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The Compass

200 EpisodesProduced by BBC World ServiceWebsite

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

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The senses: Synaesthesia: When senses merge

August 26th, 2020


Neurologist Dr Guy Leschziner explores the extraordinary sensory experiences of individuals with synaesthesia - a mash-up of senses where one sense …

The senses: Smell and taste

August 19th, 2020


Imagine spraying yourself with a flowery fragrance but all you can smell is rotting flesh? Our senses can be surprisingly strange, especially when they malfunction due to injury, disease or genetic abnormalities. In …

The senses: Hearing

August 12th, 2020


From a whisper to the roar of thunder, every sound creates vibrations in our ears which the brain decodes, to tell us what we’re hearing. But as …

The senses: Vision

August 5th, 2020


Vision is a complex process involving light rays, special nerve cells and electrical signals sent to the brain, which processes the information and …

The senses: Touch

July 29th, 2020


Our skin contains millions of nerve endings and touch sensors that collect information about different sensations like temperature, pressure, …

Rethinking: The Pandemic that changed the world

July 22nd, 2020


What will the world look like post-Covid? In an age of increasingly inward focus can a spirit of multilateralism prevail to meet the challenges posed …

Remedies: The pandemic that changed the world

July 16th, 2020


How should governments respond to the pandemic? The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc both to health systems and economies. Above all it has served …

Reasons: The pandemic that changed the world

July 8th, 2020


Why did coronavirus strike so fast and so hard? There was plenty of warning that a pandemic was inevitable, but when a new virus emerged in a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the world proved powerless to …

Window on the universe

April 22nd, 2020


The Hubble space telescope has transformed our view of the universe and put our lives on Earth into a truly cosmic perspective. As we celebrate …

Tech companies and free speech

April 15th, 2020


Tech companies now find themselves in the firing line of free speech debate. To what extent can they duck the issue given their global coverage? Is …

Journalists: Free speech v personal safety

April 8th, 2020


Robin talks to fellow journalists around the world who have to walk the fine line between an espousal of free speech rights and their own safety. Is there reason to be optimistic about the future? He travels to Paris …

Blasphemy or free speech?

April 1st, 2020


Robin goes back to his own days as a young reporter when he covered the last blasphemy trial ever held in the UK. At the time it appeared archaic and the end of an era, but blasphemy still exists in many countries …

Freedom of speech in universities: Who draws the line?

March 25th, 2020


Robin visits universities in Hong Kong, Oxford and Washington to establish how important free speech is to them and whether moves to block controversial speakers is compatible with what appears a fundamental freedom of …

Courts and the right to free speech

March 18th, 2020


Robin Lustig begins his journey in Washington DC where the first amendment is housed in the National Archive and serves as an almost sacred document. In this programme he asks how Courts around the world make decisions …

What is the secret to a longer life?

March 11th, 2020


Why do people who live in five communities around the world – known as Blue Zones- consistently outlive the rest of us on the planet? Professor Cregan-Reid goes in search of the secret of a long life. He visits Sardinia …

Is height all in the mind?

March 4th, 2020


Professor Cregan-Reid explores why we have all grown so fast recently. For four millennia we barely grew an extra inch but in the 20th Century pretty much every nation in the world shot up by between three and six …

How modern life affects our sleep

February 26th, 2020


For two million years we evolved in synch with our environment and our bodies were perfectly adapted for a physically rigorous outdoor life. That all …

Poland: Men and gender relations

February 19th, 2020


It is a time of political change in Poland. The recent general election saw the biggest turnout since 1989 and the end of communism. And gender has …

Poland: Women

February 12th, 2020


Tim Samuels and Anna Holligan travel to Warsaw to find out what's on the minds of men and women. It's a time of political change in Poland. The …

Mexico City: Men

February 5th, 2020


Tim Samuels and Anna Holligan travel to Mexico City. As parts of the world go through something of a gender reckoning, have these forces made much of …

Mexico City: Women

January 29th, 2020


Mexico has always felt like a country where men live on their own terms. A place where women strive for equality - and safety. More than nine are murdered in the country every day, according to UN Women. Tim Samuels and …

Chinese Dreams: India

January 22nd, 2020


India and China have a complex and troubled modern history – including a fully-fledged war in 1962. Today Indian consumers seem to love all things …

Chinese Dreams: Kenya

January 15th, 2020


There has been a lot of media focus on China’s investment in Africa’s physical infrastructure: but what about its play for Africa’s attention? CGTN, China’s state-run international TV station, has steadily increased its …

Chinese Dreams: Canada

January 8th, 2020


Canada has been sucked into a global dispute between the US and China. It started in Vancouver, with arrest on an American warrant of Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. China’s furious …

Chinese Dreams: Indonesia

January 1st, 2020


Will the rise of China help or damage Chinese-Indonesians? The ethnic Chinese minority in Indonesia have long suffered discrimination – forbidden from taking jobs in government and the military and targeted during …

Chinese Dreams: Australia

December 25th, 2019


As China grows in power, there are fears that it is trying to alter the course of Australian politics. The Australian government has legislated …

Chinese Dreams: The preview

December 23rd, 2019


As China grows richer and more powerful, its values are spreading. But what kind of impact is this having on the rest of the world? This mini-series, …

The Kids are Alright: Tackling violence

December 11th, 2019


In the South African town of Atlantis, a group of teenage reporters are speaking out against the rising levels of violence ripping at the fabric of …

The Kids are Alright: Opportunity

December 4th, 2019


Mohamad Aljounde is an 18-year-old student in Sweden. He is a keen photographer, amateur film-maker, a Syrian refugee and winner of the 2017 …

The Kids are Alright: Environment

November 27th, 2019


Stella Bowles is a teenage environmental campaigner; one you probably haven’t heard about - yet. But she has sparked real change in the Canadian …

The Cold War Legacy: Angola

November 20th, 2019


Andrew Harding travels to Angola, and the site of Africa’s largest battlefield in the Cold War. When Portugal relinquished its colonies in 1975, it …

My Perfect City: Oslo

November 17th, 2019


Oslo is now the fastest-growing major city in all of Europe. Its growth is attributed to high birth rates and migration. Oslo is keenly aware that as the city expands, it is important to do so in a sustainable way. As a …

The Cold War Legacy: India

November 13th, 2019


Divya Arya looks at what happened in India at the height of the Cold War, and afterwards as the Berlin Wall came down, 30 years ago. She explores the …

The Cold War Legacy: Indonesia

November 6th, 2019


In 1965, in a little known chapter of the Cold War, at least half a million people died in organised military-led killings of suspected communist …

The Cold War Legacy: Brazil

October 30th, 2019


Brazil’s controversial new President, Jair Bolsonaro, has praised the country’s military dictatorship, which took power in 1964 and ruled for 21 …

The Cold War Legacy: Czechoslovakia

October 23rd, 2019


Thirty years ago, communism suddenly collapsed across central and eastern Europe. Soviet rule, that had seemed ruthless and permanent, was ended by …

Dominion: The animals and the poets

October 16th, 2019


Amidst birds passing over or nesting by the Solway Firth in southern Scotland, writer Kayo Chingonyi explores the role of poetry in bringing humans …

Dominion: The animals and the philosophers

October 9th, 2019


Environmental journalist Gayathri Vaidyanathan considers the impact of Philosophy and Religion on animals as food. In and around Chennai in India, she reveals how India is managing a terrible dilemma in the massive rise …

Dominion: The animals and the linguists

October 2nd, 2019


Zimbabwean author and essayist Panashe Chigumadzi asks what part Language plays in our regard for other animals. In wild animal reserves in the south …

Dominion: The animals and the lawyers

September 25th, 2019


Science writer Heidi Ledford travels to the Hague, centre of political power in the Netherlands and home to the Party for the Animals. She’s shown …

Media Front: USA

September 18th, 2019


With 14 months to go until the next US presidential election, former foreign correspondent Andrea Catherwood finds out how the American media is preparing for the forthcoming onslaught.

In this programme, looking at …

Media Front: Ukraine

September 11th, 2019


Former International Correspondent for CNBC and ITN Andrea Catherwood hears from journalists on both sides of the information war in Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine began in April 2014 after the country elected a pro-Western …

Media Front: Philippines

September 4th, 2019


It has been three years since Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte won a landslide victory off the back of a promise to wipe out drug abuse. Since then thousands of people have been killed in his so called "war on …

Media Front: India - The future of journalism

August 28th, 2019


India's ruling party the BJP won a landslide victory in the country's May general election. The party bypassed traditional media channels and …

Ground Shift: Sustainability and the millennial farmers

August 21st, 2019


Anna Jones asks young farmers how they plan to feed the world while protecting the land they have inherited. Can we balance commercial food production with the needs of our increasingly fragile natural environment?

In …

Ground Shift: Scale and modern farming models

August 14th, 2019


From Big Ag and "factory farming" to urban micro farms, Anna Jones explores dramatic differences in the scale of modern agriculture.

Looking out …

Ground Shift: Digital technology and rural communities

August 7th, 2019


Anna Jones looks at how digital and mobile phone technology is changing farming and boosting prosperity in rural communities around the world.

Anna …

Ground Shift: Survival for millennial farmers

July 31st, 2019


Anna Jones explores the challenges facing family farms in the American Midwest and the outback of Australia, and discovers how Millennial farmers are embracing change to ensure their survival.

In Iowa, Anna meets two …

China: The start of the Silk Road

June 26th, 2019


The sky is hidden by smog in Lanzhou on the Yellow River; this transport and manufacturing hub is pumping Chinese goods out to the world. In this last programme, we find out how the Belt and Road Initiative has brought …

Cambodia: New riches on the coast

June 19th, 2019


When it comes to South-East Asia, China’s presence is most felt in Sihanoukville. Cambodia’s once sleepy backpacker resort has been transformed by Chinese investment – the sheer speed of development has divided local …

Kazakhstan: A port in the sand

June 12th, 2019


Khorgas in Kazakhstan is going through an economic boom and Chinese trains stop here and their loads are shifted on to the Kazakh trains. This region …

Raha: The joy of the train

June 5th, 2019


The new Chinese Mombasa–Nairobi railway has finally overturned over 100 years of history by replacing the British-built Uganda Railway - the most strategically important conduit in the scramble for Africa. Cutting the …

How modern living is changing our faces

May 29th, 2019


Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at how modern living is changing our faces. With the help of professor Saw Seang Mei in Singapore and the UK's top …

How modern life is changing our backs

May 22nd, 2019


Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid investigates what the last 250 years has done to our backs. What is it about modern life that has promoted back pain, especially lower back pain, from a rarity to the number one cause of pain and …

How modern life is changing our feet

May 15th, 2019


For nearly two million years we evolved in close sync with our environment but 250 years ago the industrial revolution happened and changed …

Medellin, Colombia: Slums and urban regeneration

May 8th, 2019


Medellin used to be one of the world's most dangerous cities, with a sprawling network of slums and a serious crime problem fueled by drug trafficking. During the 1990s, there was a dramatic transformation. By …

Knife crime: Glasgow, Scotland

May 1st, 2019


It is said that by 2050 cities will be home to 6.4 billion people. They stand at the centre of the world’s most pressing challenges. Presenter Fi Glover is joined by Dr Ellie Cosgrave, director of UCL City Leadership …

Participatory budgeting: Paris, France

April 24th, 2019


Presenter Fi Glover, Dr Ellie Cosgrave, director of UCL City Leadership Laboratory and urbanist professor Greg Clark, analyse and critique the participatory budgeting of Paris, where citizens vote on how to spend part …

The 24-hour city: London, UK

April 17th, 2019


As investment in the night-time economy rises, we look at how this is working in London. Is anywhere else doing a better job?

Presenter Fi Glover …

The smart city: Seoul, South Korea

April 10th, 2019


How is data being used to help Seoul run smoothly? And how have 20,000 sensors transformed life in Santander, Spain? Both cities have implemented …

The green city: San Francisco, USA

April 3rd, 2019


San Francisco’s mandatory recycling scheme and sustainable public transport come under the spotlight. The panel also consider the town of Kamikatsu in Japan, which aims to be 100% zero-waste by 2020. Are they models …

The History of Wastefulness: The Tipping Point

January 23rd, 2019


After exploring our wasteful past and the reality of today’s trash challenge, Australian journalist Alexandra Spring asks if we are on the tipping …

The History of Wastefulness: Rubbish Through the Ages

January 16th, 2019


Alexandra Spring continues her exploration of how our relationship with rubbish has evolved through time at the foot of Monte Testaccio in Rome - a …

Making a Difference

January 9th, 2019


For three series, My Perfect Country has sought to build the perfect country. Inspired by positive thinking, it takes policies from around the world …

The History of Wastefulness: Today’s Trash Challenge

January 9th, 2019


Alexandra Spring explores how our relationship with rubbish has evolved over time, beginning on a boat, sailing across the Pacific, with Ocean …

The Sun, Our Star: Health and beauty

January 2nd, 2019


The Sun’s light defines what we mean by day and night, how we tell time and how we apportion our time, both consciously and unconsciously. The turning of the Earth that wheels us in and out of the Sun every 24 hours …

The Sun, Our Star: Space weather

December 26th, 2018


At any moment, the predictions of your local weather forecaster might be suddenly superseded by space weather, a special breed of storms fomented on the Sun and launched toward Earth with potentially devastating …

The Sun, Our Star: Ancient sun

December 19th, 2018


Inspired by the Chariot of the Sun, a beautiful artefact of sun worship, Dava Sobel island hops in Denmark to explore the cult of the Sun, before …

The Sun, Our Star: Energy

December 12th, 2018


The Sun, our star, produces its prodigious energy by a process of nuclear fusion at its core. We are unable to mimic that trick here on Earth: our nuclear reactors work by splitting atoms, not fusing them, and generate …

The Sun, Our Star

December 5th, 2018


The Sun, our star, the source and sustainer of all life on Earth, is also a death star in the making. To know the Sun is an age-old dream of …

The Great Unravelling: Trade and China

November 28th, 2018


China has been described as the greatest threat to the World Trade Organisation, and its biggest champion. The WTO wasn’t designed to handle China, and its entry has had seismic consequences. If China won’t change, can …

The Great Unravelling: Trade and Trump

November 21st, 2018


The World Trade Organisation was established in 1995, building on earlier global trade mechanisms. Did this represent a capture of the systems by …

The Great Unravelling: Self Determination

November 14th, 2018


Afua Hirsch examines the principle of self-determination, which Franklin Roosevelt insisted on including in the Atlantic Charter. It was a powerful …

The Great Unravelling: War

November 7th, 2018


The UN Charter and Security Council were supposed to prevent aggressive wars. Who has broken the rules, and how much damage has that done? It is …

The Great Unravelling: Human Rights

October 31st, 2018


In early August 1941 Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on a US flagship off Newfoundland and drew up The Atlantic Charter. It laid the foundations of an international system that has been in place ever …

After the Crash: The Future

October 24th, 2018


Ten years ago the world financial system had a heart attack. Gripped by panic, banks stopped lending, cash ran out and the world came to the edge of …

After the Crash: Rethinking Economics

October 17th, 2018


As the world dealt with the fallout of the 2008 financial crash the hunt began for someone to blame. One group of people was suddenly thrust into the …

After the Crash: Power Shift

October 10th, 2018


In 2008 when the financial systems of the world’s richest countries crashed, others did not. Asian nations, especially China, bounced back quickly from the crisis, and were able to capitalise on their financial power to …

After the Crash: Austerity and Consequences

October 3rd, 2018


Did Governments’ handling of the 2008 financial crisis – when some chose to implement austerity and some didn’t - make things better or worse? Ian …

After the Crash: Authority and Trust

September 26th, 2018


In 2008 the world financial system had a heart attack. Gripped by panic, banks stopped lending, cash ran out and the world came to the edge of a financial precipice. As millions of people lost their jobs and as the …

Sounds of the forest

August 15th, 2018


Nobody ever forgets the first time that they hear or see a tiger. But as Chris Watson discovers when he travels to Corbett National Park in India this is far from easy. What he uncovers is a fascinating relationship …

The sounds of the Lofoten Islands

August 8th, 2018


Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson accompanies Sami Joiker, Andé Sombe, on a journey up a mountain on the Lofoten islands in Norway to explore the relationship between the sounds of the mountain, the people and the …

The sounds of the Namib Desert

August 1st, 2018


Beginning with a few solo notes from a group of birds (including sparrow doves and finches) before the first light of day and ending with the sounds …

The sounds of the Maasai Mara

July 27th, 2018


From the moment “you wake up in the morning become aware of sounds, the sounds of Africa“ says Saba Douglas Hamilton, a conservationist who was born and brought up in the Great Rift Valley.

In the first of four …


July 18th, 2018


What do we do when antibiotics don’t work? Since the discovery of Penicillin antibiotics have come to underpin all of modern medicine – birth by Cesarean section, hip replacements, organ transplantation, caring for …

Flesh is Weak, so Upgrade

July 18th, 2018


We all only get one body, and that has to see us through our entire lives. The idea of failing health is a very visceral fear for the majority of people in the world. It is inevitable, is it not? But with advances in …

Who Owns Your Data?

July 11th, 2018


Big Data has been called the new crude oil, a seemingly inexhaustible resource that can use this data to make our lives better. Data can be used to create smart cities that make life easier for all of us, or to spur on …


July 4th, 2018


What humans do to earn a living has always evolved to suit the needs of society, and the capabilities of the technology at our disposal. But thanks …


June 21st, 2018


Aleks Krotoski and Ben Hammersley discover how to prepare for the social, economic and technological changes that are coming in the next few decades …

Too Much English?

June 13th, 2018


The series ends with Robin Lustig asking if you can have too much English. From India he hears how English can divide people as powerfully as it …

Changing British English

June 6th, 2018


Have you used the words antwacky, jarg and squinny recently? Presenter Robin Lustig examines linguistic change and continuity in British English. He visits the Oxford English Dictionary, he gets a lesson in regional …

Dialects and Evolution

May 30th, 2018


Robin Lustig explores language change and diversity, as he asks whether English is fragmenting into multiple dialects or becoming increasingly …

From Language to Algorithm

May 23rd, 2018


Whether you learnt it at your mother's knee, at school or from a smartphone app, more than one and a half billion of us are speakers or students of …

Abortion in America: Washington

May 16th, 2018


Could abortion be banned in the United States? Since the election of President Trump the question has taken on a new urgency, for both sides of …

Abortion in America: Kentucky

May 9th, 2018


Could abortion be banned in the United States? Since the election of President Trump the question has taken on a new urgency, for both sides of …

Abortion in America: Texas

May 2nd, 2018


Could abortion be banned in the United States? Since the election of President Trump the question has taken on a new urgency, for both sides of …


April 25th, 2018


Half of the world’s river systems host hydro-electric dams. They offer reliable electricity but their construction forces people from their homes and disrupts the natural life of the river.

Scores of dams already span …


April 18th, 2018


Life in the Himalayas is tough at the best of times. Crops are dependent on the seasonal melt-water from the mountain glaciers. If climate change wipes out the glaciers then the people will be forced to move.

As the …

Encroaching Deserts

April 11th, 2018


An arranged marriage brought Yin Yuzhen to Inner Mongolia’s Ordos desert. Depressed by the sandstorms and poor productivity of the region, Yuzhen …

Sea Levels Rise

April 4th, 2018


Five of the Solomon Islands have disappeared, many more are becoming uninhabitable. For Kerry and Sally, climate change is not a theory - it is what …

My Perfect Country: Which Policies will Work?

February 21st, 2018


Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore are on the hunt for solutions to the world’s problems. Their aim is to create the perfect country made …

My Perfect Country: Canada

February 14th, 2018


Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore from the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London are building an imagined utopia …

My Perfect Country: Nepal

February 7th, 2018


Nepal has managed a record achievement for its maternal mortality rates. Between 1991 and 2011, it has seen an 80% decline in the number of women dying in pregnancy, during labour and after childbirth - meaning it is …

My Perfect Country: Norway

January 31st, 2018


How has Norway managed to have the lowest rate of prisoners reoffending in Europe, and one of the lowest in the world? Their policy revolves around …

My Perfect Country: Germany

January 24th, 2018


Is the way Germany has handled refugee integration a model other countries could follow? In September 2015 the German chancellor Angela Merkel agreed …

My Perfect Country: Cuba

January 17th, 2018


After 2017 brought a string of hyper-active and destructive hurricanes in the so-called Atlantic Hurricane Season, it is said that Cuba is a world leader in both hurricane preparedness and recovery, as it has one of the …

My Perfect Country: Rwanda

January 10th, 2018


Rwanda has closed its gender gap by 80% since the 1994 genocide. How has the country done it, and should others be following its lead?

Under the …

What Happened Next: Ebola

January 3rd, 2018


In Sierra Leone, the Ebola outbreak in 2014-16 caught everyone, including the World Health Organisation, completely unprepared. Award-winning …

What Happened Next: Rana Plaza

December 27th, 2017


When the Rana Plaza building collapsed in 2013, it drew worldwide attention to the horrific conditions for workers in the garment industry. Over a …

What Happened Next: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011

December 20th, 2017


In the most earthquake ready country on earth – Japan - a massive tsunami in 2011 hit two schools in Kamaishi and Okawa. At one everyone survived; at …

Ocean Stories: The Pacific Ocean

December 13th, 2017


4/4 The shores of the Pacific are irresistible to tourists. From the coral wonders of Australia’s Gold Coast to the loneliest South Pacific atoll, …

Ocean Stories: The Arctic and Southern Oceans

December 6th, 2017


3/4 As the ice of the Arctic and Southern Oceans melts, its composition changes completely. Ships can now sail through the Arctic from China to …

Ocean Stories: The Indian Ocean

November 29th, 2017


2/4 Only now is deep sea exploration beginning in remote parts of the Indian Ocean to reveal what lies on the ocean floor, what treasures can be …

Ocean Stories: The Atlantic

November 22nd, 2017


1/4 In this first episode we cross the ocean from the Grand Banks to the tip of South Africa via Reykjavik in Iceland meeting those involved in …

America Laboratory of Democracy: Insurgent Nation

November 15th, 2017


4/4 American democracy can easily frustrate change. The country’s Constitution is almost impossible to amend. The many interest groups swirling …

America, Laboratory of Democracy: Little Leviathans

November 8th, 2017


3/4 One of the most fascinating, and least understood, features of American democracy is that individual states possessed a scope of power much greater than what was given to the central government in Washington. On so …

America, Laboratory of Democracy: Money -the Lifeblood of American Democracy

November 1st, 2017


2/4 The usual way to tell the story of money and democracy in America is in terms of a fall from grace. Once upon a time, democracy was pure, with little corruption, and rich Americans had no influence upon …

America, Laboratory of Democracy: Drowning Government in a Bathtub

October 25th, 2017


1/4 America has the world’s oldest continuously operating democracy. Its political institutions have long been a model for democrats everywhere. Yet, …

Making it Work: Agriculture in India and Kenya

October 18th, 2017


4/4 Angela Saini is on a farm in a rural corner of Karnataka in south India, meeting the team behind Akshayakalpa – a kind of Farm in a Box. When you are on a low income, how can you possibly find a way to raise the …

Making it Work: Navigating Kenya's Streets with Technology

October 11th, 2017


3/4 OkHi is a new navigation device which runs on your mobile phone and allows you to find an address, however remote, with GPS coordinates and a …

Making it Work: Rugged Tablets for African Schools

October 4th, 2017


2/4 A Kenyan company is planning to bring reliable stable internet and rugged tablets to remote schools with the help of BRCK, a solution to internet …

Making it Work: Affordable Medical Equipment in India

September 27th, 2017


1/4 Exploring the reality of being an entrepreneur serving the “bottom billion” – a new mini-series from The Compass.

In India around a fifth of people still live below the poverty line, according to the most recent …

Stargazing: South Africa's New Generation Astronomers

September 20th, 2017


The scientist running the Square Kilometre Array, the world's biggest telescope. Episode five of five.

The telescope's antennae spiral across the African continent. In the remote North Karoo town of Carnarvon in South …

Stargazing: Faith versus Science in Hawaii

September 13th, 2017


Science writer and author Dava Sobell travels to Hawaii to ascend mount Mauna Kea. Among the observatories on the summit is the proposed Thirty Metre Telescope. Episode four of five.

Dava discovers the plans are creating …

Stargazing: A New Vision of Our Cosmic Origins

September 6th, 2017


Dava Sobel travels to Edinburgh, to catch sight of the most ambitious telescope being made. Episode three of five.

This time next year, the James Webb Space Telescope will begin its long journey to a stable orbit at a …

Stargazing: Astronomy from the Edge of the World

August 30th, 2017


Dava Sobel hears from telescope operators at ALMA, the remote observatory high in the Atacama Desert in Chile, talking to us with their oxygen tanks at the ready. Episode two of five.

As we hear, the ‘radio sky’ presents …

Stargazing: Copernicus' Heavenly Spheres

August 23rd, 2017


Dava Sobel uncovers the brilliance of her hero, the 16th century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who revealed the true model of the universe …

On the Black Sea: Sailors of Sevastopol

August 16th, 2017


The Crimean coast is so important that Russia seized it from Ukraine. But what have been the costs of gaining this valuable prize? The final leg of our five-episode journey across and around the Black Sea takes us to …

On the Black Sea: a Land Forgotten

August 9th, 2017


Ghost states like Abkhazia have the trappings of independence, but are unrecognised by most of the world. On the far north-east shore of the Black Sea, the region is determined to preserve its independence and ancient …

On the Black Sea: Truckers

August 2nd, 2017


Black Sea truckers are a tough bunch. Driving thousands of miles through Europe, the Caucasus and eastwards to China, they transport everything from biscuits to fridges to pigs. Tim Whewell joins them on board the huge …

On the Black Sea: Diving Deep

July 24th, 2017


The unique properties of the Black Sea make it an archaeologist’s dream but an ecologist’s nightmare. Most of its water is almost devoid of life, so …

On the Black Sea: The Voyage Begins

July 19th, 2017


A voyage across a mysterious sea where empires have clashed for centuries and tensions are rising again. By ferry, rowing-boat, horse-drawn wagon, the BBC World Service travels over, around, and under the Black Sea, to …

A Tale of Two Rivers: Kuala Lumpur

July 5th, 2017


In Kuala Lumpur the regeneration of the city’s Klang River is seen as a key element in the modernisation of the whole country. The capital city is …

A Tale of Two Rivers: Los Angeles

June 28th, 2017


In Los Angeles Susan Marling speaks to Frank Gehry. The famous architect has been charged with creating a master plan for the improvement of the Los Angeles River. It is a tough job. Since the 1930s when the river was …

A Young World - Sierra Leone

May 17th, 2017


How do young people in Sierra Leone cope faced with staggering rates of youth unemployment of over 50%? Umaru Fofana talks to young people in the capital, Freetown, as they struggle to make a living. He meets the young …

A Young World - Uganda

May 10th, 2017


The struggle to get a good education, in an overpopulated school system.

With a median age of under 16 years old, Uganda is one of the most youthful …


April 6th, 2017


The future of employment is certain to change – and change fast – as robotics and artificial intelligence replace human workers. For many, it’s a future to be feared. But the global economy has continually been …


March 29th, 2017


Without the most basic resources – water, food and energy – the global economy could not function. Much of the world has grown used the ready supply …


March 23rd, 2017


Trillions of dollars flow through the global economic system every day and intermediaries in the finance sector take a cut on every dollar, euro and …


March 16th, 2017


Who we are, how many of us there are and where we live will change the economies of the future. Africa’s population will boom spectacularly, creating …


March 10th, 2017


Ten years ago a Harvard economist suggested that it might not be possible to combine democracy, national sovereignty and economic integration …

Shanghai City of Youth - Part Three

March 2nd, 2017


Shanghai aims to become a global capital of finance and technology by 2020, but it’s also becoming a city of culture - a cosmopolitan draw for young …

Shanghai, City of Youth - Part Two

February 23rd, 2017


Haining Liu explores the pressure on China's one-child generation to marry and start a family. At the ‘marriage market’ in central Shanghai she meets the anxious parents desperate to find a suitable match for their …

Shanghai, City of Youth - Part One

February 16th, 2017


Haining Liu visits Shanghai to discover its growing allure for young people. Home to over 25 million people Shanghai is China's most populous city. …

My Perfect Country: The Debate

February 2nd, 2017


Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore are on the hunt for solutions to the world’s problems. Their aim is to create the perfect country made …

My Perfect Country: Curbing Smoking in Australia

January 26th, 2017


Today, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. It leads to around six million deaths per year, and trends show that will rise to more than eight million by 2030.

Australians are ditching cigarettes at record …

My Perfect Country: Shanghai's Model for Teaching Maths

January 19th, 2017


In Shanghai, students are better at maths than anywhere else in the world. According to the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, Shanghai maths students are three years ahead of the PISA average. That …

My Perfect Country: 'State Feminism' in Tunisia

January 12th, 2017


Tunisia comes under the spotlight, because it is rewriting the rules about what women can and can’t do in an Islamic country. Should it be a role …

My Perfect Country: Gun Control in Japan

January 5th, 2017


Gun control is a policy that fiercely divides nations – on the one hand there are the countries that enshrine the use of guns - while a host of …

My Perfect Country: Cutting Poverty in Peru

January 3rd, 2017


How has Peru cut its poverty rate in half in just ten years? Building on decades of economic growth, a policy of inclusive economics has meant many …

My Perfect Country: Solving Water Scarcity in Bermuda

December 22nd, 2016


The solution to the world’s water scarcity problem could lie in the tiny, remote island of Bermuda. The island has battled water saving problems …

Islam, People and Power: Reflections

December 9th, 2016


Presenter Safa al Ahmad is joined by a panel of experts to reflect on the issues raised in her documentary series 'Islam People and Power'.

Her guests in the studio are:

Dr Maha Azzam, former Associate Fellow of Chatham …

Islam, People and Power: The Shia

December 8th, 2016


Within Shi’ism there is a high level disagreement about the role of Islam in government. Shia-dominated Iran is an Islamic republic, led by Ayatollah …

Islam, People and Power: The Islamists

December 1st, 2016


What should the relationship be between Islam and the state? This is the question which dominates political debate in the Arab world. Many …

Islam, People and Power: The Salafis

November 24th, 2016


Wahhabism is the most misunderstood brand of Islam. It is more correctly called Salafism and is a fundamentalist interpretation of the faith, often associated with Saudi Arabia. The salafis have long been split between …

Islam, People and Power: The Sunni Traditionalists

November 17th, 2016


The anti-government protests that began in the Arab world in 2010 triggered division between the religious scholars of Islam’s largest branch – the …

A New Cold War?

November 10th, 2016


Russia’s actions in the Crimea and Ukraine, and the modernising of its armed forces at home, are causing anxiety in the High North. Current tensions in East-West relations threaten to jeopardise the fragile stability …

Our Friends, the Russians

November 3rd, 2016


Russia’s actions in the Crimea and Ukraine, and the modernising of its armed forces at home, are causing anxiety in the High North. Here Norwegian (as well as broader Western) security and economic interests converge …

DisUnited Kingdom: Londonderry, Northern Ireland

October 20th, 2016


What will the United Kingdom vote to leave the EU mean for Northern Ireland – and the rest of Ireland? BBC correspondent Edward Stourton revisits the city of Londonderry - or Derry - an area where people voted strongly …

disUnited Kingdom: Stirling, Scotland

October 13th, 2016


The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes returns to Stirling in central Scotland, where she grew up and went to school. In an area where people voted strongly to …

disUnited Kingdom: Wrexham, Wales

October 6th, 2016


The people of Wales received hundreds of millions in EU grants to regenerate areas depressed by de-industrialisation. Yet Wales, like England, voted to leave the EU. In many cases, the areas voting most strongly for …

disUnited Kingom: Birmingham, England

October 3rd, 2016


What has the European Union referendum vote revealed about the divisions within the UK? And what might this mean for the cohesion of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Birmingham in the West …

Exploring Culture and Mental Health

September 8th, 2016


Christopher Harding is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the influence that culture has on mental illness and mental health treatment. The …

Healing in Ghana

September 1st, 2016


What options do people in Ghana have when a person suffers mental illness? In this religious country, most people seek out spiritual interpretations or traditional methods of healing. Despite there being only 18 trained …

Hearing Voices in the UK

August 28th, 2016


For years, hearing voices served as a symbol of a fear we all share - losing our minds. But voice hearing is now known to be an experience of almost …

Increase in Mental Health Issues Among Teenagers in Sweden

August 18th, 2016


Despite Sweden's reputation as an ideal place to grow up, the mental health of its adolescents has become a public health concern, with more young …

Depression in Japan

August 11th, 2016


Up until the late 1990s, depression was all but unknown in Japanese society and pharmaceutical companies had given up on trying to sell anti-depressants there. Fast forward to today and court cases alleging overwork …

Final Thoughts

August 4th, 2016


The migration experience across Europe has demanded resilience, spirit and endless patience from the millions on the move from the Middle East, Asia …

Germany: The Decision Makers

July 28th, 2016


Germany was where hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived last year. But the atmosphere is now very different from the ‘welcome culture’ that …

UK: From Syria To Yorkshire

July 21st, 2016


As part of the World Service ‘Destination Europe’ series, the BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones is finding out how Syrian refugees are settling in the northern English city of Bradford in Yorkshire. They were flown directly to …

Italy: The Priest and The Mayor

July 14th, 2016


It’s become much harder for migrants from Asia and Africa to reach Europe via the Greek route, but the numbers of those reaching Italy have not declined. Those rescued at sea are mostly taken to Sicily, and also to …

My Perfect Country: The UN Debate

July 9th, 2016


In a radio first, the World Service programme which analyses ground-breaking global policies, is part of a sitting session of the UN’s Economic and …

Greece: The Warehouse of Souls

July 7th, 2016


The Balkan route is closed, the fragile EU-Turkey deal is in effect, the Pope has been and gone, the traffickers are turning their attention to Italy & so is much of the media. But Greece continues to be the …

Turkey: The Lost Generation

June 30th, 2016


There as many as half a million Syrian refugee children who are not attending school, leaving them open to exploitation in sweatshops and other forms …

Europe’s Challenges: The Union in Crisis

June 3rd, 2016


The European Union is at a critical moment in its history, with Britain preparing to vote on whether to leave. In the third of a three-part series, …

Europe's Challenges: Expanding the Union

May 26th, 2016


The European Union is at critical moment in its history, with Britain preparing to vote on whether to leave. In the second of a three-part series, the BBC’s former Europe Correspondent Allan Little tells the story of …

Europe’s Challenges: The Road to Rome

May 19th, 2016


The European Union emerged in the 1950s from a vision of a bright future for a war-ravaged continent – free from conflict, with nations living in harmony, their citizens free to trade and travel without restriction. In …

Shakespeare in the World - South Africa

May 12th, 2016


If we think of William Shakespeare as exclusively English, we should think again. People around the world have adopted his work and made it something …

Shakespeare in the World - India

May 5th, 2016


Nikki Bedi explores how India has taken the works of an Englishman brought to them by British colonists in the 18th Century and adapted them for …

Shakespeare and the American Dream - Part Two

April 28th, 2016


Robert McCrum travels to the United States in search of Shakespeare and the American Dream and hears how he became part of the very fabric of early …

Shakespeare and the American Dream - Part One

April 21st, 2016


Robert McCrum travels to the United States in search of Shakespeare and the American Dream and hears how he became part of the very fabric of early …

Soul Music: Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez

March 31st, 2016


Written by Joaquin Rodrigo in 1939, the Concierto de Aranjuez is a guitar classic. It was written amid the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, and in …

The Battle of Ideas - Part Two

March 24th, 2016


Kevin Connolly travels to Morocco, which sees itself as a beacon of moderate Islam, to visit the institute for training imams, which has been set up …

The Battle of Ideas in the Middle East - Part One

March 17th, 2016


Kevin Connolly travels through the Middle East to look at different ways in which the Arab states in the region are confronting the ideas of the …

My Perfect Country: Legal Advice in Uganda

March 10th, 2016


Fi Glover looks at how communities in Uganda have revolutionised the justice system by taking matters into their own hands.

The complexity of the law …

My Perfect Country: Sanitation for Women in India

March 3rd, 2016


Fi Glover examines India’s pioneering work on sanitation for women. With stories from the workers who are inventing simple systems alongside active …

My Perfect Country: Preventing Suicide in Michigan, USA

February 25th, 2016


In 2001, the American state of Michigan had a suicide rate of 89 per 100,000 amongst mental health patients. By 2013 this had dropped to just 16 per 100,000 and shines against the US national average of 230. One network …

My Perfect Country: Drug Decriminalisation in Portugal

February 18th, 2016


In 2001 the use of all drugs was decriminalised meaning possession of drugs was now identified as a public health issue rather than a criminal offence. Today, whilst drugs remain illegal, users do not receive a criminal …

My Perfect Country: Green Energy in Costa Rica

February 11th, 2016


Costa Rica has implemented a progressive energy policy that is leading the way in the race to be carbon neutral. Although the country covers only …

My Perfect Country: Estonia's Digital Society

February 4th, 2016


Fi Glover and digital guru Martha Lane Fox look at the digital revolution pioneered by the government in Estonia – where people vote, get their …

America in Black and White: Looking Ahead

January 25th, 2016


How are black Americans represented and what does it mean to be black in America today? Rajini Vaidyanathan discusses with those involved in …

America in Black and White: Segregation

January 14th, 2016


Rajini Vaidyanathan examines segregation. The Brown versus the Board of Education case and the civil rights movement were supposed to have brought Americans together, but in Kansas City Rajini sees for herself the much …

America in Black and White: Economic Opportunity

January 14th, 2016


Rajini Vaidyanathan explores economic opportunity – or lack of it - amongst black Americans. She speaks to the academic whose study suggests employers think being black is as bad as having a criminal record but that …

America in Black and White: Criminal Justice

January 7th, 2016


Rajini investigates the criminal justice system. In Nebraska she visits the conservative politician promoting laws to reduce the number of people …

Local Warming: California

December 3rd, 2015


During the last four years California has been ravaged by drought and wildfire that has left people without homes and farmers without crops. Unlike a lot of American states most Californians acknowledge climate change …

Local Warming: The Philippines

November 26th, 2015


Extreme weather has claimed many lives in the Philippines. The archipelago has been battered by so-called ‘Super Typhoons’ and only last month, Super Typhoon Koppu wreaked havoc in the northern island of Luzon, killing …

Local Warming: Nigeria

November 19th, 2015


The first episode focuses on Nigeria, where migration caused by desertification is leading to bloodshed as cattle herders move south from their traditional routes and into conflict with settled farmers. Meanwhile, …

Waithood: Could Delaying Adulthood be a Good Thing?

November 12th, 2015


Is prolonged adolescence actually a good thing? Jake Wallis Simons explores whether life choices offered up by delaying financial independence, …

Waithood: Trying to Grow Up in Italy and Spain

November 5th, 2015


A trip to Italy where one of Ghana’s most respected hip-hop artists, Sarkodie, is set to perform in Modena. It is home to a large Ghanaian diaspora but what is life like for young Ghanaians who have moved abroad? We …

Waithood: The Passage to Adulthood in Ghana

October 29th, 2015


What does it mean to be a grown-up in the 21st Century? If the path to maturity is about stable work, marriage and a home for your family where does that leave those who haven't achieved these goals?

In the first of …

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