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The Real Story
50 minutes | Jan 21, 2022
The future of the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is the world’s oldest and largest public service broadcaster. But as it prepares to mark its 100th birthday the organisation finds itself at a crossroads. The UK government has begun a review of the BBC’s long term funding structure with an aim of ending its dependency on television licence fees – effectively a tax on British owners of TV sets. The broadcaster's Director General Tim Davie says services and shows will have to be cut as a result of a funding gap arising from the latest licence fee deal. There are other challenges too. Young people are consuming less BBC content than their parents, preferring to rely on an array of different sources for their news and entertainment. So what should be the role of public service broadcasters in a world where information is curated by search engines and consumers gravitate towards streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for their entertainment? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
35 minutes | Jan 14, 2022
Climate change: A risk to food security?
While agriculture remains one of the biggest contributors to climate change, it is also most exposed to its adverse effects. Scientists say that extreme weather events will become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures continue to rise. In 2021, harsh winters, unseasonably warm summers, and sudden changes in rainfall affected food production around the globe - from the farmlands of Europe to the grasslands of Africa. There has been a jump in the prices of essential commodities like wheat and maize and traders are braced for more fluctuations. Climate risk is not only affecting farmers and their livelihoods, it is also exposing more people to food shortages. So what are the most pressing dangers and how can we protect our food supply from extreme weather events? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Ellen Otzen
48 minutes | Jan 7, 2022
The Beijing Winter Olympics: High stakes for China
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will begin in 4 weeks’ time with more than 2,000 athletes from across the globe expected to take part. Officials have set up a bubble to keep arriving athletes and officials separate from the general population, all part of attempts to prevent coronavirus infections. Some health officials fear the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant will pose a severe challenge to organisers and athletes can expect to face tougher restrictions compared to last year's summer Olympics in Tokyo. The games are also the subject of a diplomatic boycott by the United States and some of its allies. The White House says it wants to send a clear message that it disapproves of China's human rights record, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims and a crackdown on dissents in Hong Kong. China described the move as an attempt to politicise sport. So what will success look like for the Beijing Olympics? How effective will the Covid protocols be? And how much of an impact will the diplomatic boycott have on the event’s credibility? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
49 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
Do digital currencies need policing?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the stability of some countries’ financial systems could soon be at risk because of unregulated crypto assets. Cryptocurrencies and other digital financial products created using blockchain technology are proliferating. They’re largely free from the controls of governments and central banks, but also free from any significant regulation. The IMF believes “comprehensive, consistent and coordinated” global regulation of the sector is now needed to prevent contagion if major crypto assets begin to collapse. Myanmar’s opposition-led shadow government this week announced that it will accept Tether, a so-called stablecoin, claiming to be pegged to the US dollar, as an official currency - a way of bypassing the control of the country’s military rulers. Meanwhile, across the border in China, authorities are cracking down on crypto and pushing ahead with plans for the country’s own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) which critics fear could mark the beginning of the end of anonymous transactions. So, is global finance undergoing a transformation? And are more stringent rules of the road necessary to protect consumers and avoid economic calamity? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.
50 minutes | Dec 10, 2021
What's going wrong in the Balkans?
It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia ended. It remains one of the darkest chapters in modern European history and cost over 100,000 lives. Since the Dayton Agreement was reached in 1995 a fragile peace has held, but last month the international community's chief representative there - Christian Schmidt - warned that conflict might return and the country is in danger of breaking up. Bosnia-Herzegovina's senior ethnic Serb politician, Milorad Dodik, has threatened to pull the territory he governs inside Bosnia out of state-level institutions including the army. The issue that drove so much of the war - Serb nationalism - now appears to be on the rise across the Western Balkans. Serbia has deployed armoured vehicles and aeroplanes along its border with Kosovo and is accused of stoking religious tensions in neighbouring Montenegro. So how dangerous is this moment in Balkans history? Are the EU and the US doing enough to diffuse tensions? And how much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Serbia’s ally Russia? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
49 minutes | Dec 3, 2021
Omicron: Did Africa get a raw deal?
The emergence of the Omicron variant has once again highlighted the difficulty in preventing the pandemic from spreading across the globe. Health experts have long argued that regions like southern Africa, where the variant was first detected, are prone to dangerous mutations of the virus when large groups of people are left unvaccinated. Only a tenth of Africa's billion plus population have received their first dose and the continent is yet to create its own Covid vaccines. African nations are reliant on vaccines from the international alliance Covax but the supply is far less than what's required. Meanwhile many on the continent have opted to pursue traditional remedies, with some denying the existence of the virus altogether. So what's the road ahead for Africa as it tries to overcome the pandemic? What sort of public engagement is required to reduce vaccine hesitancy? And how is the fight against Covid made more difficult by other health emergencies? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
50 minutes | Nov 26, 2021
Hunger in Afghanistan: Time to work with the Taliban?
It has been 100 days since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan and the country is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. More than half of the country’s 39 million people face acute food insecurity as prices skyrocket. Severe drought, the pandemic and the damage caused by decades of war have all helped to bring the economy to its knees. With winter approaching the World Food Programme has warned that Afghans are at risk of being isolated from life-saving assistance. Previously international aid represented around 40% of the country’s GDP, but since the Taliban takeover the World Bank, the IMF, and the United States have cut off access to more than $9.5 billion in foreign reserves and loans. With the banking system frozen, aid organisations are struggling to pay their staff on the ground and calls for the United States and its allies to ease sanctions are growing. The international community is now asking itself whether it is possible to prevent the Afghan people from starving while at the same time minimising any benefits to a repressive Taliban leadership. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed, Paul Schuster and Marie Sina.
50 minutes | Nov 19, 2021
Fortress Europe: Who gets to come in?
The European Union is at loggerheads with Belarus over the arrival of thousands of migrants. It alleges that President Lukashenko has created a deliberate crisis by facilitating the migrants' travel into Belarus and onwards to the country's borders with EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus says the EU is breaching its humanitarian obligations by blocking the entry of those seeking asylum. The question of what to do with migrants is one of the most divisive issues within the EU. Its southern and eastern member countries - where the bulk of migrants arrive - are calling for a more equitable distribution of refugees among member states. They also want more money to support for processing of new arrivals. Meanwhile in western and northern European states, the rise of far-right groups is being seen as a warning to politicians not to be too accommodating to newcomers. So how does the EU fulfil its international obligations around migration while keeping a lid on populist opposition to it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
50 minutes | Nov 12, 2021
The future of Chinese capitalism
The Chinese Communist Party has held a high level meeting that will help propel President Xi Jinping to a level of power not seen since Chairman Mao. The gathering was essentially a celebration of Mr Xi's time in office, with a new emphasis on establishing him at the core of the party's identity. Despite the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic China's economy has continued to grow. But there now appears to be a renewed emphasis on reducing inequality across society. The government has taken measures against property developers, tech giants, and even banned private tuition - all part of President Xi's message of 'common prosperity' which envisions a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth. So what influence will market forces have in communist China moving forward? How much control will the state impose on the private sector? And can the government reduce private and public debt without harming economic growth and hurting consumers? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed
50 minutes | Nov 5, 2021
Who pays to fix climate change?
The UN Climate Conference in Glasgow is being described as a make-or-break moment for humanity. The purpose of the gathering is to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Currently the world is way off target, with temperatures still projected to rise higher than is sustainable. A big part of the problem is the huge cost involved. Developed countries have confirmed they have failed to meet a pledge made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Developing countries say the money is needed now. They require defences to protect their populations from the growing effects of climate change, and to move away from carbon energy and towards renewable sources. So what is climate finance, what's been promised and will it be be delivered? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests from the UN summit in Glasgow as they discuss who pays to fix climate change.
50 minutes | Oct 29, 2021
Why do military coups still happen?
Defiant protesters have been on the streets of Sudan this week after the country's armed forces launched a military coup. On Monday coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. It wasn't meant to be like this. After long-time Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019, civilian leaders and their military counterparts entered a power-sharing agreement designed to encourage democratic reform. So why has the fragile arrangement broken down and what does history tell us about the broader challenges countries face when trying to move beyond military rule? Is democracy possible without strong institutions? Why do countries like Pakistan continue to flirt with military rule despite having elections? And how have others - like Argentina - managed to break away from military rule altogether? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.
50 minutes | Oct 22, 2021
Nato and China: A new rivalry?
This week in an interview with a British newspaper the Secretary General of Nato repeated his desire to widen its mandate to include China. His comments coincide with reports that Beijing has tested a hypersonic missile potentially capable of breaching US and European defences. There are concerns about China's cyber activities against Nato member states, as well as the country's increasing presence in the Arctic - raising fears over the security of Atlantic sea lanes. But some argue that Nato is in danger of going beyond its founding remit. That view is echoed by the likes of the French president who's warned that China has "little to do with the North Atlantic." So what should be the future shape of Nato? In the aftermath of its controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, should the alliance focus more on events closer to home? And with the United States focusing its resources in Asia, is there a case to look beyond Nato and think about a broader European defence mechanism? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
49 minutes | Oct 15, 2021
Climate change: Lessons from Denmark
Denmark is at the forefront of the global effort to fight climate change. It has committed to cut emissions by 70% below 1990 levels by 2030. It also wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 and end all fossil fuel exploration. Denmark was an early adopter of climate friendly policies and successive governments have taken a consensus driven approach to putting the green transition into motion. Danish start-ups are among those driving innovation to reduce carbon dependency in the cities and in the country. There is even a plan to build artificial “energy islands” in the sea. As governments grasp for solutions to the growing challenge of climate change, can the success enjoyed by a small, rich, northern European nation be scaled up and applied elsewhere in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts in Copenhagen. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster
49 minutes | Oct 8, 2021
Empty shelves and clogged ports
The world has emerged from pandemic lockdowns more optimistic about the direction of Covid, but the sudden surge in demand for goods is creating new economic shocks from London to Los Angeles. Factories and ports are not functioning as they once did due to the pent-up demand for goods and broken supply chains. Energy prices are surging and some shelves are empty. So is this a temporary blip or a new normal? Who will be the winners and losers of the post-pandemic global economy and what opportunities do new economic landscapes provide for fighting the climate crisis? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed
50 minutes | Oct 1, 2021
How green is nuclear energy?
Is nuclear energy ‘sustainable’ and deserving of tax breaks? It’s a question dividing member states of the European Union which is considering what role nuclear should play in efforts to wean the continent off fossil fuels. Germany announced it would phase out its existing nuclear power plants after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan in 2011. But others are pushing ahead with plans to extend the life of existing power stations and even build new ones. But with the cost of renewable energy plummeting, critics say money invested in nuclear could be better spent upgrading power grids and improving the resiliency of cleaner forms of energy. Nuclear enthusiasts say new, smaller nuclear reactors will soon become available and could help keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. There’s increasing private sector money going towards the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors, plus Russia and China continue to invest heavily in a sector which provides export opportunities - particularly in the developing world. So, what role will nuclear play in the future and will the technology help or hinder attempts to avert catastrophic climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
50 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
How powerful is China's navy?
China has reacted angrily following this month's announcement of an alliance that will enable Australia to possess and deploy nuclear powered submarines in the region. Australia says the partnership with the USA and the UK, or Aukus, is not aimed at China. But most analysts agree that the initiative is hoping to counter Beijing's rapidly expanding naval capabilities. Chinese patrol boats have clashed with neighbouring vessels in disputed waters, home to billions of barrels of untapped oil and gas. The country has created artificial islands in the South China Sea and there are concerns it may use its growing amphibious capabilities to invade Taiwan. So how important is the Chinese navy to the country's overall strategic and economic plan? How does its expansion affect maritime disputes in East Asia and the safe passage of trillions of dollars worth of commodities each year? And is China right to accuse the West of a 'Cold War mentality' when it criticises the country's military investments? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster
50 minutes | Sep 17, 2021
Canada votes: Is Trudeau in trouble?
On Monday Canadians will vote in a snap election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just two years after they last voted. He hopes to turn his minority in parliament into a majority having previously enjoyed favourable reviews for his handling of the pandemic. But since calling the election, a fourth wave of Covid infection has gathered pace in parts of the country prompting claims that he is putting his own political interests ahead of the public’s by going ahead with the vote. Some polls even show the governing Liberal Party slipping behind its main rival the Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole. The PM also faces a strong challenge from the left in the form of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, and Quebec-nationalist party the Bloc Québécois is also polling strongly. So, what are the main issues that will decide the election and are Canadians in the mood for change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
50 minutes | Sep 10, 2021
What's ailing Japan?
Japan has received much praise internationally for successfully holding both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. At home, however, events have failed to generate much enthusiasm for the government. Analysts say a public backlash over the Olympics is one of the reasons prime minister Yoshihide Suga is not going to contest the coming elections. But it is not just the Olympics. The LDP government is also in trouble over its response to Covid vaccines, and its failure to modernise the economy, which remains sluggish. It is accused of having done little to expand employment opportunities for young people and to give greater rights to working women. So why does Japan find it so hard to bring about the changes necessary to end years of economic stagnation? How is its ageing population and its unwillingness to open up to greater immigration affecting its ability to increase growth? Plus, what does all this say about the cultural shifts taking place in the country? Celia Hatton is joined by a panel of experts. Producers Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
50 minutes | Sep 3, 2021
Methane: The other greenhouse gas
The latest UN climate report concludes that while carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of global warming, another gas - methane - is likely responsible for between 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures. Methane is much more effective at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere than CO2 is, but it also breaks down much faster, raising hopes that quick action to curb emissions could aid efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 C. Methane is the largest component found in natural gas and is also emitted during the process of fracking and coal production. It’s produced in large quantities by farmed animals but also leaks into the atmosphere when organic matter decomposes in landfills. A report published earlier this year claimed that if existing measures and technologies were used more widely, human-caused methane emissions could be cut by as much as 180 million tonnes a year by 2030. But others argue that until CO2 emissions are dealt with, methane will remain 'a sideshow' and that attention paid to the problem must not distract from the bigger threat. So, is enough being done to prevent the leakage of methane? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.
49 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
The challenges facing the Taliban
The World Bank this week halted funding for projects in Afghanistan, following the lead of the IMF and US government which also froze payments and accounts. The increased financial pressure on the Taliban is just one of the many challenges they’ll face now they've taken control of the country. Thousands of professionals who’ve worked with foreigners are fleeing, prompting increasingly urgent calls from the Taliban for them to stay. Internal disagreements within the movement are also likely to make forming a stable government difficult, as will attacks from the Islamic State militant group and rebel forces amassing in the Panjshir Valley. So, does the Taliban have what it takes to preside over a relatively orderly transition? Is the group capable of keeping the lights on and the water flowing in cities that now have much more complex infrastructure than they did back in 2001? And when it comes to the potential for a humanitarian disaster to emerge, should Western powers help the new administration in Kabul or work against it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
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