The BBC World Service Trust, the BBC's international development charity, placed increasing emphasis on interactive technologies in its work to alleviate poverty and promote human rights in over 43 countries – primarily in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Building on greater access to the internet and mobile communications, it took advantage of growing opportunities for dialogue with audiences.
"A striking development in the past year has been the continuing rise of new media and new communication technologies," says the BBC World Service Trust's Director, Stephen King. "Interactivity is key and even in remote, developing areas, technologies such as mobile phones are enabling people to access information and share news quickly."
One of the most successful interactive campaigns was the ZigZag project, which enabled young Iranians to develop skills as ‘citizen' journalists.The site received well over a million visits. By accessing a virtual newsroom, aspiring journalists were able to generate content for a variety of BBC platforms, including the BBC Persian website, and gain feedback from experienced professionals. More than 7,500 contributions were received.
"The vibrant mix of content appeals to a young audience eager for something different," says King. "Issues covered have included gay Tehran and illegal salsa classes. All this goes hand in hand with training in topics such as impartiality, accuracy and fairness." As well as using the BBC's own airwaves, it forms partnerships with local and national broadcasters, reaching millions of people around the world. The BBC World Service Trust has a track record of innovation and places strong emphasis on measuring the impact of projects.The principal source of funding is grants from international donors, ranging from government aid programmes to international foundations, trusts, United Nations organisations and non-governmental organisations.
The BBC World Service Trust worked with colleagues across the BBC in projects designed to give communities greater freedom of expression. Its multimedia Question Time-style debating programme Bangladesh Sanglap (Dialogue) formed a centrepiece of the BBC World Service Bangladesh by River project. The programmes offer an opportunity to question politicians and commentators first hand and have a combined radio and television audience of more than 17 million.
In Sierra Leone, BBC World Service Trust worked in partnership with the conflict resolution NGO Search for Common Ground to develop and implement a national campaign to support free, fair and peaceful elections. It carried out journalistic training and population surveys and strengthened technical support to local media.
Television and radio programmes, including popular drama series, are the centrepiece of mass media health promotion campaigns in countries such as Angola, Cambodia, India, Nigeria and Vietnam. Radio remains the cornerstone of projects to reach mass audiences in many of the world's poorest communities. Projects ranged from Radio Lifeline for Darfur to Hip Hop Girls, a weekly phonein made in partnership with Cambodian radio stations to get girls aged 18 to 20 talking about reproductive and sexual health.
"Even in remote, developing areas, technologies such as mobile phones are enabling people to access and share information quickly."
Radio lifeline for Darfur
Life-saving information was broadcast to 6.5 million people in Sudan's western province, including more than two million living in refugee camps. Programmes in Darfuri Arabic are made in Sudan by producers trained by BBC World Service Trust and broadcast by BBC World Service on shortwave. "The radio is the only way we get information. We listen to this so we know what is going on in our country and how people in other areas are being affected," said a young listener.
Kenya's violence - were the media to blame?
In its first Policy Briefing, the BBC World Service Trust examined the role of the media in the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections and their violent aftermath. "Many factors were held responsible for the violence," say the authors, James Deane and Jamal Abdi." High among them has been the free and vigorous Kenyan media." The Briefing was based on research and interviews. It argues that the crisis demonstrates that free and plural media are an answer as much as a problem.
The BBC World Service Trust provides training for journalists in countries where media is less developed, such as Afghanistan (pictured).
Rights of women and children in central Asia
BBC World Service Trust began helping the media to support the rights of women and children in Central Asia in a two-year project primarily funded by the European Union as part of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The initiative involves training journalists, not-for-profit organisations and senior media managers in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Skills learned will be put to use in the co-production of a series of television and radio programmes.
A BBC World Service Trust music video involving more than 40 top Bollywood stars and intended to raise awareness about HIV and Aids won three Indian Telly Awards.The video was made for the TV series Haath se Haath Milaa (Let's Join Hands), part of one of the world's biggest mass media projects to promote Aids awareness. Among other awards received in 2007, BBC World Service Trust's radio talk shows – which explore issues around HIV and Aids, sexual health and gender – won two prizes at the Nigerian Media Merit Awards.