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The Compass


Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.


United Kingdom




Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.




Getting granular

Humans have always been delighted by sweetness. In this three part series Lainy Malkani explores how sugar forged the modern world, from its role in the slave trade and the European colonisation of the Americas, to the consequences of our dependency on it today. For some countries, their past is built on it; for others, their futures depend on it. Across Britain, the USA and Thailand, Lainy digs into the past, present and future of sugar. Beginning in London, Lainy samples sweet treats in...


Building a state

A decade after the end of dictatorship, Libya is gearing up for planned elections at the end of this year that many hope will finally bring a peaceful and democratic future. The country is slightly more stable since the end of civil war two years ago. But despite a peace agreement, it is still effectively split in two, politically and militarily. Separate forces control the two halves of the country, backed by different foreign powers. And some think war will break out again. BBC reporter...


The rule of the gun

BBC reporter Tim Whewell, who covered the 2011 uprising, returns to the country to ask why plans to integrate the militias into a unified national army came to nothing. He talks to past and present militiamen - including the young man Wadah al-Keesh, who later left his group in disgust - and Mohammed al-Durat, truck-driver turned police commander, who has reunited with a band of friends to fight in every major battle over the last ten years - and believes he will in future too. Tim talks to...


Libya's Revolution: A dream of freedom

In February 2011, the arrest of a human rights lawyer in Libya sparked an uprising against the 42-year dictatorship of Col Muammar Gaddafi. The Revolution spread - supported by foreign airstrikes - and within eight months Gaddafi was killed, his regime overthrown. It was one of the climactic moments of the 'Arab Uprisings’. But what happened afterwards to Libya's Revolution? Ten years on, it is still unfinished. It has brought thousands of deaths, civil war, a strategically vital and...


Can America change?

International economist Jim O’Neill asks economists and historians if President Biden’s ambitions to ‘build back better’ - with a new focus on investing in human capital and addressing racial and financial inequalities - could result in fundamental changes to the characteristics of America’s economic system. Has the resilience that is critical to the DNA of America's economic system - its capacity to weather recurring financial storms and bounce back - survived Covid? (Photo: US President...


Inflation and challenges to the dollar

International economist Jim O’Neill explores the implications for the dollar of America’s response to the Covid-driven economic crisis. With help from economists and historians, he asks if China can challenge the dollar's dominant place in the global economy - or whether digital currencies, such as bitoin, could prove more disruptive in the long term? (Photo: Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies on a PC motherboard. Credit: Reuters)


Covid and economic stimulus

Prior to Covid, the US economy had been declining compared with other countries, and the pandemic itself highlighted existing weaknesses. Now America’s economy is surging, powered by President Joe Biden’s massive financial stimulus plan. International economist Jim O’Neill hears from economists who argue that new fiscal policies could support a transformational moment for America’s economy - and from others who warn that dangerous inflationary pressures are being stoked. (Photo: President...


Gold: What does the future hold?

Jewellery designer, Rajvi Vora discovers more about precious gold as she looks ahead to the future of gold. With cryptocurrency snapping at its heels, can it remain a financial powerhouse? Ravi unearths what goldmines are doing to our planet and to the people who work at them, including the Indonesian families being poisoned by the goldmines on their back doorsteps. But there is a good side to gold too. She hears from the scientists beginning to tap into the potential of using nanogold to...


Gold: Its role around the globe

Jewellery designer Rajvi Vora discovers more about the precious metal that has had such an impact on her life, and the world. Rajvi is learning about gold’s current role across the globe and hoping to understand the many faces of it. From where it starts life in the goldmines of Colombia - hidden in lush forests that serve their communities, to Ghana where illegal goldmines are killing crops and livelihoods. She also speaks to celebrity jewellers making extravagant creations for the rich and...


23/06/2021 GMT

Throughout time our definition of what is valuable and what is rare changes. Yet as economies boom and bust and fashions come and go, one thing seems to remain both financially valuable and personally precious - gold. Across three episodes for The Compass, we will explore gold's past, present and future and humanity’s obsession with it - from being worshipped in the ancient world, to changing immigration forever during the Gold Rush, and the part it plays in our jewellery, coinage, finance...


Are we heading for a world without work?

Speaking with a variety of experts and working Americans, Daniel Susskind considers how we might negotiate a world without work. He hears the story of Youngstown, Ohio, where the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s led to severe job losses and created a perfect storm of societal problems that a fresh wave of rapid automation could replicate on a mass scale. If we’re to avoid such a future, we’re going to have to rethink our attitudes towards taxation, wealth distribution, and even...


Automation and the future of jobs

Economist Daniel Susskind asks what the new wave of high-tech automation means for jobs. He hears from a company leading the way in the development of driverless trucks, and a long-haul truck driver who’s deeply worried about it. If jobs like trucking disappear, many of America’s millions of drivers may be forced into sectors like the service industry, but, as we hear on our visit to the world’s first automated restaurant, that isn’t immune to automation either. With technology already...


Machines: What they do now that they did not do before

Technology has complemented our work since the invention of the wheel, but we may finally be approaching a point where automation stands to replace some human jobs entirely. Economist Dr Daniel Susskind explores how automation is affecting work in the United States, from fully automated restaurants to driverless trucks, and hears from the people whose livelihoods are being affected. A world without work could be a utopia, but without the correct policy to ensure people still have incomes and...


Gambling: A sure bet? USA

Native American Tribes have flipped their fortunes by building casinos on their land, but that is under threat from the new players in the market - the online sports betting companies. Dr Heather Wardle meets Greg Sarris, Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Northern California, who shows her why his tribe’s casino is a lifeline to the local community, and how online betting on smartphones is the new threat to his tribe’s survival. (Photo: USA Graton Casino, owned by the...


Gambling: A Sure Bet? Albania

Albania was plagued by problems caused by gambling; high levels of debt, divorce and suicide triggered the government to ban it. But it did not have the desired effect. Instead the ban sent the industry underground and into the hands of organised criminal gangs. Dr Heather Wardle sets Fatjona Mejdini, a journalist who writes about Albania’s development, the task of investigating the state of gambling in her country and asks whether banning betting can solve the problems caused by it.


Gambling: A Sure Bet? Kenya

Jonah is a university student, and a gambler. For him it is the only way he can earn a living. He explains why there are so few opportunities for young Kenyans like him and why betting on foreign football matches has become such an attractive and easy way to make money to fund his university studies. Gambling behaviour expert, Dr Heather Wardle, wants tougher laws on gambling but she wonders how that might impact the University students who need the money they earn from betting. Producer:...



Water is at the heart of many of the most serious ecological crises we face, including the biggest one of all: the climate emergency. Alok Jha shows how water itself may offer solutions to give us hope. Alok witnesses nuclear fusion in action at an experimental reactor in England. Simple seawater provides the fuel for this futuristic technology that has the potential to solve the world’s energy problems and eliminate fossil fuel power generation. Meanwhile chemist Fernando Romo walks us...


Ecological crises

Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water. Many of the serious geopolitical tensions over water as a resource that we looked at in the previous episode of this series are rooted in worsening ecological crises. In this episode, Alok shows how the global water crisis is inextricably linked to the climate crisis – and how neither can be dealt with alone. In Bangalore, we hear how...


Water as a resource

Journalist Alok Jha shows how the way we are using freshwater has made it a precious finite resource. And it’s a resource on the edge of collapse. By 2050, over half the world’s population will live in a water-scarce region. But rather than working together to manage crucial water supplies, powerful states are manoeuvring to control the remaining stocks for themselves. Beginning with one family’s well drying up in the desert of Arizona, and following the story all the way to political...


How water shaped us

Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water. To change that relationship, we first need to understand how the relationship evolved. Alok looks at cultural history to understand how water shaped our deepest psychology. Alok finds that our relationship with water – always struggling for a balance between too much and not enough – fundamentally influenced the religious and spiritual...