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Last updated: 10 june, 2009 - 14:34 GMT

The vote that affected our world

Coverage of the US Presidential election broke new ground in multimedia reporting from the heartland of America, just as the economy became the big issue of the year.

It was a campaign that culminated in the election of the first black President of the United States, Democratic Senator Barack Obama. For BBC World Service it was ‘the multimedia election'.

Correspondents delivered depth and analysis with greater use of new media platforms than ever before. Programme-makers broke new ground in the way they connected with Americans across the country.

In the election run‑up, the click BBC Talking America bus took news programmes in English and 12 other languages on a unique cross-country journey to hear what Americans wanted from their next President.

In Kenya, Barack Obama's ancestral nation, particular attention was paid to the campaign and the results. Credit: Eyevine

The key theme of our US Presidential election coverage was 'the vote that affects our world'. In Kenya, Barack Obama's ancestral nation, particular attention was paid to the campaign and the results.

In a one-off election night special programme, click BBC Arabic television was extended to 24 hours for the first time.

Reflecting great interest throughout Africa, journalists reporting in English, French, Hausa, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and Swahili filed stories for TV, radio and online from across the continent and key cities in the USA.

As well as mounting its most ambitious live coverage to date, BBC Swahili erected a large screen in the Kenyan town of Kisumu, close to the village where President Obama's father was born, for people to watch three days of election coverage.

BBC World Service programme makers added depth and insight tailored to audiences all over the world.

In a special series for click Outlook, Matthew Bannister travelled to three states to investigate what it means to be click Black in the USA. The resulting programmes won a click Sony Radio Academy Award.

It was a story for every part of BBC World Service. The impact was extraordinary.

Liliane Landor, Editor News and Current Affairs

Robin Lustig visited the home states of the two presidential contenders to bring voters head to head in click My Senator, My Vote.

For Russian listeners, students at Berkeley and Moscow universities exchanged views in a special link-up, followed by an online forum on click bbcrussian.com.

"It was a story for every part of BBC World Service," says Liliane Landor, Editor News and Current Affairs. "The impact was extraordinary because wherever you looked, people were talking about it. In our coverage we gauged reactions of voters as well as politicians and everyone from Iranian mullahs to listeners in eastern Europe."

On inauguration day, live coverage included special programmes for Africa, the Arab world, South Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The new click BBC Persian television channel presented its first live outside broadcast.

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On the road to the White House

The click BBC Talking America bus took to the road ahead of the election to meet American voters in the places where the election would be won or lost.

The journey took six weeks and covered 6,500 miles across 16 states, from Los Angeles in the west to New York in the east.

Poll optimism

A BBC World Service poll found widespread and growing optimism that President Barack Obama would lead to improved relations between the United States and the rest of the world. In 15 out of 17 countries, large majorities thought relations would improve.

It was one of our most ambitious multimedia, multilingual projects yet undertaken.

Aboard were teams from 12 language services - Albanian, Arabic, French, Hindi, Kyrgyz, Persian, Pashto, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu and Vietnamese - as well as English, BBC News Online, BBC World News and BBC Arabic television, and two BBC UK radio networks.

Presenters Allan Little, Ros Atkins and Steve Evans brought the journey to life for the English network.

"Our aim was to go out and talk to people in the midst of this huge election at a crucial time for America," says Steve Titherington, Executive Editor, BBC Global News. "It was a unique opportunity to get away from areas we usually report from into the real battleground for the election."

It quickly became clear that the issues would be wider than the battle for the White House.

The bus set out on 10 September 2008 just as the sea change in America's economic prospects was becoming apparent.

Within a week, Lehman Brothers and the markets had collapsed and there was an impasse in Washington over the rescue plan for the US financial system.

We got away from areas we usually report from into the real battleground for the election.

Steve Titherington, Executive Editor, BBC Global News

At a school in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, local families and teachers were invited to the debate. "We had set it up to talk about education but by then the economic crisis had taken over everything," says Steve Titherington.

"Their fears for how this would affect the wellbeing of their children made a very strong and emotional set of interviews and discussion that filled the whole second half of Newshour."

US public radio stations, universities and community groups joined in the debates.

The number of stations broadcasting BBC programmes increased by 10% to over 500 during the year, contributing to a rapidly growing US audience of six million people.

"It is a connection with a time when, as Churchill put it, the New World came to the rescue of the Old," reported Allan Little. "The country Franklin Roosevelt called the arsenal of democracy is looking for a way to believe in itself again."

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Live inauguration coverage

For click BBC Persian television, President Obama's inauguration was the first test for live coverage of a major occasion.

The special programme included regional reaction from Kabul, Tehran, Jerusalem and Beirut.

Taking up her position on Washington's bitterly cold Capitol Hill, Sima Alinejad prepared for five hours of live transmission to millions of viewers in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

"Research had shown that they expect our channel to be the best; professional, young and above all trustworthy," she says. "I remember thinking that if I do it well, it's fine. But if I don't, I will disappoint not only the whole Persian TV team, but the millions who are watching this historically unique occasion."

Sima Alinejad reporting from Washington DC

Reporting from Washington on inauguration day, Sima Alinejad made her first live outside broadcast for BBC Persian TV.

"Now I look back and know everything went well. And, importantly, the audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive."

For click BBC Arabic television, which had just launched as a 24-hour channel, Fida Bassil also went live for the first time from the centre of an event.

"We felt a big sense of accomplishment and we were happy to offer our viewers the opportunity to watch us whenever they want," she says.

The English network presented a three-hour live special from the capital.

It included contributions from correspondents in Nairobi, Islamabad and President Obama's father's home village in Kenya, plus audience reaction from Africa Have Your Say, Urdu interactive and BBC Arabic.

Original programming was produced for every region.

African services put the emphasis on interactivity and big interviews from the US and Africa.

Hindi and Urdu services presented live coverage from Washington.

Urdu reporters at cafés in Pakistan captured reaction and an online forum generated many comments.

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