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Annual Review 2004/05
A year in review - BBC World Service Trust
On location, filming Taste of Life
On location, filming Taste of Life


It was a year of major new projects for BBC World Service Trust, the BBC charity that promotes development through innovative use of the media. The Trust widened its range of initiatives on HIV/Aids and launched its biggest media reconstruction project to date – an independent radio and television station in southern Iraq.

Projects carried out with local partners in over 30 countries are funded by UK government departments, international NGOs, foundations and UN agencies. Income rose from £9.8m to £13.6m during the year.

'Does the media matter in the fight against global poverty?' The issue was debated at a major policy conference organised by the BBC World Service Trust and the UK Department for International Development (DfID). Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn were keynote speakers at the event, which was held after a BBC online survey revealed that 72% of respondents had never heard of the Millennium Development Goals – the international community's targets to halve poverty by 2015.

Calling for commitment akin to America's Marshall Plan to rebuild post-war Europe, Gordon Brown warned that the Millennium Goals were 'at risk of being downgraded from pledge to just possibility to just words'. He congratulated the Trust for its 'less widely publicised but highly innovative work, such as the pioneering HIV/Aids campaign in India'.

In 2004 a two-year extension was approved for the DfID-funded campaign in India - run in partnership with the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, and the Indian National Aids Control Organisation - which aims to prevent a worsening global HIV/Aids epidemic in northern Indian states. A new series of 'Jasoos Vijay', the award-winning interactive detective television drama, will begin; its compelling plots and high production values have helped to win hundreds of millions of viewers. Information about HIV awareness and prevention is part of the drama, and the leading character is himself portrayed as HIV positive.

The Trust extended its range of HIV/Aids projects from India and Africa to Cambodia, where it launched the country's first Khmer language television drama, five radio phone-ins and TV and radio spots. The aim is to raise awareness in a country that has the highest rate of HIV infection in South East Asia. The project also tackles mother and child health issues.

Set in a fictional Phnom Penh hospital, the twice-weekly television drama 'Taste of Life', provides life-saving health information through a young cast of doctors and nurses. 'Some of the biggest killers in Cambodia today are also the least discussed,' says project leader Matthew Robinson, formerly an Executive Producer of the BBC's top television soap EastEnders. 'Taste of Life's compelling stories, about such taboo subjects as safe sex, are an entertaining way to providing health education and, just as important, to get people talking in both rural and urban areas.'

To make the show, the Trust built a complete film set and production base and recruited and trained local writers and actors. 'There were very few experienced television professionals in Cambodia when the project began,' says BBC World Service Trust Director Stephen King. 'We invested a great deal of time in providing training and building a team. As a result, the Cambodia production team is one of the youngest, most dynamic and innovative that we have ever developed.'

Building independent television and radio

The Trust increased its support for media reconstruction and training in countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. In Iraq work began on the Trust's biggest ever media reconstruction project: building a complete television and radio station, Al Mirbad, that will go on the air in 2005. More than 100 staff have been recruited and trained for the new station, which will broadcast locally produced public service programmes.

'For the fledgling democracy to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people it needs a probing, questioning and independent media that the communities it serves find credible and want to participate in,' says the Trust's Director of Media Development, Simon Derry. 'These are things we need to do in partnership with local communities, reflecting the fact that the media there has got to be an important part of nation building.'

As well as training Al Mirbad journalists to be independent and impartial, the Trust has trained other editorial, administrative and technical staff. It has assisted in the development and piloting of different programme strands and is supervising the importation and construction of the studio and transmission equipment.

'Creating a station from scratch is a difficult proposition anywhere but Al Mirbad is even more complex than usual as safety is a key concern,' adds Abir Awad, Project Manager Al Mirbad. 'Our task has been to provide a technical infrastructure and develop content with the local team without spending any time with them in-country.'

The Afghan Woman's Hour radio programme – called 'Woman in Today's World' in Pashto and Dari, the main Afghan languages – went on air in January. 'Afghan women are ready to move on after 23 years of conflict,' says Editor Rachel Ellison. 'They want to rebuild their country, to empower themselves and learn from other women.' Like its long-running counterpart on BBC Radio 4 in the UK, the programme's debates, features and phone-ins tackle all kinds of subjects, from women's health, education and working lives to family issues, cooking, music and literature.

Young women in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen had an opportunity to share their experiences and concerns through a new Arabic project, 'Hekaity' ('My Life'). Participants aged between 16 and 22 took part in locally held workshops to explore the theme, 'Where am I and where do I want to be by 2015?', working with a BBC team of trainers, programme makers and partners from each country. 'It was inspirational to see how involved they became in the workshop and how much they were willing to share their lives with us and with each other,' says project manager Eleanor Morris. 'We published the stories on and there has been a huge response, with comments from all over the world.'

Awards during the year included Best Public Service Short in the Indian Telly Awards for HIV/Aids television spots produced with the Trust's Indian partners. In Nigeria, the Trust's locally produced radio drama series, 'Story, Story: Voices from the Market', won Best Radio Drama and Best Script for a Radio Drama at the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Awards.

'Voices has been immensely successful in harnessing the reach of radio with the power of dramatic narrative,' says Akim Mogaji, Head of Production, Voices Project. 'From the very first episode, the series has provided quality educational broadcasting, engaging its audiences with authentic, gripping storylines that have relevance to their own lives.'

For the coming year the Trust plans to extend its ground-breaking projects in many of the world's poorest countries, developing the capacity of local and national media, building civil society, providing training in media skills and developing health and educational campaigns.

'We invested a great deal of time in providing training and building a team. As a result, the Cambodia production team is one of the youngest, most dynamic and innovative that we have ever developed.'
The Trust increased its support for media reconstruction and training in countries including Afghanistan The Trust increased its support for media reconstruction and training in countries including Afghanistan Woman in Today's World, the Afghan Woman's Hour radio programme, helps women share experiences and develop their own opinions
BBC - Many voices, one world
A year in review
BBC World Service Trust
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