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Boating glory

Richard Sambrook | 15:11 UK time, Wednesday, 14 May 2008

World Service logoI'm delighted to see the Bangladesh Boat Project amongst the BBC World Service prizewinners at the Sony awards. This fantastic journey won the newly-created Multiplatfrom Radio Award. Here, my colleague Ben Sutherland, who was onboard the boat itself, will describe its success in more detail.

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By Ben Sutherland.

"Among the prizes given on BBC World Service's astonishingly successful night at the Sonys was the inaugural Multiplatform Radio Award, handed to the Bangladesh Boat Project.

MV AbosharIt was richly deserved. Although of course I would say that - having personally been on the boat for two weeks , writing and editing stories and pictures detailing each step of the journey - it is the truth. Nodi Pothe Bangladesh - Bangladesh By The River in Bengali - was one of the most extraordinary efforts ever attempted in 75 years of the radio station.

At its heart, the project was about climate change, and specifically the sharp realities of having to live with the consequences of a heating world.

If predictions about sea level rises come true, much of Bangladesh will simply be erased from the map. Our aim, therefore, was to hire a boat and use it to travel the long, wide rivers of the country to meet the people most at risk.

bangladeshhome203.jpgThere were amazing stories - tiger attacks, of collapsing villages, of people living on bare earth thrown up by the river. And then, of course, halfway through there was Cyclone Sadr, which turned the whole operation on its head. Suddenly we were no longer talking about a potential threat, but a huge disaster that we were right in the middle of.

But not only was the method of getting these stories remarkable, but so was our way of getting it out.

We weren't just using tri-media, and we weren't just World Service. We were on Radio 5 Live, News 24, Radio Scotland - and on Twitter, iTunes, Google.

In the words of the judges, "it embraced everything from podcasts to GPS and Googlemaps to add value to the listener/user experience and met those listeners where they really lived using third party sites such as Flickr."

The project was the brainchild of James Sales, the man whose idea the whole thing was and who instantly and outrageously successfully went from studio manager to project manager.

To some, the words "BBC World Service" still conjure up images of evening dress, stuffy studios and plummy accents. But this award comes hot on the heels of the Webby for Best Radio Website, and highlights how a radio station celebrating its three-quarter century is showing the way in broadcasting innovation."

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