BBC Indian Section of the Eastern Service


BBC Broadasting House
Portland Square
London, W1B 1DJ
United Kingdom
200 Oxford Street
London, W1D 1NU
United Kingdom
Date began: 
11 May 1940
Date ended: 
01 Jan 1965

The Indian Section of the Eastern Service began broadcasting in May 1940. Initially it was on the air for ten minutes daily, broadcasting news in Hindustani, but the service expanded rapidly. Programmes in English, Bengali, Marathi, Sinhalese and Tamil were quickly added and its broadcasting time increased. The Service's brief was to provide a window into Britain and to present the western world through eastern eyes by employing Indian broadcasters living in Britain, such as Narayana Menon, M. J. Tambimuttu, I. B. SarinVenu Chitale and Indira Devi of Kapurthala. In the early 1940s the programmes were organized by George Orwell and Z. A. Bokhari. The Indian Section of the BBC Eastern Service broadcast news (in English, Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati), current affairs programmes, reviews, round-table discussions, poetry readings, plays and music. These were aimed at India’s opinion-forming intelligentsia and students in the hope of maintaining the conditional allegiance of the nationalists in the fraught context of the Quit India Movement of the early 1940s. The Indian Section also broadcast regular messages from Indians resident in the UK and Indian soldiers stationed in England. Morale-boosting programmes for the Indian troops stationed in the Middle and Far East, fighting for Britain in the Second World War, were also a regular part of the Section's output. The Service also became an important tool in countering the Axis propaganda offensive launched by Subhas Chandra Bose’s Radio Azad Hind (Free India), broadcasting from Berlin. Among the many series of programmes were 'Through Eastern Eyes' and 'Open Letters', which featured regular broadcasts from Mulk Raj Anand, Cedric Dover and G. V. Desani, as well as T. S. Eliot, George Orwell and E. M. Forster. The BBC proved to be a dynamic contact zone for South Asian and British journalists, writers and intellectuals and the broadcasts showed the wide range of topics with which they engaged. The Service was later integrated into the BBC World Service.


Sir Malcolm Lyall Darling, William Empson, Laurence Frederick Rushbrook Williams.

Published works: 

The Listener

London Calling: BBC Empire Broadcasting

Orwell, George (ed.), Talking to India (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943)

Secondary works: 

Ranasinha, Ruvani, South Asian Writers in Twentieth Century Britain: Culture in Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)

West, W. J., Orwell: The War Broadcasts (London: Duckworth/BBC, 1985)

Archive source: 

BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading