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File on 4

Award-winning current affairs documentary series investigating major issues at home and abroad

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Superbugs

In the first of a new series, File on 4 asks whether recent stark warnings about the threat posed by growing resistance to antibiotics have come too late.The Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has painted an apocalyptic picture where routine operations could become deadly in just 20 years if we lose the ability to fight infection.But the programme discovers growing concern among doctors that bugs found in our hospitals have already developed the ability to withstand drugs which are effectively the last line of defence.Has the Government drive to eradicate MRSA and C-Difficile left the back door open for more challenging strains of superbug to take hold? Does the health service know why numbers of healthcare infections of E. Coli are rising? And where are the new medicines to tackle the resistant strains? The programme hears there's little incentive for drug companies to produce new antibiotics because they won't be able to make enough money.Allan Urry meets the medics on the front line in the battle to stop infection killing patients. Can the NHS win the war against the microbes?Producer: Paul Grant.

37mins

21 May 2013

Rank #1

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HS2: Winners and Losers

The government is stepping up its support for HS2, the high-speed rail project due to link London and Birmingham by 2026 with extensions to Manchester and Leeds by 2032. The cost is officially estimated to be £42.6bn and could rise to more than £51bn if, as expected, the scheme incurs VAT. Opponents foresee further increases and have predicted an eventual bill of £80bn for taxpayers.Who stands to gain from the project and who will be the losers? The government has published detailed maps of the route to be taken by the first stage, leading to calamitous falls in the value of many nearby properties. Towns and cities which are near the route but not linked to HS2 fear that their economies will suffer as businesses are attracted to Birmingham and the northern ends of the line. Current fast train services are due to suffer drastic cuts in the wake of HS2 and some major development plans are now deemed to be at risk.Meanwhile, economic advisers in the three major cities are planning for billions of pounds worth of benefits as travel-times and congestion on the existing network are reduced.Gerry Northam reports from areas which expect to benefit from HS2 and those which could lose out and asks what lessons can be learned from the impact of Britain's first high-speed rail project - HS1 in Kent.Producer: Ian Muir-CochraneEditor: David Ross.

37mins

8 Oct 2013

Rank #2

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Illicit Arms Trade

The recent conviction of an arms broker from Yorkshire has raised serious concerns about the murky world of the international weapons trade. Gary Hyde was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for one of the largest illegal arms deals ever uncovered: 80,000 guns and 32 million rounds of ammunition shipped from China to Nigeria - enough to equip a small army. But no-one knows where they ended up. Britain has strict regulations governing the sale and export of firearms, so how did he manage it? Where have the guns gone? File on 4 investigates the British arms dealers brokering weapons for some of the world's most dangerous regimes. Some have done work for the Ministry of Defence. One was even a firearms advisor to the Home Office. Allan Urry asks what this means for the UK's licensing and arms export regimes, claimed to be among the best in the world. Producer: Gail Champion.

37mins

15 Jan 2013

Rank #3

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The therapy business

When BBC reporter Jordan Dunbar sought help for his mental health he was told he'd face a long wait on the NHS. So like thousands of others he decided to go private. In this edition of File on 4 Jordan reveals how one shockingly bad experience made him question what protection the largely under-regulated therapy industry gives its patients. He discovers there are no laws against anyone operating as a therapist, psychotherapist or a counsellor in the UK. Many have set themselves up after completing cheap online courses and, as the NHS struggles to cope with demand, the private therapy business is booming. But Jordan discovers at the same time there's been an increase in the number of serious complaints made against psychotherapists and counsellors and finds gaps in the system of regulation for those professionals in whom we entrust our mental health.Reporter - Jordan DunbarProducer - Rob CaveEditor - Carl JohnstonImage credit; Jane Winder

36mins

24 Sep 2019

Rank #4

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Lost on the line: The county lines gangs recruiting girls

New figures have revealed at least four thousand young people are currently caught up in county lines – meeting orders for heroin and cocaine placed on mobile phone ‘deal lines’. They’re transporting drugs from cities to rural and coastal towns, and carrying weapons too – knives, hammers and acid.Many find themselves selling drugs in a strange town. Trapped, too scared to leave. Increasingly, when police raid the ‘traphouses’ where the drugs are held, they’re finding girls. But how many young women are caught in the county lines? Some are being recruited online for their ‘clean skins’ - a lack of a criminal or gang connection – so they’re less likely to be known to police and stopped. Others are used to launder money or facilitate travel and accommodation.The focus on boys working for the lines means girls have often been overlooked. Police chiefs guess 10 to 15% of children involved are girls. But they admit they have no real idea of the number of girls trapped in this violent world. File on 4 hears the female view from the county line, told by girls and women who’ve lived the life and witnessed serious violence. They reveal the particular reasons gangs want girls involved, as county lines become more sophisticated. Girls are less likely to be stopped, or undergo intimate searches by police. They are trapped through sexual violence and threats to kill. But with few projects offering specialist support to female members of county lines, are girls more at risk of being dragged back into the gangs?Reporter, Jane DeithProducer, Emma FordeEditor, Carl JohnstonImage credit; cindygoff\Getty

36mins

15 Oct 2019

Rank #5

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Counting the Cost: Antidepressant Use in Children

More antidepressants than ever before are being prescribed to young people in Britain, despite fears that they can cause harm in some cases.What are the driving factors behind the increase? Is there any merit to claims the drugs are ineffective - and, in some cases, have serious side effects in children? And is the NHS providing the proper support to young people affected by mental illness who are turning to medication to cope?This, however, is not the first time a surge in the rate of antidepressants being prescribed to young people has been deemed a cause for concern. In 2005, in response to public concern, prescription guidelines were introduced. They included step-by-step instructions for medical professionals who treat patients under 18 years of age; providing, for the first time, standard treatment protocols. In turn, the number of antidepressants being prescribed across the UK declined for a period. But, now, some thirteen years later, the numbers have surpassed pre-NICE guidelines levels - and show no signs of slowing. And there's evidence that the guidelines themselves are being ignored in some cases.Paul Connolley investigates the causes and risks of an increasing reliance on medication.Reporter: Paul ConnolleyProducer: Carl JohnstonEditor: Gail Champion.

37mins

24 Jul 2018

Rank #6

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The Secrets of Smyllum Park

Over many generations the Catholic church provided shelter and care for vulnerable children whose families had been broken by death or poverty. But many of those who grew up in these orphanages claim the care they offered amounted to years of serious beatings and emotional abuse which scarred them for life.File on 4 investigates one such former institution, Smyllum Park in Lanark, uncovering new evidence of alleged abuse and raising serious questions about child deaths at the orphanage, before it was closed in 1981. In Scotland, the ongoing child abuse inquiry has vowed to get to the bottom of what happened at Smyllum Park and other children's homes but it has been beset with delays, resignations and claims of political interference. File on 4 asks whether the inquiry is digging deep enough to uncover the truth about what happened at Smyllum Park and why it has taken more than 50 years for the truth to come out.Producer: Ben RobinsonReporter: Michael Buchanan.

37mins

12 Sep 2017

Rank #7

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Opioids: A Painful Prescription?

Opioids like morphine, tramadol and fentanyl are super-strength painkillers. They’re often prescribed by doctors for chronic pain, despite little evidence to say they’re helpful in it's treatment. Now, there is a growing recognition that over-prescribing of these drugs has led to addiction, harm or even death. Reporter Anna Cavell examines what's led to the increase in the prescribing of these powerful painkillers in the absence of good evidence to say they work in the long term – and investigates whether cynical marketing tactics by pharmaceutical companies could have helped to fuel the UK market. As a government review into the growing problem of prescription drug addiction in England hits delays, we hear from those caught up in opioid fuelled addiction, as well as those tasked with helping people hooked on painkillers to come off them safely. Producer: Alys HarteEditor: Gail ChampionPhoto credit: Getty images

36mins

14 May 2019

Rank #8

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About a Boy - The Hidden Victims of Grooming

What happens when your teenage son is targeted by abusers? File on 4 tells one family's story of fighting the authorities to get support and justice after a 13 year old boy was aggressively groomed by scores of men, aged from their 20s to their 50s. It is a shocking story of opportunities missed, meaning the boy endured assaults by multiple men for years. We look at the impact of that sustained abuse on him and his parents, who were desperately trying to shield him from harm. He says he was dismissed, and even blamed by authorities responsible for protecting him.Why were they so let down? And have the police been slow to get to grips with cases of child sexual exploitation when they involve boys? One safeguarding expert tells the programme: "Policy is not matching practice on the ground. It was completely missed that this boy was a child. We need to lift the lid on what is going on when the victims are boys." Are boys on the radar of authorities or are they grooming's hidden victims?Reporter: Alys HarteProducer: Sally Chesworth.

37mins

18 Jul 2017

Rank #9

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The Billion-Dollar Aid Question

As the crisis in Syria deepens and refugees flock westwards, the UK government insists it is helping with a £1.1bn aid package to neighbouring countries - but is it being spent wisely?Simon Cox tracks money going from the UK to projects on the ground in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, trying to find out how much eventually gets to refugees. It's easy to see how funding an NGO to build new homes for Syrians is money well spent. But can the same be said for the hundreds of millions of pounds that go through the United Nations?The programme hears from aid workers, UN officials, refugees and UN investigators about cuts to food rations against a backdrop of high salaries and overheads.So is the UN up to the job of managing a modern-day refugee crisis?Producer: Lucy Proctor.

37mins

27 Oct 2015

Rank #10

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Britain's Plutonium Mountain

The Government is currently deciding what to do with the UK's civilian plutonium stockpile - the largest in the world. Some are concerned that it could become the target of terrorists intent on making a dirty bomb.The stockpile has come from nuclear waste that was reprocessed to extract plutonium which was to have been used to power a new generation of fast breeder reactors. But that project failed to be finished and now just over 100 tonnes of it is being stored at Sellafield in Cumbria. The stockpile grew even more when the UK received imports from Japan and Germany which it had hoped to convert into fuel - again this project has failed to deliver.The Government is considering a number of options.Convert the plutonium into mixed oxide (Mox) fuel and then burn the fuel in conventional, nuclear reactors. This would involve the construction of a second Mox fuel plant at Sellafield despite the fact the first plant failed to produce any significant amount of Mox and was closed in 2011.Burn the plutonium in a new breed of Prism fast reactors. But critics say the technology is not proven and therefore risky.Treat it as a deadly waste product and bury the plutonium currently stored at Sellafield deep underground for thousands of years. Again critics say burying waste is risky and even then the plutonium would have to be treated before it could go into the facility. Supporters of plutonium as fuel still claim that would be throwing away a potentially valuable asset. On top of that we are not likely to have a repository for decades and very few local authorities have volunteered to consider having it in their back yard.Rob Broomby investigates the difficult questions facing the Government whose decision will potentially bring in a bill for the taxpayer of billions of pounds.And how much of gamble will it be choosing what to do with this most deadly of substances?Producer: Ian Muir-Cochrane.

37mins

19 Feb 2013

Rank #11

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Bitter Brew

With the rise in ethical consumerism, File on 4 explores the hidden suffering of tea workers in Africa. Attacked because of their tribal identity, reporter Anna Cavell hears harrowing stories of murder, rape and violence and asks whether their employers, Unilever, could or should have done more to protect them from the violence. Update 30 July 2019: The Supreme Court has now refused the tea pluckers leave to appeal against earlier judicial decisions which didn’t go in their favour. This was the last legal avenue open to them in England. Lawyers acting for the workers say they now plan to discuss the case with the UN Working Group for Business and Human Rights.Producer: Nicola DowlingReporter: Anna CavellEditors: Gail Champion & Andrew SmithPhoto credit:; carefullychosen\Getty Images

36mins

9 Jul 2019

Rank #12

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Paying the Price - Private Hospitals

For many NHS patients, being referred for private treatment can sound quite appealing; you'll often be seen and treated quickly, with a more luxurious menu option to peruse in the comfort of your private room.But when it comes to the medical treatment, are patients getting the same level of care? Are private patients just as safe as those in the NHS? And when things do go wrong, how willing is the private sector to admit to mistakes?In this programme we hear from families whose loved ones died following surgery in a private hospital that was paid for by the NHS. The deaths reveal how some private hospitals have no emergency cover for when things go wrong. To secure a contract with the NHS, private providers must deliver services to an equal standard of care. In this episode, File on 4 asks whether the NHS can be sure its patients are safe in private hospitals. Photo credit - Getty Creative Images.Reporter: Alistair Jackson Producer: Kate West Editor: Gail Champion

37mins

11 Oct 2018

Rank #13

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The Spy in Your Pocket

Anti-obesity campaigners in Mexico, human rights advocates in London, and friends of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi all claim they’ve been targeted by surveillance software normally used by law enforcement to track drug-dealers and terrorists. File on 4 reveals compelling evidence that software is being used to track the work of journalists, activists and lawyers around the world. Paul Kenyon investigates the multi-billion pound ‘lawful surveillance’ industry. Sophisticated software can allow hackers to remotely install spyware on their targets’ phones. This gives them access to everything on the devices – including encrypted messages – and even allows them to control the microphone and camera. So what are the options for those who are targeted and is there any way to control the development and use of commercially available software?Presenter: Paul KenyonProducer: Joe Kent.Photo credit; Valery Brozhinsky\Getty

37mins

11 Jun 2019

Rank #14

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Deadly Drugs

What's behind the recent death of a clubgoer in Manchester who's believed to have taken a bad dose of the drug ecstasy? He's one of 12 in the area in the last year who've died after using illegal stimulants with toxic new additives, prompting the Government's Chief Medical Officer to issue a formal alert. Police are concerned organised crime is hiring backstreet chemists to cook up their own toxic amphetamines. Allan Urry investigates.Producer: Carl Johnston.

37mins

29 Oct 2013

Rank #15

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The Orphanage Business

Uganda is a country that has seen massive growth in the number of 'orphanages' providing homes to children, despite the numbers of orphans there decreasing. It's believed 80% of children now living in orphanages have at least one living parent. The majority of the hundreds of orphanages operating in Uganda are illegal, unregistered and now are in a fight with a government trying to shut them down. Dozens on the government's list for closure are funded by charities and church groups based in the UK. With widespread concerns about abuse, trafficking and exploitation of children growing up in orphanages are funders in the UK doing enough to make sure their donations aren't doing more harm than good?Reporter: Anna CavellProducer: Kate WestEditor: Gail Champion

36mins

16 Jan 2019

Rank #16

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Winging It?

The UK's Military Flying Training System trains pilots on aircraft from fighter planes to navy helicopters. It takes years for trainees to get their wings. But delays in the system, mean many pilots and crew are 'on hold', waiting months, often years to take to the skies. File on 4 investigates the reasons for the hold ups. What's the impact of these delays on the public purse and on our military capability?The government's promising a beefed up armed forces, including two new Typhoon squadrons and F35 jets. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson says the UK needs to be ready to use 'hard power' or risk being seen as little more than a paper tiger. But with the MoD's flying training still not at full throttle, will a lack of pilots undermine our military capability?Reporter: Jane DeithProducer: Mick TuckerEditor: Gail ChampionPhoto Credit: Christopher Furlong\Getty

37mins

5 Mar 2019

Rank #17

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Police Protection? The Murder of Kevin Nunes

Fifteen years ago, promising young footballer Kevin Nunes was shot dead on a country lane in Staffordshire. Five men were convicted of his killing, and jailed for life. But just four years later, their convictions were quashed, following concerns about the way police handled a key prosecution witness. The Court of Appeal Judge said it appeared to be "a serious perversion of the course of justice," and an investigation was launched into misconduct claims against four of the UK's most senior officers.Now, as the report into the police investigation is finally released, File on 4 speaks to those at the centre of the saga. Will the family of Kevin Nunes will ever get the justice they seek, and what does the case tell us about police transparency and accountability?Reporter: Phil MackieProducer: Laura Harmes.

37mins

17 Oct 2017

Rank #18

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Facial Recognition

File on 4 has been tracking the roll-out of facial recognition tech across Britain’s streets, shopping centres and football grounds.The Metropolitan Police has announced it will use live facial recognition cameras operationally for the first time on London streets. The force sees the technology as a vital tool in the fight against crime. But privacy campaigners say it's a 'serious threat to civil liberties.'The pace is frenetic – new computer systems can watch thousands of people at once, with the most powerful able to operate at distances of over a mile.They can do all of this in “real-time”, meaning everyone who passes by the camera can be scanned against a “watchlist” of suspects.But technology like this means more and more innocent people are affected. Yet the public are not always explicitly warned, and neither are the regulators. File on 4 has been given new details of a trial at Meadowhall shopping centre in South Yorkshire in which police and retailers worked together to scan millions of shoppers, looking out for three suspects and a missing person (the latter was found as a result).It was one of several trials conducted by police and private companies, which went ahead despite requests from the Surveillance Camera Commissioner for police to ask him before implementing such schemes.The legislation surrounding facial recognition is new and mostly untested, leading to calls for stricter, more specific laws to be passed.Meantime, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner has called for a regime of inspections of the technology for both public and private bodies; a call backed by the veteran Conservative MP David Davis.Facial recognition may be new, but it still begs an urgent answer to an age-old question: who watches the watchers?Reporter: Geoff WhiteProducer: Helen CliftonEditor: Carl Johnston

36mins

28 Jan 2020

Rank #19

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The Right Place for Reg?

On December 21st 2018, 94-year-old, World War 2 veteran, Reginald Herbert Thompson was taken to hospital after a fall at his home near Leicester. So began a journey which would see him transferred thirteen times, between five different hospitals, in the last ten weeks of his life.Those who run the NHS claim that recent reforms will revolutionise the way frail patients are cared for. Older people like Reg will be looked after at home - an army of nurses, GP’s and other healthcare professionals working in tandem to provide ever more care in the community. It’s hoped these changes will ease the pressure on scarce hospital beds. But with the health service already straining to fill vacancies, will there really be enough nurses to meet that lofty ambition?As the NHS struggles to cope with an ageing population, annual winter crises and staff shortages, Tom Wright investigates what Reg Thompson's story tells us about the future of the NHS. Presenter: Tom WrightEditor: Andrew Smith

37mins

18 Jun 2019

Rank #20