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Panoramalogo fullsize.png
Format Current affairs, documentary
Presented by Jeremy Vine
Country of origin United Kingdom
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC One
Original run 11 November 1953 (1953-11-11) – present

Panorama is the longest-running current affairs documentary series in the world.[1] Launched on 11 November 1953 on BBC Television, it focuses on investigative journalism. Daily Mail reporter Pat Murphy was the original presenter,[2] only lasting one episode after accidentally broadcasting a technical mishap. Max Robertson then took over for a year. Originally the programme was more of a magazine format and included arts features. Richard Dimbleby took over in 1955 and presented it during the late 1950s and 1960s. His son, David Dimbleby, went on to present the programme in later years. Other past presenters include: Sir Robin Day, Sir Ludovic Kennedy and Sir Charles Wheeler. The programme is currently presented by Jeremy Vine.

Panorama set an example for the German magazine show of the same name, which is produced by NDR, and broadcast on Das Erste. Panorama started there in 1961 and is one of the leading political magazine shows.

The theme music is an adaptation of Francis Lai's Aujourd'Hui C'est Toi. (Today It's You). This theme has run since 1971. Prior to this from 1968 to 1971 Rachmaninov's Symphony No.1 in D.Minor, 4th Movement. Then all through the 1960's the theme used was Robert Farnon's "Openings & Endings".


Notable episodes

Arguably the most famous Panorama programme of all was the 1995 interview of Diana, Princess of Wales by Martin Bashir, which occurred after her separation in which she openly talked about the rumours surrounding her personal life. The programme's filming and planning was subject to extreme secrecy with Richard James Ayre, the Controller of Editorial Policy, authorising a series of clandestine meetings between Bashir and Diana.

The programme was responsible for the famous Spaghetti trees hoax, broadcast on April Fool's Day, 1957.

In 1987, the programme "Scientology: The Road to Total Freedom?" for the first time exposed on broadcast television the secret upper-level doctrines of the Church of Scientology.[3] Copies of the portion of the programme featuring an animated retelling of the Xenu mythology widely circulated on the Internet from the mid-1990s onward.

On 14 May 2007, an episode titled Scientology and Me was broadcast. The journalist John Sweeney presented the edition, showing how the Church reacted to his journalistic investigations, including its reaction when he put to members that some people describe the organisation as a "cult". At one point during an interview, the presenter lost his temper with a member of the Church of Scientology. Members of the BBC Trust, the Corporation's independent governors, expressed concern about this criticised edition of Panorama.[4] However, the 2007 Scientology episode was Panorama's highest audience of the current series so far.[5][6]

One of the most controversial broadcasts of recent time was the "Who bombed Omagh?" programme, which named those suspected of involvement in the Omagh bombing. It is believed that the Real IRA attack on the BBC Television Centre was a revenge attack for the broadcast.

In 1955, an edition featured Christopher Mayhew taking mescaline under medical supervision. The resulting programme was never broadcast though the footage and transcripts were later released.

Panorama and Seroxat

Since 2002, Panorama has made four programmes about the anti-depressant Seroxat: "The Secrets of Seroxat" (2002);[7] "Seroxat: Emails from the Edge" (2003);[8] "Taken on Trust" (2004)[9] and "Secrets of the Drug Trials" (2007).[10]

"The Secrets of Seroxat" elicited a record response from the public as 65,000 people called the BBC helpline and 1,300 people emailed Panorama directly.[1]

The leading mental health charity Mind collaborated with Panorama in a survey of those who emailed the programme. Anonymous findings from the 239 responses were sent to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).[2]

The second Panorama programme on Seroxat, "Emails from the Edge", included a report of the survey to which the 239 people responded. It showed widespread experiences of suicidal feelings and other severe reactions, very bad withdrawal symptoms and lack of warnings from doctors. Following the broadcast users/survivors and Mind protested outside the offices of the MHRA.[3]

On 29 January 2007, the fourth documentary in the series about the drug Seroxat was broadcast. It focused on three GlaxoSmithKline paediatric clinical trials on depressed children and adolescents. Data from the trials show that Seroxat could not be proven to work for teenagers. Not only that, one clinical trial indicated that they were six times more likely to become suicidal after taking it. In the programme, Panorama revealed the secret trail of internal emails which show how GlaxoSmithKline manipulated the results of the trials for its own commercial gain. Access to the documents has been gained as GlaxoSmithKline fights a fraud trial in the US.

Some of these previously secret Glaxo documents,[11] featured in the programme were leaked into the internet following the programme's broadcast.

Undercover: Football's Dirty Secrets

On 19 September 2006 Panorama showed a documentary called "Undercover: Football's Dirty Secrets", which alleged payments in English football contrary to the rules of the Football Association, involving:

  • That Bolton Wanderers F.C. manager Sam Allardyce, and his agent son Craig were implicated for taking "bungs" (a backhander, bribe, or kickback) from agents for signing certain players. Two agents, Teni Yerima and Peter Harrison, were secretly filmed, each separately claiming that they had paid Allardyce through his son. Allardyce denies ever taking, or asking for, a bung.[12] The programme was aired on the same night that Bolton beat Walsall 3-1 in the Carling Cup, so Allardyce missed the original showing.
  • Then Portsmouth F.C. first-team coach Kevin Bond, who was first team coach of Newcastle United F.C. at the time of airing, is secretly recorded admitting he would consider discussing receiving payments from a proposed new agency involving agent Peter Harrison. Consequently, Bond was relieved of his duties at Newcastle.
  • Chelsea F.C. director of youth football Frank Arnesen is secretly filmed making an illegal approach or "tapping up" Middlesbrough F.C.'s England youth star 15-year-old Nathan Porritt. Arnesen offers a fee of £150,000 spread over three years as an incentive to move. Both of these allegations are against FA rules.
  • Agent Peter Harrison told the undercover reporter that, to secure transfer deals with Bolton, he bribed Sam Allardyce by offering to pay his son Craig. Harrison is a FIFA-listed agent who is based in the north-east of England.
  • That three different Bolton transfer signings involved secret payments from agents to Craig Allardyce, some when he was contractually banned from doing any Bolton deals. Panorama alleged Bolton's transfer signings of defender Tal Ben Haim, midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi involved secret payments from agents to Craig Allardyce. Allardyce's son quit the agency business in summer 2006, and has admitted in newspaper interviews that his working as an agent might have cost his father the chance of becoming England manager.

The Football Association has asked for any evidence as it tries to rid such action from football.

Sex Crimes and the Vatican

On 1 October 2006 Panorama did an episode on Crimen Sollicitationis, a Pontifical document which sets out a procedure for dealing with child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. It was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope. It instructs bishops on how to deal with allegations of child abuse against priests. Critics claim the document has been used to evade prosecution for sex crimes.

"Daylight Robbery"

Panorama investigated claims that as much as $23 billion (£11.75 billion) may have been lost, stolen or not properly accounted for in Iraq.[13]

The United States Department of Justice has imposed gagging orders that prevent discussion of the allegations.[14] US and other media have reported little on this issue.[15]

"What Ever Happened to People Power"

Shown on 6 July 2009, the programme investigated the increasing repression of peaceful protest by the police in the UK, in particular of environmental protesters. The episode was shown in the context of the aftermath of the G20 protests in London on 1 and 2 April 2009 which led to the death of Ian Tomlinson and many protesters being assaulted. Police also used the controversial “kettling” technique to detain people for hours.


The scheduling of Panorama has, since the 1980s, often been a subject of media debate and controversy, due to the duties of the BBC to provide both on the one hand entertaining programming that appeals to a mass audience, and on the other serious journalism that might have a narrower audience. In February 1985, with the programme being watched by an average audience of just 3.5 million viewers, Controller of BBC One Michael Grade moved the programme from its traditional prime time 8.10pm slot on Monday evenings back to 9.30pm, following the Nine O'Clock News.[16] Despite many protests about this move in the media,[16] Panorama remained in this slot until 1997, although two of Grade's successors, Alan Yentob and Michael Jackson, were known to be unhappy about running 70 continuous minutes of news from 9pm.[16] In May 1997 the Acting Controller of BBC One, Mark Thompson, did move Panorama back half an hour to 10pm, to make way for the sitcom Birds of a Feather, which opened the BBC to criticism that it was side-lining serious content in favour of lighter programming.[16]

In 2000, the programme was moved again, with the 10pm timeslot no longer available due to the moving of the BBC News from 9pm to the later slot. Panorama was moved to Sunday nights, following the news, usually shown at around 10.15pm — labelled by some critics as a "graveyard slot".[17] The number of editions made per year was also cut back, which attracted press criticism for the BBC in general and its Director-General Greg Dyke in particular, as Dyke was the driving force behind the schedule changes.[18][19] The incoming Controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, defended the move, claiming that the programme's audience would have "dwindled" had it remained on Monday nights.[17]

In January 2007 Heggessey's successor, Peter Fincham, moved Panorama back from Sunday nights to a prime time Monday evening slot at 8.30pm, although it was now shorter than it had previously been, running to just half an hour. This decision was at least partly in response to a demand from the Board of Governors of the BBC for the channel to show more current affairs programming in prime time.[20]


  1. ^ "Panorama returns to peak time on BBC ONE". BBC Press Office. 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2008-06-02.  
  2. ^ BBC Radio 2, Steve Wright in the Afternoon 15th January 2006, Jeremy Vine interview
  3. ^ "Scientology - The Road to Total Freedom?". Panorama. 1987-04-27.
  4. ^ Daily Mail, UK, October 6, 2007
  5. ^ Oatts, Joanne. "Journalist's 'Panorama' outburst brings in 4.4m". DigitalSpy. Retrieved 2007-05-15.  
  6. ^ (TV ratings) The Guardian
  7. ^ "The secrets of seroxat". BBC News Online. 2002. Retrieved 2007-02-21.  
  8. ^ "Seroxat: Emails from the edge". BBC News Online. 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-21.  
  9. ^ "Taken on trust". BBC News Online. 2004-09-21. Retrieved 2007-02-21.  
  10. ^ "Secrets of the drug trials". BBC News Online. 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2007-02-21.  
  11. ^ "Want to see some of the documents that Glaxo don’t want you to see?". Seroxat Secrets. 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2007-02-21.  
  12. ^ "Agents claim manager was bribed". BBC News. 2006-09-19. Retrieved 2006-09-19.  
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d Culf, Andrew (1997-05-08). "Birds of a Feather puts Panorama to flight as Sharon and Tracey displace BBC flagship". The Guardian.  
  17. ^ a b Wells, Matt (2000-10-17). "1 m viewers lost as BBC shifts Panorama to Sunday 'graveyard' slot". The Guardian.,,383701,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-20.  
  18. ^ Elstein, David (2000-05-22). "A shameful decision" (Requires free registration). The Guardian.,,360503,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-21.  
  19. ^ Aaronovitch, David (2000-05-16). "You cannot be serious!". The Independent.  
  20. ^ Sherwin, Adam (2006-01-19). "Panorama to take on ITV soap". The Times.,,14934-2276469,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-19.  


  • Richard Lindley (2002), Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride and Paranoia, Politicos, ISBN 1-902301-80-3

External links

"Scientology and Me"

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