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The Voice of the BBC World Service: Sport and Impartiality

Given the BBC's commitment to objectivity and impartiality, how are these principles played out in the field of sport?

One of the distinctive features of the BBC World Service (BBCWS) coverage of sport is its emphasis upon fair play and the links between this version of fair play and impartiality and Britishness. Fair play is defined and reproduced through particular sporting practices and the relationship between the bodies who physically participate in sport and the bodies which regulate sport, including the BBCWS. This project builds on the archive research on the development of sports broadcasting and focuses on the particularities of sport, with its strong partisan inflections as communicated by a public service broadcaster committed to impartiality. Questions are raised by the historical evidence that the World Service, formerly the Empire Service, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was set up to communicate to the British diaspora, when changing times mean new diasporic audiences and re-formulations of diaspora.

Research questions

  1. How are impartiality and objectivity expressed in the policies and practices of the BBCWS sports broadcasting?
  2. How have these practices changed?
  3. Whose voices are included and whose are silenced or marginalised?

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).

James Wylie has worked as a screenwriter for film and TV, after graduating with a BA in Social and Political Science in 1988. In 1992, he was the winner of the Carl Foreman/BAFTA Screenwriting Award. His non-fiction book, The Warlord and the Renegade: The Story of Hermann and Albert Goering, was published 2006. He has also written and co-hosted 8 editions of Jazz Legends for Radio 3. He also works for the AHRC funded OU Black British Jazz project. He has worked for four years teaching drama at a specialist school for teenagers with autism. 

David Goldblatt is a sports writer, broadcaster, and journalist; the author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football (Penguin, 2006), and the World Football Yearbook(Dorling Kindersley, 2002), has taught the sociology of sport at the University of Bristol, and has run literacy programmes at football clubs. He has written for most of the quality broadsheets and magazines such as the New Statesman and is currently the sports' columnist for Prospect magazine. He has worked for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

Core theme reference: 
Sports Across Diasporas