This was originally posted with my application for MA Broadcast Journalism at City University, London as an original critique on a television programme within a 200-word limit, along with another one on a radio programme, on 14th March 2011. Wish me luck!
Panorama: Smoking and the Bandits
Date: March 7, 2011
First broadcast on BBC One, then made available online through BBC iPlayer.
This investigation focusses on the financial aspect of illegal smoking imports, identifying tax evasion and highlighting the national deficit directly affecting ‘you’ (the viewer). Sam Poling emphatically notes what ‘we’ will pay in rising NHS costs and to HMRC in order to keep both smokers and non-smokers interested. The variety of cinematic techniques serves to make the broadcast dramatic – jump-cuts, split-screen and atmospheric music are all intermittently employed.
To convey honesty in an interview with an independent expert there are shots which show lighting and camera equipment – breaking down the fourth wall (of the fourth estate!). The top of the programme accompanies a raid on a tenement flat, however we are never told the consequences or sentencing of those arrested.
The episode tracks counterfeit imported cigarettes, with a subsequent investigation into the toxicity of the goods, using ‘exclusive secret footage’. The stock footage is of variable quality and therefore of indeterminable age – the reliability of the report becomes less important than the action of the narrative. Poling admits ‘I did not know the importance of these papers then’ – giving rise to a notion of selective revelation by the narrator for a heightened sense of drama.