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'Stadiums of Hate': Legitimate and fair

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Tom Giles | 18:28 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

When an investigative current affairs programme like Panorama broadcasts a programme called Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate 11 days before a major football tournament and which reveals shocking images of racist abuse and violence in the host countries - controversy is to be expected.

Former England captain Sol Campbell's reaction to our footage showing Asian supporters being racially attacked inside a ground due to hold Euro 2012 matches was to urge fans and families to stay away "if you don't want to come back in a coffin". Again, a strong reaction - and at some volume - was expected.

The filmmakers accepted that there would be accusations of "scaremongering" or "sensationalism" from some quarters - particularly in Poland and Ukraine. We were ready and willing to defend this film, as we feel strongly that our reporting was both legitimate and fair.

This investigation was undertaken to assess whether Uefa, European football's governing body, was enforcing its own "zero tolerance" policy towards racism and anti-Semitism in the countries to which it had awarded such a prestigious tournament.

Both countries have had reasonably well-documented problems with racist and violent behaviour around domestic football matches, especially Poland, where a Uefa-funded report revealed that in 2010 there were 133 serious hate crimes inside Polish stadiums.

In Ukraine, a lack of official statistics for racist attacks made the situation harder to assess. But after filming at nine football matches in the two countries and recording violence and/or racism at all of them, and following other interviews, it was felt that there was enough evidence, within weeks of the tournament set to begin, to question whether Uefa's policy was not being properly enforced by the two countries' football associations.

We put our findings to both the Polish and Ukrainian FAs.

The Polish FA did not respond while the Ukrainians told us they couldn't help because they were having problems with their email and that our questions were too detailed for them to investigate.

We also put our findings to Uefa and to Michel Platini, its president. He declined to be interviewed but we received a general statement which we broadcast.

Panorama aired the film on 28 May because we felt that the images we had recorded in April and May would speak for themselves.

To date, as far as we are aware, there has been no public condemnation, criticism or expression of concern by any official in the host countries about the racism, racist violence and anti-Semitism we showed in our film. There has yet to be any expression of empathy for the experiences of either the black footballers or Asian fans featured in the programme.

Panorama has instead faced allegations of bias from both governments.

The programme made clear that we were investigating the behaviour of some football supporters and political hooligans - not the peoples of the countries themselves.

In the film we introduced our main Jewish interviewee who lives in Poland as someone who "believes most Poles happily accept other faiths, but that football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society".

The same contributor quoted above has since issued a statement saying he was "grossly misrepresented" and that we had "exaggerated" the scenes we had filmed. As you can read here Panorama rejects his accusations in the strongest possible terms. The contributor also said that our film had set back his ability to argue - as he did in the film - that anti-Semitism in football grounds in Poland "embarrasses the whole country". It's unclear how the film might do that when Poland is apparently talking widely about this issue for the first time in many years.

Officials in Poland have criticised Panorama for not speaking to "international security experts" instead of going to Sol Campbell, the black former senior England international, for his reactions. Mr Campbell was in turn labeled "insolent" by Ukraine's Foreign Minister.

Both governments have moved to reassure fans that they would all be safe for the tournament. In the case of Ukraine, this assurance was given without addressing what happened to the Asian fans we filmed being beaten up last month in one of Ukraine's own stadiums.

Until 6 June, Uefa had not commented on the issues raised in the programme.

England Fans, the official England Supporters' Club, travelling to Euro 2012 called the programme unhelpful and some Poles in the UK have expressed concern that they have been labelled as racist.

But amid all of these accusations against Panorama and the BBC, there is a real fear that the key issue has been missed - the overt and frightening racist and anti-Semitic abuse and violence of the kind broadcast by Panorama is both wrong and deeply upsetting to those on its receiving end.

That was the point of the programme. We set out to highlight a wrong.

Were the beatings that the students from India sustained in Ukraine's Metalist stadium somehow "exaggerated"?

Was the fact that they said the police were of "no use" as they walked off bruised and alone into the Ukrainian night somehow "made up"? Were the monkey chants hurled at the black players we filmed in Poland somehow "sensationalised"?

In Britain, we have been through a long and difficult process of trying to ensure that these practices would be stopped at football games. As someone who went to matches in the 1970s and 1980s and who has long-time membership of a Premiership club, I know that the sort of mass, racist chanting which happened back then is largely unthinkable now in English grounds. But we had to go through a lot of soul-searching and some concerted campaigning by the likes of "Kick it Out" before it did.

I am confident now that if any of the racist incidents we recorded in Poland or Ukraine had occurred here there would have been a massive national outcry. The authorities would have asked for our footage and would look to prosecute those responsible.

Uefa President Michel Platini waited 10 days before saying he was "shocked" by what he had heard of our film, but added that there was nothing he could be expected to do.

He said that despite widespread reporting of our findings on the eve of the tournament, he had not seen the disturbing scenes from our programme. Amid the furore, Uefa has not even asked us for a copy.

Despite this, I am hopeful that Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate will turn out to be positive for the game in the future - and will help contribute towards stamping out racism inside football, perhaps even at Euro 2012 itself - though the complaints of monkey chants against the Dutch squad training in Krakow aren't a great omen.

It's certainly much harder right now for Poland and Ukraine to look the other way when such things happen.

Tom Giles is the editor of Panorama

Panorama: Fifa's Dirty Secrets

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Tom Giles | 18:19 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

There's been a lot of noisy speculation over the last few weeks - none of it generated by the BBC and much of it uninformed - about tonight's Panorama investigation into Fifa.

All I would urge is that people watch the programme and make up their own minds.

I am confident that once they see the evidence unearthed by our reporter, Andrew Jennings, most fair-minded viewers will agree that we are raising issues which are highly pertinent to this week's bidding process and important in revealing the way Fifa conducts itself.

Panorama is not in the habit of raking over old coals for the sake of it; nor are we intent on undermining England's bid for the 2018 World Cup.

I am a football fan - and have been a club season-ticket holder and member for a long time. One of my sons played at junior level for a Championship club. So I'm well aware of how much winning the right to hold the World Cup means to people. I share everyone's passion for seeing the tournament played here.

But if some of the people who are making the final decision are corrupt - if there is a suggestion that they can be bought - how fair can the process be? Given the long period over which this corruption took place and given that the men involved are all still in place, isn't it time that Fifa is properly held to account and its processes made transparent?

Our investigation identifies three Fifa executives who took bribes as part of a wider corruption scandal involving around $100 million of secret payments. We accuse a fourth Fifa boss of continued involvement in the corrupt sale of World Cup tickets.

All four are members of Fifa's executive committee and will be voting on England's 2018 World Cup bid this Thursday.

None of the men has responded to letters from Panorama setting out our allegations.

The three who took bribes received the secret payments from a now defunct sports marketing company called International Sports and Leisure (ISL). For many years it held exclusive World Cup marketing rights - secured in part by bribing sports officials around the world.

Panorama has obtained a confidential internal ISL document listing 175 secret payments made between 1989 and 1999. We understand that most were bribes paid to a handful of senior Fifa officials.

Together, the $100 million of secret payments amount to one of the biggest recorded bungs in the history of world sport.

None of the bribes relevant to Fifa has ever been formally investigated by the Federation - nor by the Swiss courts.

For these reasons, I have never doubted that it would be in the public interest to broadcast this story.

In terms of its timing, we only obtained the list of these payments last month after a secret out-of-court settlement was reached in June 2010 year. That followed an investigation into the ISL bribes by a Swiss magistrate and concluded with unnamed Fifa officials paying back £3.5 million.

It has taken many weeks to ensure that the allegations we are making were properly tested and that all those named were given a fair opportunity to respond.

There have also been calls for us to put the programme out after the vote on the bid. I understand why people feel strongly about us not tipping the chances against England's 2018 bid.

But surely it's right for the British public to be informed about the nature of Fifa and its demands before we win - if we do?

As for the corruption itself, it's difficult to imagine any editor of a news organisation ignoring evidence which points to the man who will host the next World Cup - one of the most powerful men in world football - taking bribes.

There are many payments on our list that cannot be traced because they were made to front companies in Liechtenstein. But in the case of one such company, Sanud, there's a clear lead to Ricard Teixera, the head of Brzailian football.

Our list shows Sanud received 21 payments from ISL totaling $9.5 million (£6.1m). We asked Mr Teixeira whether the bribes had also ended up in his pocket, but he didn't respond.

The second Fifa executive committee member identified by the list of secret payments is Issa Hayatou, the head of African football. His name appears next to a cash payment of 100,000 French francs in 1995.

The third Fifa executive on the ISL list is the head of South American football, Nicolas Leoz.
He was named in connection with two ISL payments totalling $130,000 during court proceedings in 2008 - but the list shows three further payments of $200,000 each. So Mr Leoz was paid $730,000 by ISL.

We also accuse a fourth member of Fifa's executive committee, vice-president Jack Warner, of attempting to tout World Cup tickets.

He was previously exposed by Panorama for selling 2006 World Cup tickets on the black market. Fifa subsequently ordered Mr Warner's family business, Simpaul Travel, to make a $1 million donation to charity "to compensate for the profits it had made through the resale of 2006 Fifa World Cup tickets".

Now Panorama has evidence that Mr Warner used his position to try to help touts obtain tickets for the 2010 World Cup. He ordered tickets costing $84,240 from the Fifa ticket office but the deal subsequently fell through.

This is money that was effectively stolen from football, as it could have been used to fund Fifa's development projects around the world.

This time it could be different though, as Swiss politicians are threatening to take action if Fifa kicks these allegations into the long grass.

The key question now is what, if anything, Fifa will do with Panorama's evidence. Sadly, Fifa's track record suggests this is unlikely to be the case.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter declined to comment when we asked him about the three Fifa executives who had taken bribes.

But he said that a Swiss court case had largely exonerated the managers of ISL: "It is important to stress that no Fifa officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings."

The court case followed an investigation by the Swiss authorities into the collapse of ISL in 2001. Six ISL managers were tried in 2008 for misusing company money. But they were not tried for commercial bribery because that was not an offence in Switzerland at the time.

What Mr Blatter failed to mention, however, is that Fifa officials were the subject of a second criminal investigation by a Swiss magistrate.

He completed his investigation into the ISL affair this June and concluded that Fifa executives had taken kickbacks on marketing contracts. But their names were kept secret as part of an out-of-court settlement which saw them pay back £3.5 million.

David Cameron is joining Prince William and David Beckham in Zurich as the bid process reaches its conclusion this week.

I wish them the very best of luck and if England are successful I hope we will lay on a World Cup tournament that will make us the envy of the world.

And whatever the outcome on Thursday, I firmly believe that we were right to shine a spotlight into the murky corners of Fifa's multi-billion dollar empire.

Tom Giles is the editor of Panorama. Due to legal sensitivities, comments are closed on this post.

The People's Politician

Tom Giles | 14:59 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Another day; another political expenses scandal. Six months on from the worst Parliamentary controversy in memory, the political classes are still reeling from the fallout. Some may even be facing criminal prosecution.

With a general election looming, MPs rarely have been held in lower public esteem. Polling, even before the expenses affair, suggests that an overwhelming majority of the public feel they have "not very much influence" or "no influence" over decision-making locally (73%) and nationally (85%).

The most commonly cited reason is a belief that politicians overlook the public's views:
• "Nobody listens to what I have to say" (29%)
• "Decisions are made without talking to the people" (20%)
(Electoral Commission Hansard Society / Ipsos Mori 2006)

This might be one reason why 17 million citizens who could have voted at the last general election chose not to.

Today, the BBC is helping to launch an new experiment to try and re-invigorate the link between MPs and their constituents - using what's known as "direct democracy" to test how far politicians are willing to do what local people want.

Does the electorate even want the power to influence its MPs' decisions on a daily basis? Do people have time? Do they care? Could this be a long-term way of rehabilitating politics and engaging those who've given up on it? Or will it be seen as just a reaction to this year's scandals?

Ann WiddecombeTwo long-serving MPs - both standing down at the next election and from very different constituencies - have agreed to take part: Ann Widdecombe (Con - Maidstone and the Weald) and Richard Caborn (Lab - Sheffield Central).

Ann starts today with an announcement in her constituency and a new website. Richard Caborn will do the same early in the new year.

For three weeks, they'll try to become as accessible as possible to their constituents - using online tools, social networks and text messaging. They'll aim to find out what issues their constituents want them to champion and turn into real action - whether in Parliament or elsewhere.

The process will be supported by a BBC-commissioned local poll, and online voting on local and national issues - and a vote for the right to petition the MPs directly on those issues.

There'll also be a chance for constituents to comment on the kind of MPs they want. For example, will they want the right to vote out their MP mid-term - using the so-called "power of recall" - as widely discussed this year?

Richard CabornAt a public meeting, the MPs will then explain what they intend to do. This could mean them sponsoring a bill, even voting against the party line. But they'll have to justify in public any decision to go against their constituents' views.

Take a burning national issue like the war in Afghanistan. Would voters want their MPs to urge that troops be pulled out as soon as possible - regardless of the situation in that country? Do they feel that their MPs should champion a "proper" debate and vote in Parliament on our UK involvement, as some have been advocating?

An important part of the project is to test the way technology could change how people think about politics. Both MPs will be given a blog, the ability to vidcast and a Twitter account to post updates (Ann's is here).

It reflects a growing debate (for example, here and here) about the role of representative democracy (where MPs make their own judgements or follow those of their parties) as opposed to direct democracy (where policy is dictated by popular opinion via, for example, referendums).

Some of this debate is around devolving power away from the centre. For example, could we have People's Bills, as well the government's, at the next Queen's Speech?

A BBC2 documentary provisionally titled The People's Politician will be broadcast next year. Before that, we will be posting footage and analysis at the project's blog.

Is the internet really the voice of democracy or an easily-gamed opportunity for those most motivated to make their voice heard?

Both MPs are former ministers. Both have agreed not to seek any personal or party-political gain from the experiment. They won't be paid for taking part and the decisions they take won't be binding on their successors.

Let us know what you think by commenting below or at our blog.

Tom Giles is executive producer, BBC Current Affairs.

Have we got bad language for you?

Tom Giles | 16:58 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Bad or offensive language (as opposed to the politically, socially, legally or even factually contentious variety) isn't usually at the forefront of Current Affairs' concerns.

Panorama logoCertainly not in the way it is for, say, comedy, drama or entertainment. Panorama's historically robust attitude to the subject is best typified by Richard Dimbleby here in 1965 in a clip uncovered by a fellow blogger.

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But the fall-out from the Ross-Brand affair has had a wider impact on what the BBC does. There's been a tightening of pre-transmission "compliance procedures" for all programmes, and e-mails have been sent to all staff asking them to formally confirm they accept BBC editorial guidelines around which this compliance is focused.

The compliance teams themselves are currently being "audited," and an internal Special Task Force examining where "the appropriate boundaries of taste and generally accepted standards should lie across all BBC output" will report in the spring. Blimey.

The BBC is overreacting, complain some. They say it's being too sensitive to criticism from any quarter - this, for example, from Jeremy Clarkson, who's not averse to a little controversy himself. Others feel the BBC has been hopelessly compromised by its association with the likes of Jonathan Ross and needs to re-embrace its traditional, mainstream audience.

So it seemed a legitimate matter of public interest for Panorama to investigate - was the furore generated by Ross-Brand affair a flash-in-the-pan or a glimpse of wider unease about broadcasting standards?

Frank SkinnerWe asked the comedian and broadcaster Frank Skinner to present it - partly because it's his job to decide where he draws the line with his own comedy and partly because he had written thoughtfully about whether swearing had gone too far and had experimented with taking it out of his own act.

We've carried authored or part-authored pieces on the programme before for example, the author Bill Bryson looked at litter in the UK last year but of course there will still be complaints. Frank himself responded to these, slightly tongue-in-cheek, in a newspaper column last week.

The bigger problem with this issue was in the nuts and bolts. Aside from the views above, there are few statistics to help objectively measure it. On swearing, for example, the last major attempt to count the amount on the main terrestrial channels was carried out by Ofcom and the BBC nearly six years ago. That pointed to a sixteen-fold increase in the use of the most serious swear words over the previous decade.

Since then, nothing - even at a time when new digital channels have proliferated and pressures to appeal to a younger audience, distracted by the internet, have risen. Polling audience views is hazardous too. We were limited to discussing swearing after being told that any polling on "offensive material" would need a full breakdown of all the areas that might cover - from sexism to violence to religious offence.

The results of our polling on swearing and offensive language did suggest, however, that the audience was concerned broadcasters hadn't been listening to their views on the subject.

The feeling was that swearing had increased since that last survey in 2003 and that the amount was currently too high. So how will the BBC and other broadcasters actually deal with this audience perception?

Interviewed in the programme, Channel 4 seemed happy to carry on as before - arguing it plays well to their core audience. ITV said they would rein in their own use of swearing as the all-important advertisers saw it as a "family channel" and the BBC would "think harder about the use and purpose" of language.

Whether the Corporation will actually step in to censor material, as of yore - for example, with the ever-risqué George Formby - will be thoroughly monitored. And Panorama may yet resort to the Dimbleby swear-box again.

Tom Giles is deputy editor of Panorama.

Kids and knives

Tom Giles | 09:10 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

There have been few more emotive issues recently than that of teenagers carrying and killing with knives. At its height last year, British coverage of the subject attracted attention around the world - often for its perceived sensationalism.

Panorama logoAnti-knife campaigns - whether by newspapers, the relatives of victims, government
or the police - have become a recurring event, as has the sparring between political parties over the rights and wrongs of knife crime statistics. Here's a few recent cases.

Unravelling these statistics is difficult. The time-lag doesn't help. The latest annual figures for cautions, prosecutions and convictions cover 2007. Categories often overlap and, historically, knife-crimes haven't always been counted separately. Scotland also records their figures in a different way from England and Wales. So interviewing those whose actions are at the heart of all this controversy - the teenagers convicted of murder and manslaughter with knives - couldn't be undertaken lightly. Some would say that it shouldn't be at all. So it's worth explaining how this week's Panorama - Jailed for a Knife - happened.

The reporter Raphael Rowe first approached the Ministry of Justice for permission to do so after talking to a mother whose daughter had been stabbed to death by another teenaged girl. Many months after a harrowing trial, she told him that she was now willing to meet the killer in prison to ask her why she had carried a knife, what had prompted her aggression and anger.

Young offender from Panorama's Jailed for a Knife looking out of a windowFilming or arranging this meeting wasn't possible but, after a long wait, the authorities instead saw merit in allowing Raphael into two selected Young Offenders' Institutions to speak to convicted knife offenders who had expressed remorse for their crimes.

Eight were selected by the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service. Our interviews with five of them reflect a range of crimes - some inner-city and gang-related, some the result of teenage fights in smaller towns. We could never assume that the families of their victims, or the victims themselves, would be comfortable with these interviews. They might find them traumatic and unacceptable. So, wherever possible, we wrote to those affected - via the Ministry's Victim Liaison team - to make it clear what we planned to do.

We said we aimed to challenge the offenders about their behaviour, to throw light onto what had led to their crimes and to show other youngsters, who might be tempted to carry a knife, the consequences of doing so. In subsequent letters, e-mails or phone-calls, some families expressed very strong views about the punishment (or lack of it) they felt these offenders had received - feelings which were put to our interviewees.

It should be pointed out that expressions of remorse and changed behaviour can affect how long offenders continue in prison after their minimum recommended sentence - 12 or 13 years in some cases - has passed. But those we spoke to did appear remorseful, understanding that "sorry" would never be enough. They didn't expect sympathy for the circumstances of their crimes, arguing that sentences could be stronger. Viewers will have to make up their own minds.

It was a sobering four days for the team, including producer Katy Stead and assistant producer, Alison Priestley, seeing young men grasping to understand their crimes, the lives they had destroyed and the grim future many resented them even having. By the end though, they hoped there was some value in trying to warn other young people away from what they had done.

Much later, Panorama commissioned a poll about views on knife crime. It seems to suggest a large majority (especially among 16-24s) could see clear benefit in young people hearing what offenders like our five had to say. We're hopeful there is.

Tom Giles is deputy editor of Panorama.

Pakistan: Britain's terror heartland?

Tom Giles | 08:28 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

It's never easy to make documentaries in Pakistan - especially for journalists who, like those on Panorama, aren't based there.

Panorama logoGiven the startling access Jane Corbin and her cameraman/producer Nikki Millard got - not only to the troubled areas around Peshawar, but also to the Pakistan army's battles with militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taleban in the tribal areas - the new civilian government at least appears serious about showing (some) of what it's up to.

And, despite a war of words over the Americans' use of Predator drones to target militant bases in these areas, Pakistan's efforts have so far been welcomed by many in the US. And that matters. President-elect Obama has made a great deal out of promising to shift the focus of the "War on Terror" to Afghanistan.

Many are sceptical that he can pull off what will be one of the biggest issues of his administration. So both Washington and London will be exerting maximum pressure to ensure that future troop deployments won't be undermined by a porous Afghan-Pakistan border and an ambivalent Pakistani government.

Just how damaging this ambivalence has been in the recent past is eye-poppingly chronicled in this, highly-influential book. None of which makes the job of reporting or filming there any easier.

Jane Corbin with Pakistani familyJane and Nikki took sizeable, if considered, risks in getting some of their footage. They arrived in Peshawar - already a very tense city - on the day an American aid worker was shot dead and an Iranian diplomat kidnapped.

There are regular threats to Western journalists in Kabul too. So there had to be a clear reason to take such risks. The title, Britain's Terror Heartland, gets to the nub of it. Obtuse - even provocative - perhaps, but the facts and figures bear it out.

Separately, Gordon Brown stressed this on Sunday. British security services are believed to be monitoring some 2,000 individuals - and an estimated 30 active terror plots - the majority connected to Pakistan in some way.

Perhaps as a consequence, we also had to obscure or drop the identity of at least one person in the film for legal reasons. This will be a sensitive, challenging, subject for a long time to come.

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