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For much of the last century, the British Broadcasting Corp. has proven to be an icon in the Western world.

Part publicly funded information outlet — think America’s National Public Radio — part business and trend-setter, the BBC’s umbrella now includes eight national TV channels, 10 national radio stations, 40 local radio stations, a Web site and the BBC World Service, which provides news via radio, TV and online in 33 languages.

According to its Web site, the BBC is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world.

Created in the 1920s, the BBC is technically part of the British government, receiving funding largely through a TV license fee of 135.50 pounds a year that every viewer must pay. At the same time, the BBC remains editorially independent.

The station has managed to remain fresh and relevant over the years. Its luminaries include flagship stations such as BBC Radio One, home to love-him-or-hate-him disc jockey Chris Moyles, which help sets the tone for popular music in the modern-day U.K. Best of all, that public ownership aspect means the stations are refreshingly free of commercial jingles.

Any profits BBC makes are put back into the organization for investment in new programming and services.

The BBC really came into its own during World War II, combining frontline military reporting with morale-boosting fare for a nation and continent made weary by the war.

By war’s end, half the U.K. population was tuning in to the 9 p.m. radio newscast, according to the BBC Web site, and the station was broadcasting in nearly 40 languages.

Even the Allies’ enemies recognized the BBC’s wartime performance.

According to the Web site, Josef Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s main man for propaganda, admitted that BBC Radio had won “the intellectual invasion” of Europe.

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