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John Reith


John Reith

John Reith was born Stonehaven, Scotland in 1889. After being educated at Glasgow Academy he served an engineering apprenticeship.

Reith specialized in radio communication and in December 1922 was appointed general manager of the British Broadcasting Company, an organization was set up by a group of executives from radio manufacturers.

In 1927 the government decided to establish the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a broadcasting monopoly operated by a board of governors and director general. The BBC was funded by a licence fee at a rate set by parliament. The fee was paid by all owners of radio sets. The BBC therefore became the world's first public-service broadcasting organization. Unlike in the United States, advertising on radio was banned.

Reith was appointed director-general of the BBC. Reith had a mission to educate and improve the audience and under his leadership the BBC developed a reputation for serious programmes. Reith also insisted that all radio announcers wore dinner jackets while they were on the air. In the 1930s the BBC began to introduce more sport and light entertainment on the radio.

The BBC began the world's first regular television service in 1936. Two years later Reith left the BBC to join Imperial Airways.

On the outbreak of the Second World War the prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, invited Reith to join his government. Elected to the House of Commons for Southampton, Reith was appointed as Minister of Information in January 1940.

When Winston Churchill replaced Chamberlain in May 1940 he appointed Reith to the post of Minister of Transport. Five months later he was given a peerage and given the job of Minister of Works and Buildings.

After the war Reith served as chairman of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board (1946-50). He also wrote two volumes of autobiography, Into the Wind (1949) and Wearing Spurs (1966). John Reith died in 1971.