North Korea Documentary Caught in Controversy THR
The BBC said it is going ahead with plans to air a documentary about North Korea despite a controversy that has flared up over the production.
The broadcaster has come under fire from the London School of Economics (LSE) over using its students to gain access to the country and allegedly putting the students at risk, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“BBC journalist John Sweeney and other reporters snuck into the country posing as LSE students to gain access for an episode of the broadcaster's flagship current affairs program, ‘Panorama,’ which is scheduled for broadcast on BBC One [tonight],” the piece reports. “For its part, the BBC said it had made the students -- traveling to North Korea with the state's official OK -- aware of the dangers, which included possible detention and prison if discovered.”
LSE Chairman Peter Sutherland asked the BBC to spike the documentary, “North Korea Uncovered,” but that request was rejected by BBC Director General Tony Hall, the piece reports.
Hall reportedly said that the program should be televised because of “a clear public interest in reporting on the escalating situation in North Korea,” THR reports.
“Sweeney himself told BBC News that the students had been fully informed of the risks involved so they could make an informed decision about the potential danger and whether or not they would go,” the report notes. “But the LSE said they had been deliberately misled by the BBC, and challenged the corporation's risk assessments.”
The piece notes that foreign journalists are typically denied visas by North Korea, while students are allowed in.
“Sweeney and two other journalists spent eight days in the country in March with the LSE group on a trip ostensibly arranged by the university's international relations department,” THR reports. “The LSE said it first became aware of the true nature of his visit last Tuesday during a meeting with BBC staff. The university said North Korean authorities alleged that Sweeney had described himself on his visa application as an ‘LSE student, PhD in history’ and gave as his address a room number that is used by a member of its academic staff.”