|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 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
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
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.'
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
'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 bbcarabic.com 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
'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.