its launch, the new BBC2 was promoted on the BBC Television Service: the soon to be renamed BBC1. The animated adverts featured the campaign mascots "Hullabaloo", a mother kangaroo, and "Custard", her joey. Prior to, and several years after, the channel's formal launch, the channel broadcast "Trade Test Transmissions", short films made externally by companies such as Shell and BP, which served to enable engineers to test reception, but became cult viewing.

Kangaroo сommon name of family of marsupials

The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae. In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus: the red kangaroo, antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo. Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia. The Australian government estimates that 34.3 million kangaroos lived within the commercial harvest areas of Australia in 2011, up from 25.1 million one year earlier.

Trade test colour films were broadcast by the television network BBC2 in the early days of colour television in Britain during intervals when no regular programming had been scheduled. The goal of these transmissions was to provide colour broadcasting in these intervals for use by television shops and engineers to adjust their television sets. The earliest such transmission was made in 1956 but regular all day long films ran from autumn 1967; the last one was in August 1973. In all, 158 different films were broadcast; on average, each film was shown 90 times.

Royal Dutch Shell Anglo-Dutch oil company

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, commonly known as Shell, is a British-Dutch oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom. It is one of the six oil and gas "supermajors" and the third-largest company in the world measured by 2018 revenues. In the 2019 Forbes Global 2000, Shell was ranked as the ninth-largest company in the world, and the largest energy company. Shell was first in the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies; in that year its revenues were equivalent to 84% of the Dutch national $556 billion GDP.

The channel was scheduled to begin at 19:20 on 20 April 1964, showing an evening of light entertainment, starting with the comedy show The Alberts , a performance from Soviet comedian Arkady Raikin, and a production of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate , culminating with a fireworks display. However, at around 18:45 a huge power failure, originating from a fire at Battersea Power Station, caused Television Centre, and indeed much of west London, to lose all power. BBC1 was able to continue broadcasting via its facilities at Alexandra Palace, but all attempts to show the scheduled programmes on the new channel failed. Associated-Rediffusion, the London weekday ITV franchise-holder, offered to transmit on the BBC's behalf, but their gesture was rejected. At 22:00 programming was officially postponed until the following morning. As the BBC's news centre at Alexandra Palace was unaffected, they did in fact broadcast brief bulletins on BBC2 that evening, beginning with an announcement by the newsreader Gerald Priestland at around 19:25. [2] There was believed to be no recording made of this bulletin, but a videotape was discovered in early 2003. [3]

The Alberts

The Alberts were a British music/comedy troupe of the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, featuring brothers Anthony "Tony" and Douglas "Dougie" Gray, along with Bruce Lacey. They were notable for their surreal performances.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Arkady Raikin Soviet actor

Arkady Isaakovich Raikin was a Soviet stand-up comedian, theater and film actor, and stage director. He led the school of Soviet and Russian humorists for about half a century.

By 11:00 on 21 April, power had been restored to the studios and programming began, thus making Play School the first programme to be shown officially on the channel. The launch schedule, postponed from the night before, was then successfully shown that evening, albeit with minor changes. In reference to the power cut, the transmission opened with a shot of a lit candle which was then sarcastically blown out by presenter Denis Tuohy. [3]

Denis Tuohy is a television broadcaster, actor, newsreader and journalist.

Logo of BBC Two from 19 November 2001 to 18 February 2007 BBC Two (2001).svg
Logo of BBC Two from 19 November 2001 to 18 February 2007

To establish the new channel's identity and draw viewers to it, the BBC decided that a widely promoted, lavish series would be essential in its earliest days. The production chosen was The Forsyte Saga (1967), a no-expense-spared adaptation of the novels by John Galsworthy, featuring well-established actors Kenneth More and Eric Porter. Critically for the future of the fledgling channel, the BBC's gamble was hugely successful, with an average of six million viewers tuning in per episode: a feat made more prominent by the fact that only 9 million were able to receive the channel at the time. [ citation needed ]

Technological advancements

Unlike BBC1 and ITV, BBC2 was broadcast only on the 625 line UHF system, so was not available to viewers still using sets on the 405-line VHF system. This created a market for dual standard receivers which could switch between the two systems. Set manufacturers ramped up production of UHF sets in anticipation of a large market demand for the new BBC2, but the market did not materialise. The early technical problems, which included being unable to transmit US-recorded videotapes due to a lack of system conversion from the US NTSC system, were resolved by a committee headed by James Redmond.

On 1 July 1967, during the Wimbledon Championships, BBC2 became the first channel in Europe to begin regular broadcasts in colour, using the PAL system. [4] The thirteen part series Civilisation (1969) was created as a celebration of two millennia of western art and culture to showpiece the new colour technology. [5] BBC1 and ITV later joined BBC2 on 625-line UHF band, but continued to simulcast on 405-line VHF until 1985. BBC1 and ITV simultaneously introduced PAL colour on UHF on 15 November 1969, although they both had broadcast some programmes in colour "unofficially" since September 1969.

In 1979, the station adopted the first computer-generated channel identification (ident) in Britain, with its use of the double striped, orange '2' logo. The ident, created in house by BBC engineers, lasted until March 1986 and heralded the start of computer-generated logos.

As the switch to digital-only terrestrial transmission progressed, BBC Two was (in each region in turn) the first analogue TV channel to be replaced with the BBC multiplex, at first four, then two weeks ahead of the other four channels. This was required for those relay transmitters that had no current Freeview service giving viewers time to purchase the equipment, unless they had already selected a satellite or cable service. The last region for BBC Two to end on analogue terrestrial television was Northern Ireland on 10 October 2012.

At the 2012 Edinburgh International Television Festival, BBC Two was named "Terrestrial Channel of the Year". [6]

A high-definition simulcast of BBC Two began broadcasting on 26 March 2013, replacing the standalone BBC HD channel. [7] As of 29 November 2018, there are 3 variations of BBC Two HD (Wales, Northern Ireland, and England). [8]


The channel controllers have been:

Adam Barker served as Acting Controller of the channel, after Janice Hadlow left the channel in March 2014 and until Kim Shillinglaw began as new permanent occupant of the post.

Since 2013, the Controller of BBC Two has been given the expanded title Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, with ultimate oversight of the BBC Four service added to their duties (a BBC Four "Channel Editor", reporting up to this Controller, has day-to-day operational control of Four).

The channel forms part of the BBC Television executive group, and is answerable to the head of that department, and to the BBC Trust.

On 20 January 2016, Kim Shillinglaw announced that she has decided to leave the BBC as the Controller of BBC Two & BBC Four and, as a result of the reorganisation, the posts of Controller of BBC Two and Four have been closed. [10]

Patrick Holland became Channel Controller of BBC Two in March 2017, following his earlier appointment as Channel Editor in July 2016. [11]


BBC Two's remit is to be a mixed-genre channel appealing to a broad adult audience with programmes of depth and substance. It should carry the greatest amount and range of knowledge building programming of any BBC television channel, complemented by distinctive comedy, drama and arts programming.

BBC Two remit [12]

BBC Two's remit historically was one screening programmes targeting the arts, culture, some comedy and drama, and appealing to audiences not already served by BBC One or ITV. Over its first thirty or so years the channel developed a reputation for screening highly praised and prestigious drama series, among these Boys from the Blackstuff (1982) or 1996's, critically acclaimed Our Friends in the North . The channel's "highbrow" profile is also in part attributable to a long history of demanding documentaries of all types, beginning with Civilisation and The Ascent of Man in the 1960s. Like the early Channel 4, BBC Two also established for itself a reputation as a champion of independent and international cinema, under the Screen 2 brand.

The channel has sometimes been judged, increasingly in more recent years, to have moved away from this original role and to have moved closer to the mainstream. Since the launch of the digital-only BBC Four, the BBC has been accused in particular of shifting its more highbrow output to the new channel, which, until the end of the UK's digital TV switchover in October 2012, [13] a minority (7.5% in the final quarter of 2010) [14] of viewers did not receive. BBC Four's remit is very similar to that of the earlier remit of BBC2, and contains many documentaries and arts programmes. It has been perceived by some that this strategy is to allow BBC Two to show more popular programmes and to secure higher ratings. [15] Since 2004 there have been some signs of an attempt to return closer to parts of BBC Two's earlier output with the arts strand The Culture Show . Its most popular programme at the moment is Top Gear .

Much of BBC Two's output has previously or subsequently been shown on other channels. Some of these programmes are repeats of popular or flagship programmes from BBC Four in a late night strand, originally called BBC Four on Two but now unbranded, for the benefit of audiences without access to BBC Four. Other programmes are moved to the channel as a result of their success on BBC Three or Four, so that subsequent series are well received. An example of this is the BBC Three series Torchwood that was transferred to the channel following the success of the first series. BBC Two is also used as a testing ground for programmes prior to their moving to the flagship BBC One: such examples include Have I Got News for You and popular comedies Absolutely Fabulous and Miranda , which moved to BBC One after success on Two. Also in August 2014 The Great British Bake Off moved to BBC One due to its success the previous year on BBC Two.

Another founding part of BBC Two was to provide educational and community programming on the BBC, as part of its public service remit. The educational section of this commitment saw BBC2 broadcast a large amount of programming for the Open University, who co-produced programming with the corporation, and saw the channel broadcast BBC Schools programmes from 1983 until the programmes were transferred to the BBC Learning Zone in 2010.

As a result of the channel's commitment to community broadcasting, the channel produced the symbolic Open Space series, a strand developed in the early 1970s in which members of the public would be allotted half an hour of television time, and given a level of editorial and technical training in order to produce for themselves a film on an issue most important to them. BBC2's Community Programme Unit kept this aspect of the channel's tradition alive into the 1990s in the form of Video Diaries and later Video Nation . The Community Programmes Unit was disbanded in 2004.

Since January 2013, BBC Two stopped showing children's programmes and replaced the weekday morning schedule with repeats of the previous BBC One daytime schedule. They also started showing Sign Zone in the early hours, which BBC One used to show before 2013.

From October 2013, BBC Two has shown classic programmes like Bergerac , Cagney and Lacey , The Rockford Files , 'Allo 'Allo! , and Are You Being Served? on weekday afternoons, with the retro logos from 1970s and 1980s, between the current programmes.

In October 2014, Russell Howard's Good News and Backchat moved to BBC Two from BBC Three.

In 2014, BBC Two commissioned Britain's first transgender sitcom, Boy Meets Girl , which follows the developing relationship between Leo, a 26-year-old man and Judy, a 40-year-old transgender woman. [16]

From 7 April 2015, the morning Sign Zone was shown before Victoria Derbyshire between 8:00am-9:00 am including See Hear on Wednesday morning.

Since 2017, it has shown the UK selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest, Eurovision: You Decide.


The "Paint" ident from the 1991-2001 set. Several idents from this set were reinstated in July 2014 with the teal box logo. BBC Two Paint ident.jpg
The "Paint" ident from the 1991-2001 set. Several idents from this set were reinstated in July 2014 with the teal box logo.

As well as programmes, BBC Two has also proved memorable for its numerous idents—various short sequences shown between programme junctions that serve as the channel identity. Nearly all of the identity packages used since the channel's launch in 1964 have featured a prominent numeral 2 in the design. Notable designs include the electronic double-striped 2, the white TWO ident (the only ident not to use a numeral 2), and most notably the 1991 2s.

The 1991 idents featured a sans-serif numeral 2 at the centre of an initially art-related scene; however the idents moved away from this style as the station's style changed. Although highly praised, this expansive set of idents was ended in November 2001. The BBC corporate logo was updated within the idents in October 1997, though the idents moved away from the original viridian colour scheme in these latter years. The subsequent presentation style was introduced on 19 November 2001 and kept the same figure 2, but in a yellow background and given a personality. At the time, BBC Two became the first BBC channel to feature a box logo.

In 2007, BBC Two debuted the new theme, a "Window on the World", with the 2 numeral providing that view. Introduced on 18 February 2007, the new look also had the channel adopt a teal-coloured box logo, featuring the BBC logo above the word TWO, in the font Avenir.

In 2014, in honour of the channel's 50th anniversary, some of the 1990s idents were re-introduced; from 2015, BBC Two Northern Ireland opted to use nearly forty idents from the 1991–2001 set.

On 27 September 2018, the 1991-2001 idents were retired once again and BBC Two introduced a new set of idents, based on scenes incorporating a curve motif resembling the number 2. The new branding is designed to reflect BBC Two's "constant evolution, constant eclecticism, [and] constant sense of quality". The new idents are produced by various artists and studios, including Aardman Animations, The Mill and others. The new identity was co-developed by BBC Creative and Superunion. [17] [18] [19]

Regional variations

BBC Two also has regional variations in Wales and Northern Ireland. These versions of BBC Two share the same idents, but with the nation name in the BBC Two box. BBC Two Scotland showed a lot of specifically Scottish programming on the channel, as well as its sister channel BBC One Scotland, and the schedules were often mixed around to match. BBC Two Northern Ireland and BBC Two Wales both have the option to opt out of the main network schedule, but generally stick to it, only opting out a couple of times each week. Until December 2008, BBC Wales broadcast a special, digital-only channel, BBC 2W, which contained more opt-outs than analogue-only BBC Two Wales. BBC Two Scotland existed until February 2019 when it was replaced with the national BBC Two feed in preparation for the launch of the BBC Scotland channel.

In England, many of the BBC English regions were combined to form "super-regions", such as the entire North or Midlands. These had the option to opt out of the network programming on the analogue feed, and replace it with local programming. However this was usually only done in exceptional circumstances, as all regular regional programming has been transferred to BBC One, and the English regions are not available on digital on BBC Two. There is no specific "BBC Two England"; this role is fulfilled by the network version of BBC Two.

Availability outside the UK

BBC Two is widely available in the Republic of Ireland on satellite and cable, as well as being received directly in areas bordering Northern Ireland, or in coastal areas from Wales. It is also available on cable and IPTV in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. On 27 March 2013, it began being carried by British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) to members of HM Forces and their families around the world, replacing the BFBS2 TV channel, which already carried a selection of BBC Two programmes. [20] It shares a channel with CBBC, which broadcasts from early morning until the early evening. [21]


The BBC announced in May 2008 that it had achieved its aim for all programming to have subtitles for viewers with hearing difficulties. [22] [23] These are available on the BBC Red Button, and until 23 October 2012, via the Ceefax teletext service.

The BBC also offers audio description on some popular programmes [24] for visually impaired-viewers as well as sign language interpretation on some of its programmes for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. The percentage of the BBC's total television output with audio description available is 10%, having been increased from 8% in 2008. [25]


Originally, programmes from BBC Two were shown in high definition on the dedicated BBC HD channel, alongside programmes from BBC Three and BBC Four, as well as some select series from CBBC and CBeebies. However, in plans outlined by the director general Mark Thompson on 6 October 2011, BBC HD would close to be replaced by BBC Two HD, a high-definition simulcast of BBC Two that would work much the same way as BBC One HD. [26] This move allowed the corporation to save £2.1 million, used to count towards its budget deficit following the freezing of the licence fee and the additional financial responsibility of addition services. [27]

On 19 February 2013, it was announced that BBC Two HD would replace BBC HD from 6.05 am on 26 March 2013. [28] Channel numbers for the BBC's HD channels also changed on Sky, to allow BBC One HD and BBC Two HD to sit side-by-side on channels 141, and 142 respectively on the EPG. [28] [29]

On 16 July 2013, the BBC indicated that it wants to launch Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh variations of BBC Two HD; however, this would require the approval of the BBC Trust, with a proposal due to be presented within six months. [30]

On 10 December 2013, BBC Two HD was swapped with the SD channel in England on Sky's EPG for HD subscribers. [31]

In October 2018, the BBC announced that regional variants of BBC Two HD in Wales and Northern Ireland would launch at the end of November that year on terrestrial, satellite (Wales only) and iPlayer. BBC Two HD in these regions were swapped with the SD channel on Sky's EPG for HD subscribers. Due to the impending launch of the new BBC Scotland channel in February 2019, replacing the opt-outs on BBC Two Scotland, no Scottish HD variant was required.

See also

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