London calling Italy

BBC broadcasts during the Second World War

Author: Ester Lo Biundo

During the Second World War the BBC established many of its foreign services.

The ambiguity of Radio Londra, as the BBC was known in Italy, is clearly reflected in the broadcasts of the BBC Italian Service. The British station was both the voice of an occupier and a liberator of Italy from Nazi fascism. Despite this, the radio is mainly remembered as the authentic voice of anti-fascism and resistance.

By analysing, from a transnational perspective, archive material collected in Italy and the UK, this book aims to understand why the BBC programmes have become one of the myths of Italian cultural heritage of the Second World War. To what extent were the Italian exiles at the BBC independent from the government? How did the programmes engage with ordinary Italians, and how did Italian civilians receive them?

The book also investigates the role played by transnational broadcasts in offering ordinary people a window onto a foreign world, and the contribution of foreign refugees living in the UK to the war effort and the development of the BBC. The book claims that the Corporation did play an ambiguous role, but it was the reception of the programmes in Italy at the time that created the myth of the BBC as an authentic supporter of Italian anti-fascism. It also argues that one of the key reasons for the success of the Italian Service was its ability to engage with ordinary people and address their concerns during the difficult years of the war.

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