Happy Birthday, BBC World Service


Bush House, long time HQ of the BBC World Service.


Peter Macdiarmid

80 years ago today, the British Empire still straddled the globe, and radio broadcasting had been around for less time than the internet has been around today.

The powers that ran the BBC - a government-backed service - decided to link up British dominions via the new medium and launched the Empire Service, exactly 80 years ago today.  The global network, which has since been renamed the World Service, has become the most important broadcasting organisation in the English speaking world (sorry CNN, it's true). Via its language services it provides vital news and information to many other countries.

The birthday celebrations aren't quite as happy as they might be. There have been huge budget cuts to absorb and the World Service is moving from its long time home in Bush House, a wrench to an institution which has developed strong traditions of excellence that frankly come from a by-gone age.

But then I'm prejudiced - I have worked there on and off over my years in England. I love the World Service and what it stands for and I remember Bush House as the world greatest aggregation of untenured intellectuals, a polyglot think-tank where the word "think" actually means "THINK."

This link will take you to an excellent feature on this remarkable institution. It's well worth a visit and has some very interesting audio to listen to.