An insider’s story.
Editor’s Introduction: This article is about events that took place in 2012, but anyone who follows the news closely knows that nothing has changed. This is a remarkable account by someone who had an inside look at deliberate falsifications by what was once one of the most respected names in journalism.
In May of 2012, the BBC Panorama program broadcast a documentary about “racism” in the host countries of the 2012 European soccer championship: Poland and Ukraine. Those two countries were about to stage the second biggest event in the sport after the World Cup, and legions of journalists had arrived to cover it. The purpose of the BBC program—aired strategically one week before the opening match—was to argue that neither country was qualified to host the tournament because of their “hateful” soccer cultures. The message: All-white countries are hotbeds of violent racism, and non-white fans and players would be in danger.
I know a lot about the Panorama program because I helped produce it. I saw what is arguably the world’s most famous and trusted media organization fabricate a false, sensationalist story. Through outright distortion—and by using only those pieces that fit its predetermined views—the BBC “documented” the vicious attitudes of people who live in countries that are not sufficiently “diverse.” The program had a scripted conclusion before a single camera was turned on.
Panorama is the BBC’s flagship investigative program. It is the longest-running such production in the world, having been on the air since 1953. The closest thing to it on American television is probably 60 Minutes. Panorama enjoys a reputation for hard-hitting and serious investigative journalism.
About three months before the tournament began, a BBC journalist got in touch with me through mutual media contacts and asked me to help with the part to be filmed in Poland. He said the program would be about aspects of the football culture—hooliganism, trouble at stadiums, etc.—that could cause problems for players and fans alike. This topic is something of a hobby of mine, and I have followed it carefully during my time in Poland. The BBC wanted me to be a “fixer”—the person on the ground who arranges things in advance for the production team. That meant setting up interviews, scouting filming locations, getting press passes and access to events, arranging transport, and a hundred other odds and ends. I was also expected to contribute ideas based on my knowledge.
I suspected right from the start that they wanted things that make for good television rather than a true investigation—conflict, tension, etc.—but I was somewhat reassured because this was the BBC. Despite my reservations, I never thought they would make the television equivalent of sensationalist trashy tabloid headlines.'
Read more: How the BBC Manufactured ‘Hate’
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