Monday 30 July 2007

Panorama Protects the Children

The BBC's Panorama team just aired a fairly weak investigative report called "Children's Fight Club" that did a very poor job of presenting a difficult issue. It was very heavy on the "we must protect the children" hyperbole and very light on any analysis of the potential wider impact of the extremely simplistic solutions that they presented as mechanisms to prevent this style of distribution of abusive video. This is all the more depressing because there is a serious social question behind the popularity of this material that needs to be analyzed and understood.

There is a real conflict here between society's necessary limits on acceptable behaviour and our desire to protect both freedom of expression and the freedom of private citizens to publish contentious material. The producers completely failed to indicate that there were any issues at stake other than the fact that videos of children brutally fighting each other can be found on the web and most of those should be removed.

Panorama seems to have become less reliable recently. While they still produce some great material such as their investigation into the bribery of a Saudi Prince in order to ensure a multi-billion pound deal for the British arms industry and the quite excellent report by John Sweeney into Scientology they have also had a few clangers in the last year. The abysmal
drivel on "WiFi Pollution" is possibly the worst tech reporting I have ever seen and their coverage of Bob Woolmer's death at the Cricket World Cup was incredibly ill informed and eventually turned out to be totally inaccurate (not that you can tell from that link).

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