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Bangladesh '71

This seminar organised by William Crawley (former BBC Eastern Service) and Marie Gillespie, examined the BBC World Service's coverage of the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 in English, Bengali, Urdu and Hindi. Questions of translation and editorial decision making were central. Ex-BBC staff were each given a slot during in which they could offer their memories of how they witnessed and reported this ‘critical event’. In the second half of the seminar academics offered historical and media perspectives in response to the witnesses testimonies. The relationships between South Asian (diasporic) broadcasters and their counterparts at Bush House were examined, as well as their relationship with audiences – how they imagined them and addressed them. It also looked at how the news about Bangladesh, 1971 was produced, translated and transmitted, and the factors affecting the selection and ordering of news about this historic moment, including the relationship with the Foreign Office, and their diplomatic strategy and involvement in the event at the time. The seminar was recorded and filmed, and follow up interviews with some of the witnesses are also planned. The seminar formed the basis of an article that contributed to a special journal issue of The South Asian Diaspora published by Routledge.

Project contact: 

William Crawley,

    Project members: 

  • Dr William Crawley is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, and engaged in a research project on the media in South Asia. He is co-director of the Media South Asia Project, based from 1997-2007 at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University, and since 2007 at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. He is co-author with Dr David Page of Satellites over South Asia: Broadcasting, Culture and the Public Interest (Sage India 2001) and has contributed articles or papers on aspects of transnational broadcasting in South Asia to Contemporary South Asia, Media Asia (AMIC Singapore), and other publications. The proceedings of conferences organised by the Media South Asia Project are available on the Media South Asia website. William was a journalist and editor for 24 years with the BBC World Service, and head of the BBC Eastern Service from 1986 to-1994, with responsibility for BBC broadcasting services in 11 national languages to south Asia, Burma, Iran and Afghanistan. He guest edited a volume of the Indo British Review (vol. xx, 1995) published in Madras (Chennai), entitled ‘The BBC and India: A Broadcasting Partnership 1932-1994’. He has been consultant to the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and to the Open University project Tuning-In: Diasporas and the BBC World Service. He contributed a paper on ‘Bangladesh 1971’ to the special issue of the journal South Asian Diasporas guest edited by Professor Marie Gillespie and members of the Open University project team (2010). He was Secretary of the Charles Wallace Trusts for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma from 2002-2007.

    Marie Gillespie is Professor of Sociology at the Open University and the Principal Investigator on Tuning In. She is Director of media research ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). Her research interests focus on the political, socio-cultural and economic implications of migrant transnationalism, especially in relation to the South Asian diaspora. Recent Open University teaching texts include an edited volume Media Audiences (2005) and Analysing Media Texts (2006). Recent research projects include: an audience ethnography of media coverage of the attacks of 9/11/2001; Mediating Security, a study on transnational news cultures and the politics of security. Her publications include a monograph entitled Television, Ethnicity and Cultural Change (Routledge, 1995).

    Sophie West graduated with a History Degree (BA hons) from the University of Sheffield in 2008. She has been working as the Senior Research Assistant on Tuning in: Diasporas at the BBC World Service since July 2008. She is based in BBCWS Marketing, Communications and Audiences where she also freelances for the BBC.

    Kate Ribet has a diverse background, having originally trained as an acupuncturist, as well as in Chinese herbal medicine and massage. A year spent volunteering in Asia and Africa confirmed a growing desire to move into the communications for the development sector. During her Masters in Global Media and Post-national Communication from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Kate volunteered with the SOAS Media Centre, developing a range of practical audiovisual skills. Her MA thesis, for which Kate spent three months researching in China, looked at neo-colonial perceptions of Chinese migrants working in Africa through the lens of a Western photographer. Kate is currently working as a Field Communications Officer for the medical NGO Merlin in Goma, DR Congo. When not writing case studies, editing video pieces or organizing media trips, Kate is working to turn on-the-ground research into practical ways of communicating with communities for improved health. She continues her collaboration with the Tuning In project from afar.