United Kingdom

The best of BBC World Service documentaries and other factual programmes.


The Khan Mutiny  

Bollywood, the world's biggest film industry had, until recently, largely avoided the inter-faith tensions that surface repeatedly elsewhere in India. Many leading men are Muslims - a fact that has been no apparent impediment to their success. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown explores the history of Muslims in Bollywood through the prism of the number of powerful leading male actors who share the same Muslim surname - Khan. The Khans have quite literally taken over Bollywood. Aamir, Salman, Shah Rukh, Aamer, Saif Ali and Irfan - to name but a few - currently dominate the industry. Almost all are Muslim or of Muslim descent, hugely successful and able to navigate two of the most powerful forces working against them - the puritanism of Islam and the ever-increasing grip of Hindu fundamentalism in India. They are some of the nation's best-loved and most successful actors, brand ambassadors of the official "Incredible India" tourism campaign - and Muslims in a majority-Hindu nation. And many of them are married to Hindus. Prominent actors, writers, directors, producers, composers, film historians, politicians and critics explain how the Khans have managed to successfully carve out their careers as Muslims in a Hindu world, about how they see the future unfolding under the growing Hindu fundamentalist culture of India, as well as against the national and international backdrop of Islamic fundamentalism.

Banishing the ‘Bad Hombres’  

Lucy Ash asks how the notoriously violent street gang, MS13, which has roots in Los Angeles and El Salvador is influencing the heated row over illegal immigration in the U.S.

The Sound of Soweto - Part One  

Johannesburg-based poet Thabiso Mohare looks at the musical heritage of Sophiatown, and talks to Sowetan musicians including Sibongele Khumalo and Jonas Gwangwa, about the intersection in their lives of music and politics, and their memories of streets filled with a rich mix of sounds from gramophones and radios to church choirs, workers choirs, and bands playing music from jazz, mbaqanga and soul to rock.

The Robots' Story  

How might robots help us live, work and even love in the future? Jane Wakefield meets robots being used in hospitals, factories and even bedrooms and discovers the way humans are using machines. In California, Jane interviews Harmony, a sex robot who will be for sale at the end of the year. She hears how some people are forming relationships with their artificial intelligence, and asks what an increasing dependence on robotics means for our human interaction.

Chaplains of the Sea  

Port chaplains provide support to the world's 1.5 million merchant seafarers. With the global shipping industry in financial crisis, we join the chaplains on their daily visits to container ships and supply vessels in Antwerp, Immingham and Aberdeen, to find out why the work of chaplains is more crucial than ever.

Elephants, politics and Sri Lanka  

Religiously and politically potent, elephants in Sri Lanka kill dozens of people each year. How can they live more harmoniously with humans on this small island nation?

A Woman Half in Shadow  

Zora Neale Hurston was an African-American novelist and folklorist and a queen of the Harlem Renaissance. But when she died in 1960 she was living on welfare and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her name was even misspelt on her death certificate. Scotland's National poet Jackie Kay tells the story of how Zora would later become part of America’s literary canon.

The Silent Wound  

*** Some viewers may find parts of this report difficult to listen to *** During Colombia’s 53-year internal conflict, around 15,000 military veterans have lived through their own bodies the heart-breaking consequences of a barbaric war. But a considerable part of that group has also sacrificed their masculinity by suffering different forms of genital or urinary trauma. Natalia Guerrero discovers the profound physical and physiological effect genital injuries can have for generations of Colombian soldiers.

Subversion, Russia and the West  

Complaints that Russia interfered in America’s presidential election are only the latest chapter in a much longer story. Both Moscow and the West have engaged in political subversion over the last 100 years, in an attempt to undermine the other. This dangerous game has largely been played out in the clandestine world of spies but has burst out into the open at regular intervals.

Coming Out of the Shadows in Kenya  

For generations those who, for biological reasons, don't fit the usual male/female categories have faced violence and stigma in Kenya. Intersex people - as they are commonly known in Kenya - were traditionally seen as a bad omen bringing a curse upon their family and neighbours. Most were kept in hiding and many were killed at birth. But now a new generation of home-grown activists and medical experts are helping intersex people to come out into the open. They're rejecting the old idea that intersex people must be assigned a gender in infancy and stick to it and are calling on the government to instead grant them legal recognition. BBC Africa’s Health Correspondent Anne Soy meets some of the rural families struggling to find acceptance for their intersex children and witnesses the efforts health workers and activists are making to promote understanding of the condition. She also meets a successful gospel singer who recently came out as intersex and hears from those who see the campaign for inter-sex recognition as part of a wider attack on the traditional Kenyan family. Helen Grady producing. (Photo: Apostle Darlan Rukih, an intersex gospel singer)

Strangers for Hire  

We are getting used to the idea of people renting out their homes for holidays or using their cars as taxis, all via online sites. Perhaps the next wave is going to be hiring people – not just to do work for us, but to do the kinds of things we once expected friends and families to do. Like offering a sympathetic ear to your problems. Nina Robinson reports on some the eyebrow-raising services now available.

Strangers for Hire  

Nina Robinson in Japan looks at a growing trend to hire strangers to do the jobs you normally ask of friends and family.

Cathedral of the Fallen  

Giles Tremlett takes us into the fierce battles being fought over The Valle de los Caidos, an enormous memorial to Spain’s civil war dead constructed by the dictator Francisco Franco. For some a great monument, for others a war crime. Today, the battle over how Franco and the Civil War should be remembered is one of the most significant religious and political conflicts in Spain.

Nepal: Banished for Bleeding  

Getting your period in Nepal is a big deal. Menstruating women face many restrictions – they are not allowed to worship or enter the kitchen. Our young Nepali reporters Divya Shrestha and Nirmala Limbu still remember the shock at suddenly being excluded from festivities for being “impure”. Some menstruating women are banished from home for four days and have to sleep in an open hut. Such beliefs are hard to eradicate, but Divya and Nirmala find that some young women are rebelling.

South Sudan: A Failure to Act  

**Some viewers may find parts of this report difficult to listen to** “Hiding in the bathroom. They’re trying to break down our door. We maybe have about five minutes.” Juba, capital of South Sudan, 11 July 2016. The female aid worker sending this message was among a number of international and local staff taking refuge behind a bullet proof door in the housing compound where they lived. Tensions were running high in South Sudan’s three year civil war and government troops had gone on the rampage attacking the compound. As the soldiers tried to break down the door, the terrified group frantically appealed to United Nations peacekeepers based just over a kilometer away. Using their phones and sending messages via Skype and Facebook their calls for help went unheeded.

Wives Wanted in the Faroe Islands  

The Faroe Islands are facing a shortage of women of marriageable age. Many of them have left and not returned so men are now travelling to South East Asia looking for love.

Me and the President  

Joe Borelli is a New York City councilman who spoke on behalf of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign - he was thrilled when Trump won the election last November, and approached the Trump presidency with high expectations. Over the first 100 days of the Trump Administration Joe recorded his impressions of the new president, starting with a visit to the Inauguration in Washington on 20 January.

Dying to Talk  

There's only one thing in life that's certain: death. Many people believe that talking about death helps us make more of life. Thousands of Death Cafés have popped up in countries across the globe, challenging people to open up about the deceased and their own thoughts and fears about dying. Cafes are often over subscribed with organisers having to turn away individuals from sell out events. Julian Keane visits some of these Death Cafés to explore if a key part of life should be preparing for death. He explores how people across the world deal with death whilst they're living, and if there's really a need for the conversation. Julian also meets sociologist Bernard Crettaz. He began the concept of Café Mortel (Death Café) at an exhibition called La mort à vivre (Death for life) in his Geneva museum. Bernard shares more about his work, the theories behind his Death Café concept and how he feels knowing the world is embracing his concept.


Young stars of social media share lessons in life from their grandmothers. What happens when the youth-dominated, image-obsessed world of social media gets a dose of hard-learnt life-advice from older women? The BBC's #GrannyWisdom week will see stars of Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook posting conversations with their grandmothers, getting their wisdom on topics from love to mental health to overcoming adversity. Featuring highlights from those social media posts as well as discussions between the social media stars about what they learned from the older generation, this programme explores the lessons, tensions and reaction to this big, global social media experiment. Presented by YouTuber Hannah Witton, with contributions from social media stars Ross Smith, Taty Ferreira, Anushree Fadnavis, Megan Gilbride, Steven Chikosi and Kubra Sait. Also listen out for Hannah's, Ross's and Anushree's grannies.

Cuba’s Cancer Revolution  

Cuba’s biotech industry is booming. And in a revolutionary first, its lung cancer treatment is being trialled in the US. So with limited resources, how has Cuba done it?

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