Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Panorama - praise where praise is due

I have previously recorded my rather dim view of the BBC’s ‘flagship’ current affairs programme, Panorama. From the moment Jeremy Vine introduces the show in trademark overblown fashion, I frequently find it sensationalist, gimmicky and facile.

Therefore, I am happy to report that last night’s edition bucked this trend. Rather than populist bombast, Sunday Times’ Moscow correspondent, Mark Franchetti, presented a thoughtful and balanced documentary, in which he allowed Russians a voice to describe how exactly they view themselves and their relations with ‘the west’.

Given the programme’s tagline, ‘Should we be scared of Russia?’, I’m sure many prospective viewers (myself included), expected a diatribe describing an evil and autocratic regime masterminded by Putin and Medvedev. This could so easily have become an opportunity to focus on belligerent, drunk, racist Russians in order to portray the country according to those clichés. Instead Franchetii allowed intelligent, articulate, persuasive opinion to emerge, in order to demonstrate to a British audience, how different the same situation can appear from a Russian perspective.

This was Russia, driven by the same imperatives as western European states, but unique in terms of history, culture and outlook. It was Russia, bequeathed with the same ethnic and border complexities visited on other post Soviet states, attempting to do right by its citizens. It was Russia, with a confident people enjoying the benefits of economic resurgence, after the penury and humiliation of Yeltsin’s tenure as president.

What this programme did remarkably well, was make explicable a point of view which has been too infrequently aired in the media. Rather than simply exacerbating fear, it attempted to foster understanding and that approach can only be lauded.

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