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The Historic Role of BBCWS Persian Service

The Historic Role of BBCWS Persian Service

This project explored the historical role of BBC Persian (BBCPS) radio from its establishment in December 1940 until 1977. It aimed to understand the relationship between the BBC World Service (BBCWS) and the Foreign and Common Wealth Office (FCO) over time as well as to explore the responses by successive regimes in Iran to its content.

This project primarily involved archival research conducted at the Public Records Office. This was supplemented with additional materials from the BBC Written Archives Centre at Caversham, interviews with BBC staff, academic histories and autobiographies and biographies of key players.

The focus centred on three key historical moments (1941, 1963 and 1978). We showed how the relationship between the BBCWS and the FCO changed over time, and how the role of the BBCPS shifted from being an overt and directed instrument of British foreign policy, toward the BBCWS's contemporary role as a voice within a strategy of public diplomacy.

Project contact: 

Professor Annabelle Sreberny, SOAS, University of London,, 020 7898 4422

    Project members: 

  • Prof Annabelle Sreberny is the Director of the Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS and coordinator of Diasporic Nationhood. She spent seven weeks in Tehran in autumn 2008.  She has conducted interviews about the use of BBC WS and other external broadcasting channels.

    Dr Massoumeh Torfeh is a former BBC World Service senior producer, now a Research Associate at the Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS. She has worked on histories of BBC Persian and BBC Afghan Service, and on papers released in January 2009 that relate to the BBC and the Iranian Revolution.