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The channel periodically airs special programmes or features commemorating pivotal and socially significant events in British history. For example, the channel commemorated the 40th and the 50th anniversaries of the funeral of Winston Churchill, the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher stepping down from the prime minister role, and the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War outbreak, to name a few.
United Artists Programming started a trial project in 1991, setting up periodical translations of debates from the Parliament. As the project proved to be popular, in 1992, it was transformed into The Parliamentary Channel that broadcast live and recorded Parliament workings and highlighted the September conference season. It was the predecessor of BBC Parliament.
Until 2008, the channel stood out among other BBC channels in that it did not have its own broadcasting studio and so operated from the ITV premises. Yet the team was composed of BBC staffers.
The channel image and branding were revamped several times. The main symbol across several iterations of branding was the Big Ben clock in different interpretations.
In 1998, the BBC purchased the Parliamentary Channel from United Artists Programming and transformed it into BBC Parliament in its current format. It is a free-to-air channel that broadcasts sessions and events from Houses of Parliament, its committees, and national parliaments of other members of the UK.
Initially, the channel broadcast audio content only due to the lack of TV channel slots on terrestrial digital platforms. Then it moved to a quarter-screen picture format, and after an outpour of dissatisfaction of viewers and MPs, the slot for a full-screen channel was finally found.
BBC Parliament rolled out its HD version on various platforms through 2022. The standard version is still available on Freeview.
The channel broadcast solely the lying in state of Queen Elizabeth II for several days in a row in September 2022, paying due to the legacy of the Queen and to the longevity of her reign.
On election nights, BBC Parliament simulcasts one of the result reviewing programmes produced by the devolved nations, and in the following few days, it broadcasts programmes made by other nations for providing a balanced and comprehensive coverage.
Along with broadcasts from the Parliament, the channel makes a lot of its own original thematic content. The programmes range from historical explorations into biographies of MPs and origins of weird protocol rules to entertaining content like Village Idioms that investigates how certain catchphrases were coined and made popular by the Parliament.