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The Documentary Podcast

Download the latest documentaries investigating global developments, issues and affairs.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Covid-19: The cost of keeping schools closed during a pandemic

With thousands of schools still closed around the world, there are increasingly urgent warnings about the impact this pandemic is having on millions of children. Ros Atkins looks at risks of reopening classrooms and the consequences of not doing so.

9mins

20 Feb 2021

Rank #1

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Algeria's plague revisited

A mysterious illness appears out of nowhere. The number of cases rises exponentially, as the authorities attempt to downplay the severity of the disease. There is a shortage of medical staff, equipment and arguments about whether people should wear masks. People are forbidden to leave their homes and many are left stranded in unfamiliar places, separated from loved ones. Albert Camus’ novel The Plague set in the Algerian city of Oran under French colonial rule was published more than 70 years ago. But today it almost reads like a current news bulletin and seems more relevant than ever. This edition of Assignment revisits Oran in the age of the coronavirus and investigates the parallels between now and then. For the time being, it seems the pandemic has achieved something the authorities have tried but failed to do for the past year – clear the streets of protesters. Lucy Ash investigates Algeria’s plague of authoritarianism and finds that the government has been using Covid-19 as an excuse to crack down harder on dissent. Reporter: Lucy Ash Producer: Neil Kisserli Editor: Bridget Harney (Photo: Man using an Algerian flag as a mask at an anti-government demonstration in Algiers on 13 March, 2020. Credit: Ryad Kramdi/AFP/Getty Images)

26mins

6 Aug 2020

Rank #2

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Shipping’s dirty secret

The shipping industry is worth millions to the world economy and we depend on it for most of our goods. Assignment lifts the lid on the dangerous and polluting world of shipbreaking and investigates why ships once owned by UK companies end their lives on beaches in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.(Image: Bangladeshi labourers and docked ships at a shipbreaking yard. Credit: Farjana Khan Godhuly/AFP via Getty Images)

26mins

25 Mar 2021

Rank #3

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The coronavirus and your money

After a year of lockdowns and Covid restrictions, Manuela Saragosa and Devina Gupta take a global look at jobs, pay and financial wellbeing. They look at the support packages from governments around the world and revisit some of those who spoke to the programme a year ago. How have they fared in the past 12 months?

50mins

28 Mar 2021

Rank #4

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The Mapuche – fighting for their right to heal

The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group – a population of more than 2 million people. And, they are fighting for their right to heal. They want Chileans to value their unique approach to healthcare and give them control of land and their own destiny. But, it’s a tough sell when there’s so much distrust and violence between the two communities. Jane Chambers travels to their homeland in the Araucania region in the south of Chile, where she’s given rare access to traditional healers and political leaders. Presenter / producer: Jane ChambersProducer in London: Linda PresslyEditor: Bridget Harney(Image: Machi Juana at her home by her sacred altar. Credit: Jane Chambers/BBC)

26mins

26 Nov 2020

Rank #5

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Karachi's ambulance drivers

In Karachi, with a population of around 20 million people, ambulance drivers are on the front lines of this megacity’s shifting conflicts. Samira Shackle joins one of these drivers, Muhammad Safdar, on his relentless round of call-outs. As a first-responder for more than 15 years, Safdar has witnessed Karachi wracked by gang wars, political violence and terrorism. At the height of the unrest, the number of fatalities was often overwhelming. With no state ambulance service in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation, set up by the late Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1954, stepped in to offer services to the poor. Safdar drives one of its fleet of 400 ambulances: rudimentary converted vans with basic emergency provision. His missions bring him to many of Karachi’s most deprived and troubled areas, revealing the complex social and economic problems at the heart of the country.

27mins

4 Aug 2020

Rank #6

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Inside the brain of Jeff Bezos

David Baker reveals the thinking and the values that made Jeff Bezos the richest man on the planet, and Amazon the most wildly successful company, even in a year when the global economy faces catastrophe. Speaking to senior colleagues within his businesses, longstanding business partners and analysts, David Baker learns the secrets to Amazon's success. As the billionaire creates a huge philanthropic foundation, the programme examines the impact of Jeff Bezos' ideas on the fight against global climate change and the exploration of the solar system, as well as his impact on the media.

27mins

16 Feb 2021

Rank #7

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Compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue has long been an issue for people in the medical and humanitarian professions. People often enter those worlds because of a desire to care, and to be compassionate towards others, but often compassion is tested to the limits. What does compassion fatigue mean for both those suffering from emotional burnout, and those on the receiving end? We hear from doctors, humanitarians, and experts who explain why compassion is a finite resource.

50mins

31 Jan 2021

Rank #8

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What has Nobel done for the World?

Brilliance is a must to win a Nobel Prize, but is that the only requirement? What else does it take to become a laureate? Ruth Alexander tells the stories of those who have been overlooked – in some instances, astonishingly so. Why do some countries, and some academic institutions have a bountiful number of laureates and others none at all?

49mins

27 Sep 2020

Rank #9

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Lisa Montgomery: The road to execution

Lisa Montgomery’s crime was an especially abominable murder: In 2004 in the small mid-West American town of Skidmore, she strangled an expectant mother, Bobbie Jo Stinnett. She then cut open her victim’s womb and kidnapped her baby, who survived the ordeal. Her lawyers argued that she was mentally ill at the time – as a consequence of appalling abuse she had suffered in childhood, including gang rape and torture. They said she was also brain-damaged and delusional. Nevertheless, in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, she paid for her actions with her own life - the first female to be executed by the US federal government in almost seven decades. As a new President assumes office, promising reform of America’s criminal justice system, Hilary Andersson charts the story of this unsettling case, from Lisa Montgomery’s tragic beginnings to her final moments, and finds a nation deeply divided over the issue. Warning: Disturbing contentProducer: Michael GallagherEditor: Bridget Harney(Image: Lisa Montgomery. Credit: Wyandotte County Sheriff / via EPA)

26mins

21 Jan 2021

Rank #10

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Scotland's contested identity

For over three hundred years the union of England and Scotland has held firm through war and poverty but in recent years some people north of the border have asked for a divorce. Elections in May to Scotland’s devolved parliament could return a majority for the ruling Scottish National Party which is seeking a mandate for a second referendum on seceding from the UK. Only seven years ago those wanting independence failed to win a poll on the issue but since then Brexit and the handling of the Covid pandemic have radicalised some voters, especially the young. For Assignment, Lucy Ash visits several communities in Scotland to hear their new arguments for and against the union, and to learn about the differing interpretations of Scottish history, identity and political culture that underpin them. From the east coast city of Dundee which voted so decisively for independence in the last referendum that it was dubbed the “Yes City” she travels to Stirling, the so-called Gateway to the Highlands. Finally, she flies to the isles of Orkney, which have vowed to become independent themselves if the rest of the country does secede from the UK – a sign that the centrifugal forces at work all over Europe could well apply to Scotland itself.Producer: Mike GallagherEditor: Bridget Harney (Demonstrator, with a Saltire bodysuit and flag, at a Pro-Scottish Independence rally in Glasgow, 05 February 2021. The Scottish National Party has adopted the Saltire as its symbol but Unionists say they have just as much ownership of the country’s blue and white flag, also known as the St Andrew’s Cross. Credit: Reuters)

26mins

18 Mar 2021

Rank #11