Establishing Broadcast Monitoring as Open Source Intelligence
: The BBC Monitoring Service during the Second World War

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Given the recent surge of interest in Open Source Intelligence (OSINT),
surprisingly little attention has been devoted to existing open source agencies or
their historic role. As the first full length academic study of the BBC Monitoring
Service, this thesis seeks to examine one of the earliest historic attempts to
systematically manage and exploit publicly available, open source information
for intelligence purposes. It utilises the Imperial War Museum’s rarely used
collection of BBC Monitoring transcripts, in conjunction with traditional archival
sources and oral interviews, to trace the origins, processes and institutional
structure developed by the Monitoring Service during its formative years. This
study further assesses the collection priorities of BBC Monitoring during World
War Two, traces the historic flow of monitored material around the wartime
Government and BBC, and establishes the institutional role of BBCM in the
conduct of Britain’s war effort. Three case study chapters, focusing on the
outbreak of war, Dunkirk and D-Day, particularly assess the process and detailed
collection priorities of the Monitoring Service during key events throughout the
war. This study thus makes a contribution to the historic picture of British
intelligence during World War Two, and is bound to encourage future study of
the BBC Monitoring Service and its archives. Overall, the BBC Monitoring
Service is judged a historic success story. This thesis argues that this success can be attributed to three key qualities developed during the wartime period: trust, breadth, and adaptability. The organisation established a relationship of trust with the Government; developed and maintained a remarkable breadth of
broadcast coverage; and showed a constant ability to adapt to both customer
demands and changing strategic priorities.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPeter Busch (Supervisor)

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