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Pakistan Connection

In September 2009, BBC World Service Marketing, Communications and Audiences commissioned Tuning In researchers to carry out research on the consumption of transnational news channels among the Pakistani diaspora in the UK, to enable BBCWS to develop an appropriate range of services that will inform and entertain diverse audiences in the UK Pakistani diaspora.

Research aims

  1. To provide robust empirical evidence to assist in the development of new services.
  2. To present a culturally sensitive report on media tastes and consumption patterns
  3. To identify key audience segments (according to gender, generation, age, education and employment, migration history, cultural and religious orientations etc.)
  4. To suggest the most suitable BBC spaces and platforms, programme formats, themes and topics, promotional tools and modes of interactivity for these services
  5. To identify potential media partners, creative talent, and media projects that will attract target audiences and users

The major challenge for the successful completion of this project was acquiring access to members of the Pakistani community. Pakistani researchers as well as researchers with expertise in and/or strong connections to the very diverse Pakistani communities in the UK were employed in order to carry out in-depth face to face interviews. All the researchers were trained anthropologists or sociologists with many years of experience researching Pakistani diasporas.

Our research found that mainstream UK media does not adequately serve the needs of the diaspora so they resort to Pakistani and Urdu news channels and websites – some of which are very politically partisan. Attitudes to the BBC were ambiguous: many trust BBC news but they also criticise the way news bulletins often reproduce assumptions about Pakistani Muslims, and implicitly conflate Muslims with terrorism. Our ethnographic audience study situates media use within the broader contexts of everyday lives of British Pakistanis. Based on in depth interviews by a team of 8 British Pakistani researchers in 15 UK cities, it paints a vivid portrait of the huge diversity that exists among British Pakistanis. It highlights how the Pakistani diaspora is making increasing use of BBC's online services in Urdu and English for political and cultural debate. Our report contributed to strategic planning to improve BBC news services to the Pakistani diaspora in the UK and abroad and to promote intercultural dialogue and facilitate the 'global conversation'.

Project contact: 

Matilda Andersson, The Open University,

    Project members: 

  • 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).

    Matilda Andersson is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Sociology at the Open University, UK. She is a former member of staff at the BBC World Service where she worked as a Senior Research Analyst specialising in users/uses of digital media. Her main academic interest lies in new audience configurations, digital diasporas, transnational social networking, cultural and public diplomacy.

    Sadaf Rizvi is a Research Officer at University of London – Institute of Education. She has a PhD in Social Anthropology from University of Oxford. Sadaf conducted her doctoral research on 'Muslim Schools in Britain' and explored the issues of Islam, ethnicity and diasporic identities. She has been involved in the ESRC funded 'Shifting securities: News cultures before and beyond Iraq War 2003' and the AHRC funded 'Tuning In: Diasporic Contact Zones at BBC World Service' projects.  In these research studies, Sadaf has largely collected and translated data from Pakistani migrants (Urdu, Punjabi and English speakers) and has published her research in international journals.  Her recent publications are 'News cultures, security and transnational belonging: cross generational perspectives among British Pakistani women', European Journal of Cultural Studies, (2007) and 'Ethnographic research in a Muslim school: reflections on fieldwork experience' in Sridhar, D. Anthropologists Inside Organizations: South Asian Case Studies, (Sage, 2008). Sadaf is an Urdu speaking Pakistani who has lived and worked in Pakistan most of her life.  She has been based in the UK for the last 5 years to undertake her studies and postdoctoral research.

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