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Fast Track at the BBC World Service

This project is based upon interview data from producers at Bush House and a case study of the BBC World Service (BBCWS) Fast Track programme as illustrative of working practices at BBCWS, autonomy of journalists and of the politics of sport at the BBCWS, where social and political issues are recognised as central to sport and sports coverage is not limited to the mainstream (CRESC Conference Paper Chapter in Embodied Sporting Practices, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan).

Research questions

  1. Using the specific example of coverage of sport in Africa, what is particular about BBC World Service coverage of sport in specific locations?
  2. How do policies relating to which sports and which athletes to cover emerge?
  3. How much autonomy do journalists have in deciding which sports to cover and how?
  4. How does sports journalism relate to news journalism and what are the connections between sport, politics and the wider social and cultural terrain?

This project demonstrates how sport, political, economic, social, and cultural life are closely enmeshed in ways that are sometimes quite direct and explicit in the BBCWS. The Fast Track programme emerged from the elision of news and sports broadcasting on the African Service which made it possible for producers to develop a series of innovative broadcasts engaging with diverse social issues. The programme has a record of addressing social issues through sport and of showing what is social about sport. Football is enormously popular in Africa, for example on the Swahili service, and plays a big part in Fast Track's coverage, although the programme also broadcasts a vast range of different sports. What marks the BBC World Service approach as illustrated by Fast Track, contrary to much sport broadcasting, especially commercial coverage of football, is that it takes as its starting point the African connection, rather than that of the English Premiership and its celebrities.

Project contact

Prof Kath Woodward, The Open University, k.woodward@open.ac.uk

Project members

Kath Woodward is Professor of Sociology and Head of Department at the Open University. She is also a member of the ESRC centre CReSC and works on gendered diasporic identifications and sporting embodied practices. She has contributed to BBC Radio 4, Canadian radio and Sky TV and (as an academic) to the boxing film Twelve Rounds. Her most recent books are, Boxing, Masculinity and Identity (2007), Embodied Sporting Practices (2009) and, with Sophie Woodward, Why Feminism Matters (Palgrave, 2009).

Core theme reference: 
Sports Across Diasporas