Last updated: 12 june, 2009 - 09:24 GMT

Broader and richer

The BBC World Service English Network has a global audience of 40 million

Complementing established news and factual programmes, the English network launched new shows about culture, economics and ideas, widening the experience for listeners in English – BBC World Service's biggest audience.

The challenge facing the BBC World Service English network this year has been to satisfy the increasing appetite for programming in English - especially from America.

"News remains absolutely at the heart of the schedule but we know that we have got to offer more than a rolling news network," says Gwyneth Williams, Director of English Networks and News.

"We are trying to keep people with us longer by making the schedule broader and richer. Globalisation and the growth of English give the network extraordinary potential in the modern world."

BBC World Service serenely maintains Reithian standards with The Forum, nearly an hour of undumbed-down, unpatronising, high powered international discussion.

Martin Hoyle, Financial Times

A number of significant new programme developments and improved delivery have helped to achieve this.

The launch of enhanced Wap facilities in September doubled international traffic to the mobile news site - the inauguration of President Obama on 20 January generated a three-fold increase in mobile traffic - and over 500 public radio stations across the US now broadcast our programmes.

A daily arts show, click The Strand, spans global developments in arts, culture and entertainment.

A new discussion programme, click The Forum, brings together acclaimed thinkers to explore and challenge thoughts, theories, opinions and beliefs.

By strengthening our business and economics programming, we have been able to help those who have turned to us to make sense of the global recession.

The Strand swiftly established its place in the schedule. Replacing five separate programmes, the daily show is presented by novelist Harriett Gilbert and music journalist Mark Coles.

In all this summer snowstorm of Olympic coverage, it was the World Service that was the most Olympian.

Paul Donovan, The Sunday Times

Guests during the first weeks included Roger Moore, Toni Morrison, Candace Bushnell, Neil Gaiman and Curtis Sittenfeld.

BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Bridget Kendall hosts the new discussion programme, click The Forum.

Each week, one guest is invited to propose a radical "60 second idea to change the world".

Suggestions have included "every adult should read to a child every week" and "everyone should dance".

Coverage of contemporary literature was reinforced by extending click World Book Club to one hour.

Some of the world's top writers responded to questions from an invited audience.

Guests included: Khaled Hosseini, Alice Walker and David Guterson.

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Acclaimed documentaries

It was an exceptional year for click documentaries. In Is Al-Qaeda Winning?, Owen Bennett- Jones put the question to jihadhis, generals and scholars in Riyadh, Peshawar and Baghdad, as well as London, Brussels and the heart of America's military establishment, West Point.

In Out of the Ghetto, a one-time teenager in one of Chicago's worst housing projects, now grown up, gave a vivid personal assessment of life in the city today in the run-up to the US Presidential elections.

Anniversary of 9/11

Seven years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, correspondents reported from the stronghold of groups linked to Al-Qaeda. Lyse Doucet told how the increase in attacks in Kabul had led people to flee the city. Kate Clark interviewed a Taleban commander in an undisclosed region of Afghanistan. Owen Bennett-Jones was on the road to the Kyber Pass. "It was a tremendous global coverage of the sort you wouldn't have got anywhere else," says Gwyneth Williams. "The trick is to raise the level of ambition."

There was favourable press comment for investigative programmes such as click Assignment and creative documentaries such as click Bicycle Diaries, which gave a voice to people who rely on two wheels in Paris, Kampala and New Delhi.

BBC World Service Sport's coverage of the Olympics was also rewarded in a year when the Games dominated the sporting line-up.

The special Olympic Sportsworld won a Sony Radio Academy Award.

New presenters joining long-running regular shows included Matthew Bannister at click Outlook, the daily weekday programme that explores human stories behind the news, and correspondent Alan Johnston completed his first year as the presenter of BBC World Service's edition of click From Our Own Correspondent.

For 2009, coverage of spiritual issues will be strengthened by the launch of an international version of Something Understood with Mark Tully and Fergal Keane.

BBC World Service also announced plans to broadcast its own version of Sir David Attenborough's nature monologue The History of Life.

"We are delivering something unique with BBC values of impartiality and enlightenment at its heart," says Gwyneth Williams.

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Listening world

The BBC World Service English network has a global audience of 40 million. Programmes are broadcast to eight different time zones so that schedules can be adjusted to suit regional audiences.

Demand for content on new media such as podcasts, internet radio and mobiles grew strongly.

The most downloaded BBC podcast is BBC World Service's Global News podcast which was downloaded nearly two million times in January 2009.

In the same month, documentaries were downloaded more than 1.8 million times.

News focused

BBC World Service's English schedule is led by news and current affairs, with flagship shows such as click Newshour, click The World Today and click World Briefing.

New for South Asia in 2008, click Evening Report, broadcast from the Delhi bureau, covers regional and global developments for audiences in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and around the world. It joins established regional news programmes such as click Network Africa, click Focus on Africa, click Europe Today and Caribbean Report.

On the interactive show click World Have Your Say, the year's major issues for debate included the conflict in Gaza and the US election.

The strength of BBC World Service English news and current affairs output was reflected at the Sony Radio Academy Awards ceremony. The World Today triumphed in the News and Current Affairs category, click Outlook won for click Black in the USA.

Following the election of Barack Obama, Matthew Bannister travelled to three states to investigate what it means to be a black American today. And Olympic Sportsworld, presented by Russell Fuller during the Beijing Games, also won an award.

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