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  The Chatter Box : The Series
"New Europe" censored by sighthound on 5 August 2008 2:41am

Michael Palin documentary on Eastern Europe has been censured by the BBC's governing body.

In Michael Palin's New Europe, the former Monty Python star visited 20 countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain. The first programme in the seven-part series saw Palin, 65, explore Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania.

A viewer complained that the episode, entitled War And Peace, was a political commentary rather than a travel programme and an inaccurate account of the wars in former Yugoslavia. The BBC Trust partially upheld the complaint in relation to accuracy and impartiality.

As a result, Richard Tait, the chairman of the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, has written to the deputy director-general, Mark Byford, to remind programme-makers to check facts and "contextualise statements in order not to mislead viewers".

Palin, a veteran of popular BBC travel documentaries such as Around The World In 80 Days, sparked anger in the programme by stating that "there was no reason for the destruction" of the Mostar Bridge. The committee said there had been a reason for the bridge's destruction, to isolate the Muslim community in West Mostar.

The Trust said that while the BBC One programme "was designed to be an entertaining travelogue through countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the programme-makers still had a responsibility to be accurate when presenting the facts".

"This was particularly important when stating facts about a recent historic event such as the wars of the former Republic of Yugoslavia which were a matter of political controversy," it said. "The comment on the destruction of the Mostar Bridge, in which it was stated that 'there was no reason for the destruction' was inaccurate."

The committee also said separate remarks made by Palin, whose first travel documentary was an episode of the 1980 BBC TV series Great Railway Journeys of the World, were over-simplified.

The viewer complained that the presenter implied that the Serbs were no more to blame than any other group for the conflict. The viewer complained that the programme was the equivalent to implying that the Nazis and the Jews were equally responsible for starting and acting out the Second World War.

The committee said the programme, broadcast in September last year, "could have done more to have highlighted Serbia's role in the conflict".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2008, All Rights Reserved
Re: "New Europe" censored by peripatetically on 5 August 2008 2:27pm
Interesting but ya know, I picked up on personal political views of his as well. . A shame.
Re: "New Europe" censored by crissi3000 on 5 August 2008 5:40pm
I think it's silly that someone complains about it.. I hope that Michael doesn't get any problems now.

I like his documentaries and if someone has a different opinion, then why not?
But why complaining that someone said his one on television...
should we be roboters and control each other, that everyone has the same?

Re: "New Europe" censored by Ken Dunn on 5 August 2008 8:47pm
Michael did say in one of his messages that the extent of the countries covered in the New Europe series made it a very difficult production in the time available. If 5 years had been spent on research and the making of the programme then these oversights would not have appeared.
I censured Channel 4 direct and also through Ofcom for a programme which I thought, to plagairise a phrase from Kenny Everett, in the worst possible taste.
Re: "New Europe" censored by Lofty on 2 September 2008 5:28pm
Three thoughts:

1) "Censored" and "censured" are not at all the same word. I got quite a fright when I saw this headline!

2) I haven't seen the series yet (has it even aired here in Canada?), but I just finished the book. I understood Michael's comment to be more a frustrated comment on the sheer brutality of war. I took his point to be that the destruction of the bridge at Mostar seemed over-the-top and senseless to him. Anyone can agree or disagree, of course, but I think its a bit of a stretch to say that he disregarded any pertinent facts about that war. He certainly didn't come across as a flag-waving sympathizer of Milosevic or Karadzic, and to imply that he is somehow sympathetic to them is pretty sickening. The Trust should be ashamed of themselves.

3) More to the point, isn't this a bit of an "angels on the head of a pin" type of argument? Does the BBC Trust truly have nothing better to do with its time? Surely there are much more egregious errors and ommissions than this that make it to air...
Re: "New Europe" censored by B_Aker on 18 September 2008 10:27pm
I also didn't understand why while visiting Warsaw Michael made no reference at all to the Warsaw Ghetto, which is a critical part of Warsaw history, maybe not something the Poles are proud of, but definitely history... here's a bit of what was "strangely" left out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_ghetto

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