BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Viewer's report

Peter Barron | 12:27 UK time, Friday, 19 January 2007

This week on Newsnight we showed a remarkable film about cocaine (which you can watch here). It was the first time I'd ever seen in such detail the peasants who make the drug - using nostril-rotting ingredients such as sulphuric acid, recycled petrol and cement - and the gangsters and drug-runners who control and distribute it.

Newsnight logoThe film started life some months ago as a short piece on YouTube made by Matthew Bristow, who lives and works in Colombia. When we announced our Oh My Newsnight film competition, Matthew's mum saw it and urged him to enter. His two minute entry duly came runner up in our viewer's poll and then Matthew contacted us to ask if we would help him make a full length version. Having seen his rushes we readily agreed and, yes, we paid him.

Newsnight's aim is to make the most interesting and challenging films from around the world. Most often that will be done by the BBC's expert correspondents and that will be the case as long as there is Newsnight. But occasionally, when viewers or independent journalists can gather material we never could, or which would take a huge amount of time and expense to achieve, it makes sense.

That's the kind of user-generated content Newsnight is looking for. Let us know if you have it.


  • 1.
  • At 01:26 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • chris wrote:

It was very good indeed - the problem I have is that it has to come via the BBC. I want to see Matthew Bristow's work valued independently of the Beeb because we are all forced pay for it !

  • 2.
  • At 01:37 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Sorry, Peter, but I disagree.

If Paul Mason had done this film, he would have tried to get much deeper into the issue than merely showing how the cocaine is made.

I suspect it would have covered the changes in commodity prices for things like coffee beans. The effect of the 80s 'war on drugs' by the USA. How drug 'warlords' protect their territory and trade through fear and intimidation.

How the astronomical amount of money the trade brings can corrupt local and national government. And whether the weapons they use to control the trade are bought by the west, and if the training is provided by western terror organisations.

Showing a film about making cocaine is fine - it does nothing to inform us about how to solve the problem.

  • 3.
  • At 02:24 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Nicholas Dalby wrote:

The license fee finally put to good use. A fantastic report.

  • 4.
  • At 02:32 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

I suppose it serves me right, but my earlier comments related to the first 'cocaine' film. Now having seen the far superior later film, I have to admit this does address many of the objections I had, as it does go into great detail about the politics and business of the smuggler's trade. Especially the threats and violence used to enforce discipline and the vast sums of money used to lure people into this illegal trade.

  • 5.
  • At 04:09 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Isobel Archer wrote:

I found this film extremely striking, and its perspective very worthwhile. It can be easy to get lost in the economic and global scale of the drugs trade, but to see how cocaine is made and distributed was, to me, fairly astonishing. Showing the end user the poisonous processes used to make the poison they ingest, and the amount of exploitation and misery it causes seems really important. Education surely plays a part in reducing demand, which must be part of any solution; it can't all be done top-down. Cracking! (to use a fairly horrible pun). Completely justified the silly name competition.

I wouldn't want to hang out with chemists mixing caustic soda and sulphuric acid at the same time.... I think someone's trying to keep us confused.

  • 7.
  • At 04:38 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • M. Marquez wrote:

It could be a good idea to also make a piece about peasants who are obliged to produce drugs, to be the first to be jailed by local police, the extensive amount of people who get killed in Latin America and the attendant consolidation of crime gangs, corruption ad structural violence in order to satisfy the drug's hunger of the US. Seems it's always the developing countries who pay the higher cost to satisfy a minority's interests.

It was my favourite film in the "Oh my Newsnight" selections - and now it's even better! Well done Newsnight. Hope we get to see a lot more of Matthew's work for the BBC in the future. :-)

  • 9.
  • At 04:44 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ralph wrote:

What I did see on Newsnight was a wonderful bit of bias with a rude Email being the lead story not Ruth Turner.

  • 10.
  • At 05:16 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Pranab Prakhar wrote:

Its a good Video Journalist work. Support by BBC Newsnight to get it done is worth every Pound spent on the story.
Keep doing your good work.

  • 11.
  • At 09:20 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Daffers wrote:

Excellent film. Well done Auntie. Now show it on the education/schools network, please.

  • 12.
  • At 04:21 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • maggie wrote:

Unfortunately I didn't see the film due to being in Africa at the time.
However, showing such a film can only be good & maybe more on how this & other drugs are made should be shown.

Showing users that the rubbish contained in the stuff they bung up their noses should/would/could make them think more about what they are doing to themselves just for a temporary high.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.