Panorama: Challenge of the 60s, BBC4

Did we like it?
Delicately informative in many parts, redundant in others while the relation to the Panorama programme on which it was based was loose and vague.

What was good about it?
• The two issues most vividly brought to life were the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa, which was illustrated with indignant South Africans in London defending the police opening fire with sub-machine guns, and the disintegration of European colonialism across the rest of Africa, which focused on Tanganyika (later to merge with Zanzibar to form Tanzania).

This episode was framed with an interview between Robin Day and the president of Tanganyika (and later Tanzania) Julius Nyerere about his hopes and fears for the future of his nascent nation. He was optimistic about the former white colonists co-existing alongside the new black rulers, which was well founded.

However, it was not so harmonious in Congo where, after it gained independence from Belgium, a number of whites were murdered. Although, this euphoria was short-lived as “the armies took over – there were 21 coups in the first 10 years [of independence across Africa].”

• While the construction of the Berlin Wall and subsequent oppression of East Berliners is one subject that is common knowledge, it was portrayed here with some shocking new images alongside the usual footage of people desperately running for their lives. The most striking was a building that backed on to West Berlin in which all the windows had been specifically bricked up to prevent escape.

• The Cuban Missile Crisis – if you aren’t familiar with this chapter in the Cold War you probably wouldn’t be watching BBC4 in the first place. However, it did remind you once more than the puerile stupidity of two men, and their advisers, could have created a nuclear holocaust caused by nothing more than petulant pride.
• The only extended excerpt from the Panorama programme from 1960 was two experts chattering about the influence of China and the USSR over the coming decade, which was distinctive because of the way each talked with scowling distrust of the two nations as if a latent xenophobia caused by World War Two still lingered in the air like a virulent fog.

What was bad about it?
• We imagined that this programme would refer back to the Panorama in 1960 which tried to predict how the 1960s would pan out with regard to the major historical, political and sociological issues of the time. But it didn’t. Perhaps one or two nebulous statements would be excised from Panorama and then it was shown out how these Spartan predictions played out against reality.
• But such was the lack of depth in the original predictions there seemed little point in relating it back to Panorama at all, it may as well have been an overview of the most important events of the 60s.
• Other than the periodic recycling of history programmes from generation to generation there appeared to be no specific reason to make it. None of the predictions made stretched much beyond the end of the 60s, and so realistically it could have been made as a retrospective from any time from, say, 1980 onwards.
• India was passed over in the blink of an eye, during which it was intimated that India had a role to play acting as a buffer between the US and the USSR, but didn’t go into enough detail to intrigue.

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