Little was born on 11 October 1959 in Dunragit, a small village in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. He attended Stranraer Academy before attending and graduating from the University of Edinburgh, where he read history and politics.
In 1983, Little joined BBC Scotland to work as a news and current affairs researcher, and in 1985 transferred to London in order to train as a radio reporter. After two years at BBC Radio Solent, Little moved to BBC Radio 4's Today programme in 1988. Here, he specialised in foreign reporting, including the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe.
Between 1990 and 1995, Little worked as a BBC News reporter, during this period reported from Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf war and from Kuwait following the war, covering the Shia rebellions. From 1991 to 1995, he reported on the break-up of Yugoslavia. He co-wrote (with Laura Silber) the acclaimed book The Death of Yugoslavia, which accompanied the television series of the same name, produced by Norma Percy at Brook Lapping. In 1995, Little moved to Johannesburg as the BBC's South Africa correspondent. While based in Johannesburg, he reported on the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide and the overthrow of Zaire's President Mobutu. Between 1997 and 1999, he served as the BBC's Moscow correspondent during Boris Yeltsin's tenure as Russian president.
In early 1999, Little began work on a number of current affairs projects and to present the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. He worked as the BBC's Africa correspondent from 2000 to 2001. He was then sent to be the BBC's correspondent in Paris, where he remained until 2005. Little's final role at the BBC was as a special correspondent. In this role, he reported on devolution and led the BBC's coverage of the Scottish independence referendum. The BBC announced in December 2014 that he would be leaving the broadcaster at the end of 2014. Little stated: "I am leaving the staff of the BBC to pursue other projects and hope to continue working in broadcasting in the future".
Little has won several awards including a Gold Sony Radio Award for Reporter of the Year in 1992, Amnesty International Reporter of the Year in 1992, Bayeux-Calvados Radio War Correspondent of the Year in 1994, a Sony Documentary Gold Award in 2000, and the Grierson Premier TV Documentary Award in 2001.
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- "'Iconic' BBC reporter Allan Little leaves corporation after 30 years to 'pursue other projects'". Press Gazette. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
- Ferguson, Brian (30 June 2015). "Allan Little to be new Edinburgh book festival chair". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Cable, Amanda (13 November 2010). "Broadcaster Sheena McDonald:"Why the scars from my accident still haven't healed"". Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 October 2014.