Monday 26 May 2014

Policy-based broadcasting

Earlier this month, I mentioned the forthcoming BBC documentary about the tobacco industry. Titled 'Burning Desire', the first of two episodes airs this Thursday and, as suspected, it looks like a one hour campaign video for plain packs...

Peter travels to Australia to look at the industry’s last-ditch battle to prevent plain packaging in which glossy images are replaced with gruesome health warnings. And now, other countries are poised to follow suit, including England and Wales, after fierce lobbying and two controversial U-turns.

I said in the previous post that it is a bit rum for the Beeb to broadcast this politically sensitive programme when a consultation on plain packaging is due any day now. I had forgotten the importance of one particular date. Next Wednesday, June 4th, is the Queen's Speech, which anti-smoking campaigners hope will contain a pledge to bring in this ridiculous policy. Burning Desire looks designed to serve as a little nudge from the state broadcaster a few days beforehand.

Vapers don't get off lightly either. It looks like the second episode will be promoting the (utterly dishonest) Hastings/McKee view of e-cigarettes as being part of a tobacco industry plot.

Peter Taylor has spent 40 years investigating how, in the past, the industry has dissembled and lied – which makes it all the more remarkable he was given rare access to the second-largest tobacco company in the world, British American Tobacco. He talks to their executives and learns how BAT, now openly recognising that smoking kills, has set itself a new core strategy of 'harm reduction', developing a range of less harmful alternatives to conventional cigarettes.

I've been writing about tobacco and the anti-smoking movement for the best part of ten years now. It's a niche subject, but I find it fascinating, and there's more than enough material for a good two hour documentary. I'm hoping against hope that Burning Desire will be a worthy successor to The Smoking Years and Addicted to Pleasure, but I fear it may be more like the Beeb's policy-based hack jobs on minimum pricing and gambling machines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Dave Atherton

It maybe as long ago as 10 years when I saw Peter Taylor's programmes on the BBC about the IRA and UDF on the 'Troubles.' They were a tour de force of detail and revealing the minutiae of the history and inner workings of those organisations.

I fear the worst on Thursday.