Ruth Garland

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Professional background

I have come back into study after a long career in public sector PR, working in broadcasting, medical research, health promotion, publishing and local government. Most recently I was 2012 communications manager for one of the Olympic boroughs, Hackney Council. I spent more than 10 years working in the BBC’s press and publicity teams in television, education and finishing up as head of communications for BBC Worldwide consumer publishing.

Academic background

First degree

I studied for a B.Sc. in Human Sciences – a four-year course which included conventional biological sciences such as genetics, cell and developmental biology, ecology, animal physiology, biochemistry et al, but had as its main focus human studies such as human evolution and ecology, and the history and philosophy of science, anthropology and cultural studies.   At that time Sussex University was explicitly inter-disciplinary and organised by Schools of Study rather than faculties.


Straight after this, I took a one-year M.Sc. in Information Science at City University, for which I produced a 6,000 word research dissertation. This used content analysis of television programmes and interviews with television producers to identify common themes and approaches in science and medical programmes. My ambition on finishing this was to work in science television. 

A version of my MSc research project was published as: Images of Health and Medical Science conveyed by television in the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners (June 1984: 316-319). Publication coincided with my first job as information officer at the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and General Practice at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, where I worked with local GPs to encourage better audit of their practice. The department’s main source of funding was the MRC’s British Regional Heart Study, a long-term population-based prospective study looking into indicators that could predict the later development of coronary heart disease. At this time I also edited the British Computer Society’s newsletter Computers in Primary Care and worked as a freelance medical journalist.  


My PR career began at the Health Education Council and from there I joined BBC television’s press and PR team as publicist for science programmes, later adding popular features. My time at the BBC coincided with the period of John Birt as Director General, the arrival and departure of Greg Dyke, and the early years of Mark Thompson. Throughout my time there I was close to changes in the British press and in the landscape of broadcasting with the creation of the two satellite broadcasters, Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting. While at BBC Worldwide I took part in the BBC’s leadership training programme based at Ashridge, and spent three months in the BBC’s Public Affairs team.

Research interests

I’ve always been fascinated with the interface between politics, the press and broadcast media, and had ample opportunity to study these during my career at the BBC and while working for a London 2012 host borough before and during the Games.

In 2011, because of my growing interest in public affairs, I funded myself through a Diploma in Public Affairs and Political Communications provided through the PR Academy and the industry body, CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations). This led directly to my PhD proposal – Measuring “politicisation” in modern UK Government communications. I started the PhD programme at the LSE’s Media and Communications department in October 2012. For my research I intend to use content analysis of government press releases and interviews with PR professionals to understand the notion of modern spin, and to critically and empirically examine claims that modern UK government communications has become increasingly politicised since 1997. My lead supervisor is Dr Nick Anstead and my adviser is Dr Damian Tambini.

Personal details

I am a Londoner, with two sons, and live in Hackney. I was a parent governor at an inner London boy’s secondary school for seven years. I enjoy creative writing, art, camping and cycling.