Sunday, August 06, 2006

Probably the Worst Panorama Ever Broadcast

I'm watching Panorama at the moment. They're doing a so-called documentary on the water industry. I didn't realise this programme had become so debased and devalued. They might as well have had Jonathan MaitlandMark Thomas presenting it. Their main target was Thames Water - and a very valid target it is too. However, I realised I was watching the very worst type of tabloid TV when they actually took a water tanker lorry (capable of carrying 38,000 litres) all the way to Essen in Germany to ask Thames Water's parent company to fill it up with German Water as recompense to London water users who were still suffering from drastic leakeage. The idiot reporter then played the classic trick of entering the company HQ and demanding an interview with the Chief Executive, knowing full well that he wouldn't get it. They then got a psoter board truck displayed with a huge poster of questions they wanted answered and stood it outside their London HQ and wondered why no one would give them an interview. The reporter then got a megaphone and shouted the questions to the building. I ask you. And this is what our licence fee is being spent on. I'd love to know how much it cost to take that tanker all the way to Essen. Anyone in the BBC care to tell me?

UPDATE: Did anyone spot that the nutter in the garden who was ranting about getting Thames Water to sue him was John Hemming-Clark, who stood in the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election?

UPDATE: I understand Jonathan Maitland (who left a comment earlier) did a documentary on water a few weeks ago. I didn't see it and until a few minutes ago didn't realise it existed. I used his name above to illustrate the genre of foot in the door documentary making which he has in the past specialised in and as a viewer I cannot stand. I maybe should have used Mark Thomas as an example instead!

54 comments:

Deep Stoat said...

I watched ten minutes of it, and granted, I don't have a water shortage, but it looked like a bit of a wank.

There was this bloke in the front garden of his semi, with a hose saying "Sue me, sue me".

That's cutting edge investigative journalism, that is.

Andrew Woodman said...

I liked the way he had to sneak in 'scotland and northern ireland leak more water and are publically owned'. So the privatisation you keep on about is not the cause.

Privatise the BBC. That might stop leaking rubbish like this then.

Peter from Putney said...

Q: "I'd love to know how much it cost to take that tanker all the way to Essen. Anyone in the BBC care to tell me?"

A: A tiny, tiny fraction of the amount Thames Water customers are being ripped off every day - witness the £1 BILLION its parent has taken out in dividends and the further £2 BILLION it stands to make on selling the company.

Not bad for a company which for seven consecutive years has failed to meet its agreed OFTWAT targets for reducing leakage rates which, you guessed it, the customer has to pay for.

The use of the tanker, which was probably local anyway, was simply a graphic way of illutrating, by quoting the daily leakage equivalent, just how wasteful Thames Water has been.

If the BBC doesn't inform the public in this way who will?

In my view, an excellent programme

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ian ..disagree with you on this one...Ok maybe not the best example of journalism to win a BAFTA but as the previous poster said at least they were exposing the shambles that is Thames Water and basically that RWE have ignored the ineffective regulator stuck 2 fingers up, made a fortune and now heading for the exit as fast as possible...

Maqggie Thatcher fan said...

BBC sucks ,sorry no it stinks. I believe nothing they say, even if it might be true. They have no credence. I'd prefer to believe SKY, even if it's run by Rupert Murdoch, at least it covers all bases , unlike the BBC who are so far up New Labour, daylight is no longer visible!

Anonymous said...

How is it that the BBC always, always, always, manages to avoid the elephant in the room whenever it stirs up a moral panic?

This time they surpassed themselves - they blanked TWO.

Metering and competition

garypowell said...

Iain if you did not realise that BBC docs have become low market pap, you obviously are spending to much time on it and not any time watching it.

Why is the BBC so keen on nationised industry. I think it may have something to do with the BBC itself being a type of one.

Those of you over 45 will remember the time when nationalised industries made money and payed taxes. Water never leaked. Flights were cheap. Trains ran on time and never crashed. Telephones were installed within 24 hours. Energy was free. The price of a postage stamp never increased. And of cause non of the above ever went on strike.

Oh you cant...Well the BBC seems to think so, so your memory must be faulty. Or you must be a capitalist Zionist Nazi with a pathological hatered of the working class.

Charles Martel said...

"at least they were exposing the shambles that is Thames Water"

yeah - but you dont need to resort to childish antics to tell that story. its insulting to the viewer and debases the entire argument.

the bit where he had the megaphone in front of the thames water building didnt tell us anything nor did it add to the debate.

i think Iain's point is that Panorama used to be seriously high brow - in depth and hard hitting.

this was just childish tabloid journalism at its worst.

mol said...

Despite the difficult to re-size web design, this site is worth a look:

Thames Waster:

"Raising awareness of the current water crisis across the UK.
Campaigning against the unacceptable level of performance of Thames Water."

Antony said...

Yes Peter, obviously. But do you really think you can bowl up to a large organsation and just demand to see the Chief Exec? Come on, we all know this was stunt from beginning to end. As you say it is a serious issue and it has been masacred by the pathetic BBC reporting.

raincoaster said...

Seriously, you're an island. Do you really have to go all the way to Germany for water?

Be nice to me and I might send you some glacier water, if Bush hasn't invaded us first.

Anonymous said...

Sounds more like the sort of thing Mark Thomas or Michael Moore would get up to if you ask me. In their defence they may well have had interview requests turned down previously to the stunts so resorted to those in order to make their point.

Anonymous said...

Thames Water is for sale - RWE wants shut of it

Anonymous said...

Privatise the BBC. That might stop leaking rubbish like this then.

but no doubt retain the Licence Fee just as Privatised Water Companies get to collect Water Rates

Croydonian said...

Sounds to me like someone at the BBC has been watching tapes of Michael Moore's 'TV Nation'. This isn't just a similar stunt, it is to all intents and purposes direct plagiarism

Patsy said...

I watched about ten minutes - during which they invaded the HQ and harangued a poor woman who was only doing her job. Fortunately it sent me to sleep soon after.

Tim Almond said...

Did the program offer any alternatives to Thames Water running as a public company running it? Something that would actually improve the situation?

Saying "fix the leaks" is easy, but Thames have a huge problem that existed long before privatisation. They are fixing leaks, but it's a big job.

Thames had a solution - build a desalination plant at the Thames eastuary. But Red Ken opposed it.

The other thing would be more reservoirs, but again, people oppose them. But if you want to know why Anglian don't have shortages...

Anonymous said...

This was just terrible. The BBC was clearly relying on the Panorama brand name to carry this lazy piece of journalism along.

The question is: given Panorama's reallocation in a prime time slot, is this sort of tat what we must now expect from the programme.

Michael Francis said...

Iain Dale has more stamina than most; I switched off before that moronic presenter went to Germany.

Gavin Whenman said...

In fairness to the BBC, they did point out that the privatised water service is better than the nationalised system in Scotland and NI and the solution was probably to be found in better regulation

Kafka said...

Tried to make a post earlier, which seems to have failed; so here goes.

As others have now said most of what I wanted here's just two points.

One, that all the profits quoted were pre-tax -- no mention of what Gordon's creaming off not going to fix leaks.

Two, the whole thing kicked off as yet another rant about global warming. To see a totally scientific demolition of the whole thing, check out www.junkscience.com

Happy watching.

Anonymous said...

The BBC dared to stand up for the British public rather than the ineffectual badly regulated monopolies with their licence to print money.

What a scandal!! No wonder right wingers are up in arms!

Who was it that was recently talking about the Guardian and Fat Cats?

Fat Cats are those that lap up the cream from the rest of us, like those that run the shambles of the Tory privatisations. The editor of the Guardian is NOT a Fat Cat. We don't have to buy the Guardian. We do have to pay our water bills.

The directors of Thames Water are Fat Cats! How dare the BBC criticise them! How dare Polly Toynbee criticise them!

Tom

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous above, did you actually read what I wrote? You obviously missed this sentence: "Their main target was Thames Water - and a very valid target it is too".

Kevin Davis said...

I turned it off - it was rubbish!!

President Bongo said...

M'bolo!

Ignore the criticisms of the BBC, this is typical right-wingery.

Stick to attacking Panorama, is going down the Michael Moore route; a bombastic style where the facts are ignored, especially if they're inconvenient. It's less information and more entertainment, ever more reliant on images rather than interviews.

Anonymous said...

The falling quality of Panorama has been apparent for some time. When the programme is supposed to be an in-depth study of a subject it is astonishing how little one can learn from watching.

Last night's show I concede went one step further as Panorama became the Mark Thomas Product

greenham woman said...

No Iain this wasnt the worst Panorama ever broadcast...it has been patronising, uniformative and full of fuzzy pointless dramatisations for a long time now. I think Mark Thomas kicked the arse out of "demanding to see the CEO" in his series. At least he was amusing.

Serf said...

Did they mention the cost of EU regulations, and how many billions were spent on conforming to them rather than updating infrastructure?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a telly so I didn't see it, but I confess I used to love this sort of stuff when Mark Thomas used to do it on Channel 4.

But then he's cool, a socialist and even better, swears like a trooper. Not sure this is what Panorama is for though..

Martin Curtis said...

2nd worst ever panorame, the worst was the programme which made allegations about Arsenal, when they had blatantly worked totally within the rules. It was a story without legs which they ran with because they had invested so much time in it.

Panorama is, I am afraid, a reflection of the poor state that the once mighty BBC is in.

Iain Dale said...

Martin, Wrong. That was Newsnight,not Panorama. IMHO it was a superb piece of journlism :). Retreats to bunker...

call me Dave said...

Iain, Couldn't agree more. It was a lazy piece of zero-revealing space-filling cheap-laughs expensive crap television.

Paul Linford said...

Bring back Tom Mangold!

alfie said...

Q: "I'd love to know how much it cost to take that tanker all the way to Essen. Anyone in the BBC care to tell me?

I've a bloody good mind to turn up outside BBC TV Centre with a megaphone and demand an answer...

The problem with the reporter last night - he looked like he'd just stepped right out of 'That's Life' .... I half expected him to whip out a knobbly vegetable that had more than a passing resemblance to Frank Sinatra.

Rick said...

The EU had a problem with water quality in Italy and Portugal so made the harmonisation fetish about Water Quality not Water Quantity.

So now we have zillions of litres of bottled water being consumed whilst high-quality drinking water from the tap leaks into the ground from old pipes.

In some places they insert plastic liners to keep the old pipes in the ground because of the sheer inconvenience of digging them up and replacing.

What do people want ? They got clean drinking water but they won't drink it unless it is in a PET bottle

Martin Curtis said...

I stand corrected, it was Newsnight. But it was still complete trollope - which is why Arsenal were completely cleared.

Didn't agree with the stick you got about it though.

Tim Almond said...

croydonian,

Mark Thomas did do a similar sketch.

Yorkshire Water had a drought on, and he drove a tanker up with the words "A Gift From the People of Ethiopia" and telling them that they'd made a charity record too.

Whether you agree with his politics, the guy's got style. And brass balls.

Man in a shed said...

However, by contrast, the week before was one of their finer moments (Faith hope and charity. But Panorama really misses the in depth interview that used to be at the end.

This is what is wrong with TV documentaries these days - they don't allow for a range of views and the viewer to make up their own mind. (TV is a much blunter instrument than radio - iamges appear as truth, but as Reuters is finding out can be misleading).

Anonymous said...

Iain, Thames Water is a "very valid target."

So why is Panorama doing much more effectively what the opposition should be doing?

Is Panorama the problem here, or the Tory Party?

Tom

Justin Hinchcliffe said...

Well done, Iain. I watched it from start to finish and it was Sun-style journalism from start to finish. I'm a Thames Water customer and have never had any problems with them (that's not to say other don't!). Hope that nutter from Bromley is prosecuted for watering his garden with a horse. The 'garden', incidentally, was full of weeds! (-:

Colin D. said...

Some aspects within the programme were not of the best as one would expect of a programme of this pedigree.
The central issue must be 1."are the water companies ripping us off" Yes!!
2. Is Ofwat effective. Most certainly NOT.
Solution simple, Nationalise!!
For the £3 billion surely any management worthy of the title can get the "problem" sorted, once & for all.
Are you lot rather sick & tired of "the excuse makers" getting FAT off our backs. Kraut or as in our case frog. Nationalise & be buggered withit. Railways Ditto.

Bewildebeest said...

Sunorama - courageous journalists seeking out truth.
Tell the muppet journalist what you think of him.... andy.davies@bbc.co.uk
Anyone know the name of his boss ?

Jonathan Maitland said...

Re: "It might as well have had Jonathan Maitland presenting it..."
Agreed ! Especially since I actually did a "Tonight" piece on the hosepipe ban , and Thames Water ( but without the
pointless receptionist - baiting stunts)....all of four weeks ago.
Glad you like our show Iain: keep watching!

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

"Water leaks" are subject 5 for the "isn't England S***?" brigade.

The fact is its the sharp increase in maximum gross weights (and speeds) of lorries seen in the past 30 years that's done most of the damage to water mains.

Its funny how the media sit back and criticise "doing" industries (like water and railways) when things go wrong. But when some technical hitch on Radio 4 means that "we can't go to the weather" its always "just one of those things".
But if it snows hard and blocks the roads its always "someones fault".

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

anonymous 10:03
-you DO have to buy the Guardian if your looking for a public sector job.
-Another subsidy from the public sector to its mouthpiece that never comes up on Panorama.

Steve G said...

Did anyone spot that the nutter in the garden who was ranting about getting Thames Water to sue him was John Hemming-Clark, who stood in the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election?

He boasts about it on his website, www.faect.org.uk/, which is well worth a visit. The man's clearly a tad eccentric, to say the least.

I particularly liked his observation that 'This result is not a major problem for the Conservatives inasmuch as those that voted Conservative in 2005 this time simply didn't turn up to vote. There were over 17,000 fewer votes cast in the by-election - most of these were previously Conservative voters. So why did they stay away? The answer in 2 words is "BOB NEILL" who, had he made his acceptance speech (described by The Daily Telegraph as "more the words of an embittered loser...") 24 hours earlier, would probably have lost this seat.' (Well, quite).

Of his own performance (442 votes, or 1.5% apparently), he justly observes 'for JOHN HEMMING-CLARK, INDEPENDENT. The only way is up, buoyed on by those voters who were prepared to change from voting for a political party to voting for an independent.'

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the wisdom of Paul Linford.

TM

Anonymous said...

Come on Ian, you know full well the Beeb filled that tanker up with 75 Kurds for the return trip and thus made a huge profit and kept down our licence fees.

Yes it was pathetic 'public schoolboy does tabloid TV' stuff - though the subject was serious and deserved serious treatment. These public utitlities are such inefficient monopolies that whatever the regulator's pretences they are licences for sloth and self-aggrandisement. The worst thing which ever came out of Thatcherism in my view.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

How right you are about the Panorama programme, possibly the worst I have ever seen. In my opinion it was reduced to tabloid"quality" and as for bringing on that tanker and asking for water etc........

Lagwolf said...

Yep. it was pretty dire. I watched the whole damn thing and it was just as bad throughout. They did even bother to hide their prejudice about the privitasation of water.

Neil Reddin said...

Did anyone spot that the nutter in the garden who was ranting about getting Thames Water to sue him was John Hemming-Clark, who stood in the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election?

Couldn't have missed the fact that he was on there - various "voters" in Brom & Chis received a postcard from him last week highlighting his upcoming appearance - even I got one, addressed to "The Voter" ... and I live in a neighbouring constituency!

Hope his geography improves by the next GE.

raincoaster said...

Watering his garden with a horse? Is that some kind of filthy euphemism? Now I'm running off to google "whip out a knobbly vegetable that had more than a passing resemblance to Frank Sinatra" before my mind's eye goes blind.

not Telly Savalas, eh?

Neil Craig said...

Saw it after the pub on Thursday & it didn't look to smart then either. What i did notice was that, for balance, they twice said that Scottish & NI water, both nationalised, have more leaks, worse quality & generally higher prices than the privatised ones.

Were I running a national party committed to free enterprise I would be publicly calling for the BBC to devote a programme of similar length at a similar timeslot to attacking the nationalised water suppliers. Perhaps even suggesting a director if nobody on the Panorama team feels up to it.

You wouldn't get it, of course, but it would be worth the fight & the BBC's excuses would be worth reading.