Memorandum submitted by the BBC World
GLOBALISATION AND THE WORLD SERVICE
During much of the last century BBC World Service
stood out as a reference point in a specific context: that of
a bi-polar world dominated by two superpowers. Through globalisation
we are now witnessing the emergence of a new interdependent world
order, profoundly affecting not only governments and companies,
but whole populations. Far from being diminished, the World Service's
role in this new context is crucial for the creation of a strong
The World Service provides a global public good,
essential for achieving central international policy objectives:
sustainable development, good governance and a strengthened international
One of the issues addressed in the Government's
recent White Paper on International Development is the dual nature
of globalisation. How can something that began as an essentially
economic phenomenon, driven by multinational companies, be made
to work for the world's poor? The White Paper acknowledges that
the answer is not a foregone conclusion. It is indeed possible
that globalisation will leave the poor even poorer than they are
today, that the divide between developed and developing nations
will increase, that people in the developing world will perceive
globalisation as a cultural threat that can only be countered
by militant nationalism.
How then can this be avoided? How is it possible
to achieve what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called "inclusive
globalisation", where the benefits are shared by all?
An important part of the answer must be: by
complementing economic globalisation with a process of communication
that bridges the divide between developed and developing countries.
Without this, people in different parts of the world will be unable
to place their own situation in a wider context and to understand
what the new interdependence means for them. Effective communications,
reliable information, an awareness of the bigger picture are also
indispensable in tackling conflict, bad government, isolation
and ignorance, the main obstacles in the way of economic development.
In the age of globalisation it is therefore more important than
ever for "nation to speak unto nation".
Inclusiveness is at the core of the World Service's
overall aim to be the world's best known and most respected international
broadcaster. As a global hub for high quality information and
communication, it pursues a truly global agenda in its news and
information programming. The World Service does not see events
and issues through the prism of euro-centrism. By combining global
and regional information it ensures that it speaks to audiences
across the world with authority and relevance, be they stockbrokers
and UN officials in New York or refugees in Africa. Importantly,
the inclusiveness referred to by Kofi Annan implies a multi-directional
flow of information: the World Service not only reaches audiences
in remote areas with regional and global news, often in their
own language, but takes the voice of the refugee to the ears of
international policy makers.
Secondly, the World Service helps to bring about
inclusive globalisation by creating a forum for debate across
national, ethnic or cultural boundaries. Its regular Talking Point
programme, for example, broadcast both on radio and on the internet,
tackles issues such as AIDS prevention, debt relief and the international
monetary institutions. It involves international experts as well
as interested listeners from around the world in the debate.
There is no doubt that radio is still by far
the best means of inclusive communicationboth domestically
and internationally. Figures on radio penetration show that in
many countries of the developing world no other medium, whether
print or television, can compete with the reach of radio. High
rates of illiteracy may make radio the only effective means of
communication. Although short wave will remain essential in reaching
many areas, local FM stations have made a massive impact in many
developing countries, and the World Service is increasingly establishing
a presence on FM, either on its own or in partnership with a local
station. It is now present on FM in 120 of the world's capital
cities. This development has been critical in enabling the World
Service to achieve a record global audience of 151 million listeners
in 2000-its highest audience ever.
No other means of communication has conquered
such large markets in so short a time as the internet. The internet
has radically changed the availability of regional news. If, for
instance, the African diaspora in the US, Europe or Australia
found it almost impossible until recently to obtain reliable up-to-date
news about Somalia or Sierra Leone, the internet now gives them
access to the BBC's African programming, not only in English,
but also in a range of other languages. By creating new communities
defined by interest and by language, the internet presents a further
opportunity for inclusive globalisation. The World Service aims
to provide the best multi-lingual internet news site in the world
with all the audio from its 43 language services made available
on the internet together with eight world class 24 hour constantly
updated sites in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese,
Hindi/Urdu, Persian and Indonesian as well as English.
The World Service Trust, which is funded outside
the Grant in Aid, was set up to address specific development issues
such as health education, strengthening civil society and media
training. Amongst its recent achievements are successful campaigns
to raise leprosy awareness in India and Nepal, with astonishing
results: the Indian campaign reached 275 million people, 172 million
changing their attitude towards leprosy.
But there are several areas in which the World Service
Trust can substantially increase its work and contribute to inclusive
It is easy to think of areas in the world where
conflict management is one of the most important tasks, whether
this takes the form of conflict prevention, conflict resolution
or post-conflict reconstruction. Working with local media, the
World Service Trust can help to create channels of open communication
through which the conflicting parties can begin to solve their
disputes in non-violent ways. This is an essential precondition
for economic and social development.
Accountable democratic government, a further
necessary condition for development, can only exist in a healthy
local media environment. The World Service has carried out media
training in several countries, notably Bosnia (for the whole of
the Balkans), Nigeria, Rwanda and Indonesia. There are many more
countries where the World Service Trust could be instrumental
in helping to establish a democratic media environment, based
on the BBC's editorial principles.
As the leprosy awareness campaign has shown,
radio is an extremely effective way of delivering health messages.
The most pressing issue for many countries is HIV/AIDS, and it
is here that the World Service Trust's contribution could be most
valuable. The White Paper also refers to the WHO work on polio
eradication, another area where the Trust could help.
In addition there are subject areas which the
World Service Trust can address through special programmes. To
achieve maximum reach, these can then be broadcast by local partner
stations in the local language as well as by the World Service.
Series on human rights and the needs of children in conflict are
two recent examples of such programming, but much more can be
done on these two subjects as well as on issues such as government
corruption, the empowerment of women and universal primary education.
If, as the White Paper states, making globalisation
work for the poor is the greatest challenge facing our generation,
all effective instruments must be used in achieving this aim.
Through its programming BBC World Service has become a world-wide
reference point and forum for the debate of global issues. Together
with the World Service Trust, it can help even more directly in
achieving inclusive globalisation.
BBC World Service