Well, after all the furore about the BBC ‘Panorama’ secret filming of North Korea, what did we see? Not much, actually: a few odd clips of John Sweeney’s profile on a bus, empty streets and passers-by from fixed camera positions, an empty hospital clinic and a farm that wasn’t a farm. The whole programme only lasted 30 minutes, a good chunk of which was stock and ‘YouTube’ footage, interviews with dissidents, analysts, and experts, none of which required clandestine filming in-country. There were precious few penetrating questions: why did nobody ask why the lights kept going out? And if they did, wouldn’t the answer have been illuminating (pardon the pun)? The first minute set the context for broadcasting this programme, and I quote: an “unstable, aggressive” country “marching towards armageddon” and “threatening thermonuclear war on the USA”. One analyst stated that, while North Korea wouldn’t want a nuclear war, one was certainly possible due to a “disastrous miscalculation”. On this evidence the decisions taken by the BBC to expose the whole world, and the ‘human shield’ LSE students, to risk were wholly unjustified. Two expatriat-dissidents said that dissent, even questions, would inevitably lead to summary execution: on that basis what justification do John Sweeney and the BBC offer for the consequences for the two hapless tour guides whom they have so publicly humiliated?
We learned so little that was new about this closed society that I can’t help wonder why the BBC bothered to air it at all. It may have been a coincidence that the programme was filmed at a time of “escalating tensions” (to quote from the programme) but I am more certain than ever that the decision to broadcast it now, despite the delicacy of the situation, had more to do with BBC opportunism than the need to inform the “public interest”. Shame on you BBC.
I can’t even be bothered to GRRR.