8 December 2007 | ix-viii-ix
An example of excellent investigative reporting
Dispatches is a highly acclaimed British documentary series, shown by Channel 4, that probes some of the defining issues of our time. It essentially takes you behind some of the stories you see on the news to establish "what's really going on". Along with the excellent "Unreported World" series it is some of the best investigative reporting and aggressive documentary making currently produced on British TV, no small feat considering the prestige and reputation for thoroughness internationally of British documentaries as a field.
Recently the show has slipped into less intellectual territory to pursue sensationalist, attention-grabbing headlines. The show "Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola" typifies this for me, purporting to show the link between Coca-Cola and various human-rights abuses it is responsible for. While the show has always had a left-leaning slant it is usually more balanced and I doubt there is anyone in the Western world who hasn't seen at least one corporation dragged through the headlines for the sake of public disapproval. This doesn't mean the show lacks an edgy, gritty feel, but nowadays it seems more interested in publicity then the cutting-edge of world affairs, which make some of its themes and arguments a bit dated (but does spice things up a bit in a "Michael Moore" sort of way!), and, if you are unfamiliar with the series, unapologetically anti-American. The story (referring to the "Coca-Cola" program) about Coca-Cola's marketing to the Third Riech was all well and good, but I'd heard it all before, along with IBM's (much more thought-provoking) alleged culpability in the Holocaust, and I can remember thinking how earnestly the link was made between the marketing of a soft drink and Adolf Hitler's plans for world domination!
The above paragraph is my own personal grumble at the series, and you can only really pick apart a show when it has totally involved you in it's themes, so please don't let it detract from your enjoyment of what is still an excellent and influential documentary series.