The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation's first Director-General. John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.
This year's BBC Radio 4 Reith lecturer is Ben Ansell, Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. His four lectures, titled Our Democratic Future, will consider how to build political systems that work for all and are robust enough to face the wide-ranging challenges of the 21st century.
As the United Kingdom and United States prepare for important elections in 2024, Ben will follow in the footsteps of previous lecturers, including Robert Oppenheimer, Hilary Mantel, Edward Said, Onora O’Neill, Michael Sandel, Margaret MacMillan, Stephen Hawking and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to ask how our democracies can best deal with the onslaught of polarisation, climate change, global security, artificial intelligence and the many other challenges that will face incoming governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mark Hallerberg will deliver introductory remarks, while presenter, journalist and author Anita Anand will chair the lectures and question-and-answer sessions.
The 2023 lectures will be recorded in front of live audiences in London, Berlin, Sunderland, UK and Atlanta, USA this autumn before being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 later this year and will be available to listen to on BBC Sounds.
Professor Ben Ansell received his PhD in Government from Harvard University in 2006 and conducts research in a wide area of comparative politics and political economy. Before joining Oxford and Nuffield College he was an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. Ansell is also an award-winning author; his Reith Lectures will build on his most recent book Why Politics Fails, which was published earlier this year.
Anita Anand is a British radio and television presenter, journalist and author. After training as a journalist, Anand became European Head of News and Current Affairs for Zee TV at the age of 25. Her television credits include Newsnight and the Daily Politics on BBC Two and The Sunday Politics and The Heaven and Earth Show on BBC One. She is currently the presenter of Any Answers on BBC Radio 4.
Mark Hallerberg is Professor of Public Management and Political Economy at the Hertie School. From September 2020 to March 2022 he was first Deputy President, then Acting President of the Hertie School. His research focuses on fiscal governance, tax competition, financial crises, and European Union politics. He previously held academic positions at Emory University, where he maintains an affiliation with the political science department, as well as at the University of Pittsburgh and Georgia Institute of Technology.