Last July, in the wake of Alan Johnston's release, I wrote on this blog that I felt slightly uncomfortable about the media hyping of World Service news. My point was that here in the UK, the WS usually goes unnoticed until something happens that sharply propels it back to the centre of people's attention.
Well, something HAS happened this week, and happily it wasn't a hostage crisis. But this time, I am sorry that the British press has failed to hype us!
At the Sony awards on Monday my department, WS News and Current affairs, won seven out of the eight awards we were nominated for. We swept the board - three Gold, three Silver and a Bronze. Hardly a mention in the British press, and even the BBC internal publication Ariel did not think we deserved more than a couple of lines.
Gathering so many awards in one big swoop is totally unprecedented for the WS...not because we do not deserve it or do not do brilliant journalism, but simply because of the context of the Sonys. We're competing with domestic BBC and independent sector colleagues for the most prestigious awards in the British radio industry. To overcome that hurdle and win so many awards was a major achievement. And for the British radio establishment to recognise that we in the World Service do gold standard radio, lead the field on creativity and interactivity, and possess some of the best presenters in the country gives us a ringing endorsement.
Having it publicly recognised would have been the icing on the cake. But hey, I don't want to exaggerate the sense of disappointment. The fact is that the BBC World Service focuses on its audience - 40 million worldwide, including 1.35 million in this country. The programmes made in Bush House have a far larger audience than every other BBC radio station combined. The reason is that we make good intelligent radio and even if the British press hasn't noticed that fact, I am delighted that the Sony committees have.