Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by BBC World Service


  The World Service takes AIDS as a subject extremely seriously: many people in our target areas are directly or indirectly affected by the disease, and it is our role to be a forum for information and debate on the key issues of our time—AIDS is clearly one of them.

  The World Service deals with the subject in two main ways:

    (i)  in its general programming;

    (ii)  in its educational output.

1.  The World Service's general programming on AIDS

  In English as well as in all our other 42 language services, AIDS and its effects regularly receive both top-line news coverage and in-depth analysis. Both the Lusaka and Durban Conferences were covered in great depth by the World Service—in both cases a team of producers and technical support staff made sure that all aspects could be dealt with for all our audiences. The recent Durban conference was marked also by a specially-commissioned one-hour programme, Africa: the Orphaned Continent, co-produced with BBC Radio 4 and presented by Robin Lustig, which examined not only the ravages of AIDS in Southern Africa but also successful initiatives to combat it in Senegal and Uganda. On the Internet, an in-depth report on AIDS and HIV was produced in collaboration with BBC News Online; and our international multi-media phone-in Talking Point devoted an edition to the subject with Bernard Schwartlander of the UN's AIDS programme, sparking a debate by telephone and e-mail from all over the world.

  In our news and current affairs output, as much as in our specialist science and medical programmes, the effects of HIV and AIDS remain at the top of the agenda. A series of first-hand reports commissioned by the World Service from one of our Southern Africa correspondents, Greg Barrow, investigating the spread and the impact of AIDS in townships and small communities, was joint winner of the One World Media Award 2000 in the Radio News category. These and many other examples of regular coverage and analysis demonstrate the World Service's commitment to telling the story of AIDS over the long term and in all its aspects, not just in occasional snapshots or sensational headlines.

  The World Service runs daily feature programmes specifically for African audiences, offering a range of formats—from simple "postbag" questions and answers to heated debates on AIDS and related subjects, eg political attitudes and the cost of drugs.

  The World Service reaches particularly large audiences on the African continent, both in English and four other languages. One third of the adult population of Ghana and Kenya listen regularly, and about one quarter of the population of Nigeria; in the Great Lakes region audiences are even higher.

2.  The World Service's educational output:

(a)  educational programming broadcast by the World Service itself

  WS Education is responsible for commissioning educational programmes across the range of World Service's radio and online output. HIV/AIDS has been covered in two main ways.

  As part of the major Sexwise project which has been running since 1996. Carried out in partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and with funds from a variety of sources (including WS Grant in Aid and other funders such as the Department for International Development, the European Union, the Packard Foundation). Sexwise is designed to disseminate basic information on sexual and reproductive health. Most of the series have contained substantial information on HIV/AIDS. As part of the project, carried out in three main phases, radio series have been produced and broadcast in 22 different languages; there is also an accompanying booklet and a website. Currently this project is in Phase 3, which has targeted 11 languages, broadcasting to over 60 million listeners in Africa, the Arab world, Latin America, South East Asia and China. The Sexwise website is at

  Information on HIV/AIDS is at

    and at

  Within the Learning Zone strand of educational programmes, the World Service is broadcasting the special series Understanding AIDS. This looks at how AIDS is being treated in five cities around the world and aims to develop understanding and appreciation of the difficulties in combating AIDS. It also looks at cultural and social barriers/attitudes, legal developments, health care issues and politics particular to that city/country and explains medical language associated with the subject. The series introduces each city and its story while project workers, medical experts/journalists with experience of the city, city residents and people living with AIDS provide their own views.

(b)  further activities with local partners via the BBC World Service Trust

  Launched in 1999 and funded outside the Grant in Aid, the BBC World Service Trust offers a range of schemes for training broadcasters and making programmes in developing countries. It has developed a unique form of co-production with local broadcasters in a number of countries. Notably, it ran a highly successful leprosy project in India and Nepal.

  That expertise will now be used to tackle AIDS:

    —  India: at the request of DFID and the government of India, the Trust has designed an AIDS campaign which will be one of the largest AIDS campaigns carried out anywhere in the world. Following approval the project would start early in the new year, (India has the highest absolute number of HIV infections in the world).

    —  Cambodia: at the request of UNAIDS, DFID and the Government of Cambodia, the Trust will be designing a campaign later this year for a major AIDS initiative. (Cambodia has the highest prevalence rate of HIV infection in Asia).

    —  Africa: in partnership with UNAIDS and WHO, we shall be designing a major initiative in five of the most HIV-prevalent countries.

What other international broadcasters are doing

  The World Service's main competitors (Voice of America, Radio France Internationale and Deutsche Welle) all report AIDS and AIDS related issues in their current affairs and science/health programming. The Voice of America sponsored an AIDS campaign in South Africa after the Durban conference. This included the training of local journalists.

BBC World Service

September 2000

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