Aung San Suu Kyi: “The World Service is not what it was”

Burma’s pro-democracy leader reveals a penchant for Dave Lee Travis

Less than a year after her release from house arrest, Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to deliver a two-part talk on Radio 4 entitled Securing Freedom as part of the annual Reith Lectures (Tuesday 28 June and Tuesday 5 July, 9:00am).


In an interview in the latest edition of Radio Times, Suu Kyi tells Eddie Mair how important radio can be for those in confinement – “it’s really our only line to the outside world” – but says the content of the BBC’s global radio station has narrowed over the years.

“I think the World Service has changed since my first bout of house arrest, which was from 1989 to 1995,” says Suu Kyi. “Then I remember there were so many more different programmes on the service… now the programmes don’t seem so varied.”

“The first six years [under house arrest] I could be in touch with everything. With culture, with art, with books, with music. You know, I haven’t heard any music on the BBC World Service in a long time. Maybe I’m listening at the wrong times. But not one single piece of music.”

Suu Kyi’s nostalgia for the World Service as it was in those days reveals a penchant for one broadcaster in particular – Mr Dave Lee Travis.

“I would listen to [his programme A Jolly Good Show] quite happily because the listeners would write in and I had a chance to hear other people’s words. It made my world much more complete.”

“I’m not surprised that Aung San Suu Kyi listened to my show, but I’m touched she remembers it,” says DLT. “At one point, if not in most of its 20 years, it had the single biggest postbag of the entire World Service.

“It was daft of the BBC to change the World Service. It was mainly for learning, but you do need fun, too. Learning and fun do fit together.”


Read the full interview with Aung San Suu Kyi – in which she talks about house arrest, sacrifice and why she’s not a saint – in the latest issue of Radio Times, on sale now.