"And now on Radio 4...": imaginative geographies of migration on the airwaves

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE


I wish to investigate how imaginative geographies of migration are constructed in BBC Radio 4 between 2014 and 2020, and examine how, and in which spaces, these imaginative geographies are received and understood by listeners. Radio is an understudied space of knowledge production in Geography that warrants renewed attention as a medium with the capacity to shape geographical imaginations. Listeners are called on to imagine the spaces, places, and people that broadcasters describe and to actively construct ideas and imaginaries. Contrary to perceptions of radio as outdated or passé, its dissemination across and accessibility through multiple platforms, from social media to downloadable podcasts, signals an increasingly malleable medium with rich potential for examining reconfigured listening practices and new spaces of consumption. Through a tripartite analysis of the production, representation, and reception of broadcasts on migration, this project aims to redress an imbalance between audio and 'visual' research, and develop a nuanced understanding of the spatialities of listening. By focusing on radio, it responds directly to recent calls to analyse alternative media and their role in reporting on migration (Allen, Blinder, and McNeil, 2017). The overarching research aim is to critically explore the production, representation, and reception of BBC Radio 4 broadcasts on migration. It will contribute to Media-, Social-, and Cultural Geography by addressing the following research questions:
RQ1. How are broadcasts on migration produced, edited, and curated?
Examination of processes of production will shed light on how the BBC understands, conceptualises, and portrays the world.
Semi-structured interviews with the production and editorial teams of selected programmes will be conducted to elucidate how items are identified, curated, and broadcast. Participant observation will track the production of a programme 'as it happens' from conception through to broadcast.
RQ2 How, and to what effect, are imaginative geographies of migration constructed in the broadcasts? Exploration of imaginative geographies of migration will reveal which narratives are
privileged, prioritised, or remain hidden.
Critical discourse analysis will be applied to the programme scripts to examine language, imagery, and intertextuality. Using the digital archive of BBC Radio 4, the broadcasts will be simultaneously listened to and read to explore the importance of tone, pace, intonation, and expression.
RQ3. How, and in which spaces, are broadcasts on migration received and understood by listeners?
Assessment of the reception of the broadcasts aims to elucidate a nuanced understanding of the complexities of listener responses to aural representations of migration.
Participant observation and the diary-interview method with a purposive sample of listeners will be used to analyse the power of radio to shape public attitudes towards migration, and assess the spatialities and 'everyday' experiences of listening.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000649/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2095621 Studentship ES/P000649/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2021 Alice Watson