Who won Monday's current affairs showdown?

TONIGHT, 8-8.30pm Ann Widdecombe v The Hoodies I like TV that tells me things I don’t already know. Go on – surprise me, shock me, upset me, move me, challenge my prejudices. At its best, Tonight with Trevor McDonald often achieves that. Certainly, the council estates featured in Monday’s Tonight were grim places. Cowering residents were trapped in their own homes, terrified by gangs of ‘hoodies”.

The show unleashed the redoubtable, and always watchable, Widdecombe to listen to the tales of woe from elderly residents as she spent a week on the estate. But we learned little new.

Sadly, this was no repeat of the classic World in Action where then-Tory MP Matthew Parris was challenged to live on benefits for a week. Widdecombe tried to engage the ‘hoodies’but got little out of them. Maybe more will be revealed in the second part on Friday, but I learned little about the state of Britain or anything much new about Ann Widdecombe. The Tonight team has had many successes over the years. Real scoops and real-life stories told in a way that keeps an ITV1 audience watching in peak time. But this wasn’t the show’s finest half-hour.

Ben Rayner Senior programme editor (London)

Al Jazeera International PANORAMA, 8.30-9pm IVF: The Baby-making Boom Roger Corke knows how to make slick, fast-moving current affairs. Kate Silverton knows how to present it. Welcome to Real Story book-ended by a bloke in a college scarf.

Don’t worry – the first edition of Panorama doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly a manifesto commitment, is it? Is it?

A month ago, Robert Winston was presenting A Child Against All Odds – Whatever It Takes, featuring ‘controversial’IVF doctor Mohamed Taranissi. Now he’s a witness for a medical prosecution I don’t care about, and I’m an IVF parent. One of the weak, pathetic people who’d do anything for a child.

IVF regulation is a joke. If you want to escape it, jump on an aeroplane. Go to the right country and you can even choose the sex. Didn’t they explain that? It’s BBC1, you wouldn’t understand.

Don’t blame Jeremy Vine. He’s just Fiona Bruce with irony. Don’t blame George Entwistle. He didn’t slice and dice Panorama for its present slot. Don’t blame Peter Fincham. He just slapped a new name on Real Story, changed the format and stuck it on later. Funny, they still put SPQR on the drain lids in Rome. But there is no Senate. And no empire either.

Adrian Monck Journalism professor, City University DISPATCHES, 8-9pm Undercover Mosque It’s tempting to bemoan Panorama’s decision to chop the show to 30 minutes, but Dispatches showed less is often more. The reporter attended talks at mosques run by key organisations claiming to be ‘mainstream’and found preachers condemning integration, democracy and homosexuality. The hour limped on with little new or revealing information. So some Muslims hate non-Muslims. Some Christians hate gays and some Jews hate Arabs, but broadcasters don’t feel the need to make hour-long programmes insinuating that entire religions are to be mistrusted.

The irritating background music, which cranked into gear whenever a preacher used the word kaffir or kuffr, gave the feel of a cheap Fox News report. Patronising in the extreme, the decision to make dramatic cuts to footage of women in hijabs and burkhas whenever ignorant mullahs spouted off about male supremacy, was bewildering. Does Dispatches think the majority of viewers equate the hijab with the subjugation of women? I expected a huge pay-off. ‘Our programme has uncovered bigotry and intolerance,’it concluded. What else would one expect from an hour-long programme about religion?

Zoe Smith, PG broadcasting reporter

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