World music at the BBC World Service, 1942-2008: public diplomacy, cosmopolitanism, contradiction

Toynbee, Jason and Vis, Farida (2010). World music at the BBC World Service, 1942-2008: public diplomacy, cosmopolitanism, contradiction. Media, Culture and Society, 32(4) pp. 547–564.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443710367691

URL: http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/32/4.toc

Abstract

Music plays an important role in the BBC World Service. This article shows how, across sixty five years, notionally global music has been broadcast as a pragmatic way of reaching audiences beyond Britain. There is a contradiction here. The scheduling of 'world music' undoubtedly represents a cosmopolitan imperative to embrace cultural difference. Yet it is also an instrumental means of framing programmes and appealing to those audiences which are particularly significant for the funders of the Service, namely the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Through analysis of music programming and commentary at three conjunctures (World War Two, the 1980s and the contemporary period) a changing, yet in certain respects continuous, pattern in the use of music for public diplomacy is discerned. The article concludes by suggesting that
optimistic readings of cosmopolitanism fail to account sufficiently for the contradictions at stake here, contradictions which arise from persisting unequal relations of global power

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