Partnering Institutions: BBC Arabic and Palestine Broadcasting Service Cooperation

Friday, January 5, 2018: 2:30 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham)
Andrea L. Stanton, University of Denver
This paper will examine the kinds of cooperation engaged in by the staff of the Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS) (founded 1936) and the BBC Arabic Service (founded 1937) in the 1930s and 1940s, as evinced by the documents extent in the BBC Written Archives, the United Kingdom National Archives, and the Israel State Archives. It tells a history of these stations not as discrete entities but as cousin stations engaged in close and continuing knowledge and resource sharing. Established to address anti-British sentiment in the Arab world and the presumed anti-British broadcasts of Italy’s Radio Bari, BBC Arabic was roundly criticized by listeners for everything from its news broadcasts to its announcers’ accents to the kinds of music it played on air. Yet its government funding and high profile launch, as well as the apparent urgency of its task, made its challenges in finding a receptive audience all the more vexing. PBS officials and staff served as sounding boards and as material resources, providing advice and, at times, material resources. Yet the PBS itself had benefited from BBC expertise, with several of its founding administrators seconded from BBC or BBC Empire service, and with local staff traveling to the United Kingdom throughout the station’s life for training or consultations with BBC personnel.

Transnational histories are often understood to link disparate communities across broad geographic stretches. What this project investigates is the ‘transnationality’ of two stations linked by varying degrees of British governance, a common broadcasting structure, a common broadcasting language, and an overlapping set of audiences. How might written archives, which expose the administrative and bureaucratic underpinnings of government-run or –affiliated ratio stations, help us discern and better understand the impact of the assorted forms of cooperation that took place between stations?

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