Jonathan Dimbleby's Unknown Famine: Television, Humanitarianism and Politics in Britain
10 Dec 2018, 18:00 to 10 Dec 2018, 20:00
Voluntary Action History
IHR Seminar Room N304, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Dr Andrew Jones , University of Warwick
This paper discusses how television coverage of major disasters in the global South shaped the historical and political trajectory of humanitarian action in Britain. It does so through a case study of British television coverage of a deadly famine in Ethiopia in 1973. Despite its severity, the famine went unreported in Britain until its sudden exposure by a single ITV documentary (entitled The Unknown Famine) in October 1973. Presented by Jonathan Dimbleby, The Unknown Famine consisted entirely of graphic images of Ethiopian suffering. Watched by an estimated twelve million people in Britain, the film immediately triggered an intense outpouring of popular compassion both at home and abroad. It will be argued that The Unknown Famine shaped the trajectory of British humanitarianism in a number of significant ways, which continue to be pertinent today for our understanding of the relationship between humanitarian NGOs and television, the popular appeal of ‘negative’ images of African suffering, public engagement in overseas issues, and the enduring tensions between fundraising and education within the international aid sector.
020 7862 8740