Tag Archives: BBC World Service


World Service celebrates 80 years – my box of memories

I don’t do scrapbooking and I don’t like hoarding mementos so I’ve been trawling the internet for my favourite images and sounds from the World Service’s 80th Birthday celebrations.  It’s a very personal selection – the people, places and sounds I want to remember.  I was at Bush House for the 70th celebrations but didn’t quite make it to the 80th so I’m very grateful to all the people who shared moments from the special day 29.02.12.


This slideshow reminds me of the role BBC World Service has played during the great moments of history.  I don’t think those of us working at Bush House ever forgot the sense of responsibility that came with the knowledge that millions of people around the world counted on us as their only source of reliable information.  It meant that we could argue at length about the precise meaning of a single, seemingly innocuous word in a news bulletin – would it be perceived as biased by one side or the other?

Times changed, of course, and audiences came and went but there was always somewhere in the world that needed to hear an independent voice from beyond.

The technology changed too and fewer and fewer of our listeners tuned in using shortwave as the BBC relied more heavily on FM rebroadcasts by partner stations.   But there are still people around the world who need to tune in using short wave, as Bethan Jinkinson found out for this lovely feature.

But if that history lesson was too much for you, try this.  This is Adam Long of the Reduced Shakespeare Company with his Reduced History of the BBC World Service. It was a special commission for the BBC Newshour debate on the future of global broadcasting.

Fortunately, the programmes on the 80th anniversary didn’t dwell too much on the past.  Instead, they came up with this nice concept of Inside Out whereby listeners got a sense of what happens behind the scenes.  How does the World Service decide which stories get on air, which voices are heard and how (limited) resources are deployed?  Well, most of those decisions start here, at the 9 o’clock editorial meeting….

The guy at the head of the table chairing proceedings on this occasion is Olexiy Solohubenko,multimedia editor of World Service Languages (he’s had many very important titles over the years!)  But I knew him as head of the newly-formed Ukrainian Service back in 1992 when I studio managed their first live broadcast.  Sitting on his right is Liliane Landor, controller of Languages for BBC Global News,  She joined Bush House at around the same time as me and I remember her as a presenter on the French Service, which even broadcast to Europe back then (who listened??).  I’ve had to attend and even contribute and argue my case at these meetings on many occasions over the years and never enjoyed it.  But I loved it as a spectator!  It was always deeply intimidating being in the presence of such Big Brains.

The Outlook programme (another one that I worked on many times as Studio Manager, Producer and Reporter) finally realised that the best people stories are in Bush House itself.

This programme is how I’ll remember Bush House – a place full of amazing people with incredible stories but who all share the same lifts, canteen, toilets and passion for what we do.  It’s a very humbling experience and I probably took it for granted whilst I was working there.  When I started out as a Studio Manager at Bush, I worked on programmes in all the languages so there are many familiar faces and voices in these photos and recordings.

Here are the people taking part in that special Outlook programme.  Originally from Sierra Leone, Josephine Hazeley is now the Deputy Editor of the BBC’s Africa Service – and she used to host legendary Christmas parties for the Africa Service staff and their families right in Bush House.  I went to one!  She has an unforgettable voice and you certainly made sure you got things right when she was in charge!

Seva Novgorodsev is a presenter on the BBC Russian Service – but he started out as a clarinet and saxophone player in a jazz band that toured the Soviet Union.  I worked on Sevaoborot many, many times as a Studio Manager and enjoyed sipping a glass of red wine as I did so!

This is Shaima Khalil, an Egyptian journalist currently working for BBC World News TV.

Priyath Liyanage is the Editor of the BBC Sinhala Service which broadcasts to Sri Lanka. When he first arrived in the UK he worked as a nurse, an aromatherapist and a night porter in a London hotel.  He was a great contributor to World Briefing.

This is Najiba Kasraee, a former Senior Producer at the Afghan Stream of the BBC Persian/Pashto Service, now working at the BBC’s College of Journalism.  She has an amazing story to tell.

The anniversary was, of course, part celebration, part wake.  It coincides with the BBC leaving Bush House for a new home in Broadcasting House.  So I guess I’ll never enter Bush House on The Aldwych ever again and my link with that hugely important part of my life will be lost.  Fortunately, some very clever people put together this beautiful film which will be my favourite souvenir.

And this is a Russian version which appeals to me, at least!  Some VERY familiar voices and faces here.

So Wednesday 29th February turned into a pretty emotional day for me.  In the end, I called Lars bevanger who was colleague many years ago on the World Today.  He’s now a freelance journalist and happens to live down the road.  We met up in Libby’s to reminisce ….

But as night fell on Bush House, the REAL party started – a bittersweet affair of celebration, reminiscing and uncertainty about the future.
Jeremy Morgan and Mike Cooper-DiFrancia.

Jerry Sullivan, Clare Bolderson and Rebecca Kesby
And for my final image……
Yes, I did actually operate this B-type mixing desk, with rotary, Bakelite faders.  It’s how I will always remember Bush House – totally unique, hilariously eccentric, a little old-fashioned and very, very loveable.