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Q&A: Taking BBC lifeline programming to conflict zones



[LONDON] For communities affected by crises — whether natural disasters or outbreaks of war — the media can play a pivotal role in strengthening humanitarian response.
 
For almost 20 years, the BBC World Service has been mobilising its vast media resources to broadcast radio programmes to populations in crisis. 'Lifeline programming', run by BBC Media Action, provides vulnerable communities with information on emergency services and advice on living amid disaster. Its specific focus on 'two-way' communication, aided by rapidly expanding technologies like the mobile phone, creates a space for these communities to interact with broadcasters, voice their concerns and share their stories.
 
Over the past few years, lifeline programming has helped communities affected by some of the world's most severe recent natural disasters, from the 2010 Haiti earthquake and floods in Pakistan, to Cyclone Nargis in Bangladesh in 2008. And with the growth of access to mobile technology and social media in developing countries, communities are now better placed than ever to participate in humanitarian response, shape the agendas of aid agencies, and make their voices heard. 
 
But conflict presents a more complex set of challenges for rolling out lifeline programming. Governments can be reluctant to allow foreign media teams to work within their borders, and, in the volatile chaos of war, setting up operations and protecting staff can be a battle in itself.
 
In this podcast, Robert Powell, senior advisor on resilience and humanitarian response at BBC Media Action, talks to Imogen Mathers about the challenges of working in countries at war, the role of radio and mobile technology in improving disaster response and aid agency accountability, and the organisation's thinking on whether to push forward with lifeline programming in Syria and Egypt.