Panorama – to quote the BBC’s own website – is “the world’s longest-running investigative TV show”.1 The question this chapter addresses is, was it ever, and is it today?

The programme, often referred to as the BBC’s ‘flagship’ current affairs programme, was first broadcast on 11 November 1953 and it began life somewhat uncertainly. Stephen Bonarjee, who was one of the programme’s first producers, described it as: ‘the most disastrous single production with which I have ever been associated. Literally everything went wrong. The overall memoir is of this terrible shambles’.2 The programme’s attempt to combine jokey items with serious current affairs analysis backfired badly, not helped by a series of technical mishaps. The fledgling ‘flagship’ was hastily removed from air, but a few weeks later reappeared and has been sailing on ever since, more or less continuously, if not serenely. More than half a century on, Panorama is now a British broadcasting institution. For a television programme to have appeared, more or less regularly, for 55 years is, given the transient nature of television, a quite spectacular record, for which the BBC can be justifiably proud.