With the start of BBC World Service Television, millions of viewers in Asia and America can now watch the Corporations news coverage, as well as listen to it.And of course in Britain listeners and viewers can tune in to two BBC television channels, five BBC national radio services and dozens of local radio station. They are brought sport, comedy, drama, music, news and current affairs, education, religion, parliamentary coverage, childrens programmes and films for an annual licence fee of￡83 per household.
It is a remarkable record, stretching back over 70 years - yet the BBCs future is now in doubt. The Corporation will survive as a publicly-funded broadcasting organisation, at least for the time being, but its role, its size and its programmes are now the subject of a nation-wide debate in Britain.
The debate was launched by the Government, which invited anyone with an opinion of the BBC - including ordinary listeners and viewers - to say what was good or bad about the Corporation, and even whether they thought it was worth keeping. The reason for its inquiry is that the BBCs royal charter runs out in 1996 and it must decide whether to keep the organisation as it is, or to make changes.
Defenders of the Corporation - of whom there are many - are fond of quoting the American slogan. "If it aint broke, dont fix it." The BBC "aint broke", they say, by which they mean it is not broken (as distinct from the word "broke", meaning having no money), so why bother to change it?
Yet the BBC will have to change, because the broadcasting world around it is changing. The commercial TV channels - ITV and Channel 4 - were required by the Thatcher Governments Broadcasting Act to become more commercial, competing with each other for advertisers, and cutting costs and jobs. But it is the arrival of new satellite channels - funded partly by advertising and partly by viewers subscriptions - which will bring about the biggest changes in the long term.