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Panorama 2008: Review of the year

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Derren Lawford | 21:23 UK time, Friday, 2 January 2009

Seeing as Panorama is on almost every week of the year, you'd be forgiven for having missed the odd episode. But don't worry, if there's still a programme from 2008 that you'd really like to watch, you can do so online.

And if you're wondering what kind of year 2008 was for Panorama, here are some of the highlights...

We started the year with One Click From Capture, a look at how safe it is for young people to be online. As part of the investigation one of our researchers posed as a 14-year-old girl on three social networking sites using the alias Jane Brown. Within three weeks she was being sent unsolicited, highly sexual pictures.

One person in particular using the nickname Swimcoach was so disturbing that Panorama alerted the authorities. His real name was Roger Kenneth Manning a 43-year-old man from a village in Devon. He's now been jailed after pleading guilty to three charges under the Sexual Offences Act. The programme also featured two teenagers Olivia and Ellie who were befriended online by a 55-year-old predatory paedophile, posing as a 26-year-old woman. They now give talks in schools advising young people how to safe online.

The Government waded into the debate about online safety for young people too, appointing Dr Tanya Byron to undertake a six-month review into the risks children face from exposure to harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. One of her key recommendations published in March was the establishment of UK Council on Child Internet Safety. By September it was set up.

Later in the year, the Government themselves were severely criticised in Panorama: Tested to Destruction. Barry Sheerman, the chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Schools, Children and Families slated Standard Assessment Tests (SATs). Schoolchildren expressed their own feelings on SATs and testing for the programme with this poignant cartoon. Less than 6 months later, SATs were scrapped for 14 year olds.

There were a number of outstanding investigations in 2008, but in my opinion the most revelatory films of the year were about the Omagh bombing, Primark, China's relationship with Darfur and Baby P.

In May, after a 6 month undercover investigation, reporters Tom Heap and Dan McDougall exposed UK clothing firm Primark after it emerged that three of their Indian suppliers were using child labour to finish Primark goods. Primark have since sacked them, but despite continuing profits Primark have undoubtedly lost some of their ethical lustre with shoppers voting them Britain's least ethical clothing retailer in a recent survey for The Times. And months after the programme, Primark is still dividing opinion. You can follow one of the many debates about Primark on You Tube.

Hilary Andersson spent months investigating China's covert arms trade and in July provided the first evidence of how China is arming Sudan's killers, for the sake of oil. The day after the programme was aired, Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir was accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

August 15th 2008 saw the 10th anniversary of the Real IRA car bomb which killed 29 people in Omagh. In 2000, John Ware's award-winning film Who Bombed Omagh? named the four perpetrators.

The following year, a car bomb planted by the Real IRA exploded outside BBC Television Centre.

Undeterred, John returned to the case and unearthed new evidence that GCHQ had recorded mobile phone exchanges between the Omagh bombers on the day of the attack. Within days Gordon Brown announced a review of the intelligence material.

Then in November, after months of investigative work, Panorama proved that a senior social worker and police did not want Baby P returned home where he suffered severe abuse and died. Ed Balls reacted swiftly to the furore surrounding Haringey Council's handling of Baby P, sacking Sharon Shoesmith the head of children's services at Haringey and suspending among others, the head of children in need and safeguarding services, Clive Preece, first named by Panorama.

Never scared to try something different, Panorama enlisted unconventional reporters to explore age old problems. Alex James a member of Blur and a reformed cocaine user flew to Columbia to witness firsthand the impact of the drug trade. While Bill Bryson a passionate campaigner for the countryside and against litter, challenged the British attitude towards "rubbish".

The Good, the bad and the ugly side of war were all covered by Panorama this year too. Back on the Home Front saw Ben Anderson catch up with the Grenadier Guards after their posting in Helmand Province, including the likes of Jack Mizon, a young soldier who received a special commendation for bravery. Jack then became the subject of a one hour special about his life in and out of the army.

But Panorama received fierce criticism from the MOD for On Whose Orders? which explored allegations of abuse by the British Army against former Iraqi prisoners who are now claiming compensation. It also revisited the allegations of prisoner abuse surrounding the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa.

Just over a month after the programme, the Government apologised to the family of Baha Mousa.

Meanwhile Alastair Leithead reflected on three bloody years of fighting in Afghanistan and explored whether the Taleban are any closer to being defeated. Panorama went back to Afghanistan later in the year for Jane Corbin's Britain's Terror Heartland. Jane came face to face with two would-be suicide bombers and spoke to generals in the US and Pakistan on the frontline of the War on Terror. In neighbouring Iraq, Jane investigated claims that as much as $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or not properly accounted for in Iraq.

But it was Africa that was the main focus of Panorama's foreign films.

Sorious Samura visited his homeland of Sierra Leone and Uganda to find out why so may people are still living in poverty despite £400bn of aid. Raphael Rowe spent his fortieth birthday in a Congolese jail interviewing rebel soldiers, accused of killing men women and children. And Paul Kenyon followed one of the most dangerous illegal immigration routes into Europe from Libya and caught up with a few of the thousands of migrants seeking a better life

Back in the UK, there was one story that was increasingly dominating the headlines; the economy and its worryingly rapid downturn. Richard Bilton delved into Britain's growing property nightmares in Bursting the House Price Bubble and Property - High Anxiety. Declan Curry assessed the first signs of Britain's troubled economy in Feeling the Pinch. Jane Corbin looked at the knock on effect of rocketing crude oil prices from Surrey to the Shetlands, and we heard how people from across the UK were personally affected.

Then more than 8,000 of you took part in our questionnaire to show how the economic downturn was affecting you in How The Economy Got Personal. While the experiences of people on the wrong end of tough tactics lenders are increasingly using to get their money back and the lengths others are going to avoid paying was the focus of Can't Pay, Won't Pay.
And following a dramatic week of economic turmoil in September, we asked and tried to answer the question on a lot of people's minds - How Safe Is My Money?

But the story didn't end there. The Government's unprecedented £400 bn rescue package of Britain's banks prompted a one-hour special - Britain in the Red: Your Questions Answered. The likes of Robert Peston, Alan Sugar and Stephen Timms from the Treasury were on hand to try to help make sense of what were becoming historic economic events.

Robert revisited the economy for the last Panorama of the year, reflecting on the big economic stories of 2008 and securing interviews with Sir John Gieve, Hector Sants, Alistair Darling and John Varley.

So what was the most watched Panorama of the year?

Well closely followed by Primark: on the Rack and Notes on a Dirty Island was Shannon: The Mother of All Lies which saw the programme secure exclusive access to the investigation, including the police interviews of Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan as well as revealing that social services had branded her an unfit mum but scaled down support.

And that was the year that was...


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