[KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in NorthKorea

Robert Winstanley-Chesters gy07r3m at leeds.ac.uk
Mon Apr 15 12:16:43 EDT 2013

Very rare that I post to lists like this (rather than just being a passive reader), levels of discourse/spats much much higher than my "pay grade". but felt pretty compelled to respond given that I have been listening to radio 4 for the past seven 8 days or so waiting for this to break, and its breaking is both crushing disaster, disappointment and annoyance all at the same time. I heard Sweeney first talking about this edition of Panorama on BBC Radio 4's PM program last monday I believe. He was ridiculous during this interview, sounding very much the cold war warrior, like JF Dulles had put down his binoculars and actually managed to smuggle himself across, and both portentously and pretentiously refused to tell Eddie Mair (the presenter of PM), how he'd got in to the DPRK, like it was some highly dramatic 'Argo' style cloak and dagger exercise. I can't stand the man, anyway as he's turning into a complete blusterer in his old age, but even I though maybe the rapidly diminishing Panorama office could have pulled off something special this time...Since that point however its revealed that the BBC is trying to dress up going on a 'conventional' package tour across the DMZ, of the kind that's available to nearly everyone who's not a journalist (or an Israeli), for a princely sum and potentially having to put up with Hotel Sosan's dining room decor, as serious investigative journalism. Panorama used to be quite a profound and important show at times when I was young, but like much of the investigative output of the BBC these days its in serious decline, and this ridiculous episode is nothing more than symptomatic of that. The response of the BBC's higher echelons to the whole thing, utter obfuscation, confusion and pompous blustery mud-slinging in the direction of the LSE students has echoes of the denouement of the previous Director General George Entwistle's short reign when he was hoisted by his own ridiculous petard by John Humphrey's on the BBC's flag ship Today program. Having just seen a frankly silly photo of "Dr Sweeney" in "disguise" posing at Panmunjon with a KPA soldier, his disguise being no more than a few weeks beard growth I imagine the DPRK authorities knew exactly who he was and that the LSE students weren't really in that great a danger...but the dressing up by the BBC of something that's analytically nothing in a fit of hyperventilation and hyperbole is the real sadness for me. Why bother doing any serious investigation, analysis or critique when 'rollback' rants will do. I have no idea of the level of debriefing/discipline those local guides/officials/bureaucrats will be subjected to given all of this, but like Professor Frank and others I agree they should be the focus of our real concern in this whole situation, they don't get to go home and pontificate like "Dr Sweeney".

That said I'll be watching at 20:30GMT, just to see if their 'secret' cameras picked up any interesting posters relating to new environmental projects...such is my wont.

Robert Winstanley-Chesters (University of Leeds)

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