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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.




Freedom - Hurriya

Across the region in 2011, protesters in their hundreds and thousands were all asking for the same thing - their freedom. Journalist Abubakr al-Shamahi and presenter Ella al-Shamahi examine how far human rights have progressed in the countries of the Arab Spring, turning first to the country so often held up as the success story of the Spring - Tunisia. Women were central to the mobilisation of protests here; Abubakr and Ella speak to activists and lawmakers to find out whether women are...


How do refugee crises end?

Katy Long hears stories from refugees who have returned to their homeland, to those who have been resettled, and to those who are still in limbo, she examines how does a refugee crisis end. (Photo: Afghan refugees seen during a protest outside the UNHCR office for various demands, 24 August, 2021, New Delhi, India. Credit: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)


What do we owe refugees?

Katy Long hears stories from refugees and those who work to support them from Rwanda to Russia, and Israel to Paraguay. She asks what do we owe refugees? (Photo: A person holding a "refugees welcome" placard seen in the crowd. Credit: EPA)


Who is a refugee?

In the aftermath of World War One, as Turkey filled with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war, the first refugee camps appeared and the international community stepped in to appoint the first High Commissioner for Refugees. In this first episode Katy Long hears stories from refugees and those who work to support them from Rwanda, Germany and Russia, as she examines how refugee crises begin, and who is considered a refugee. (Photo: A queue of refugees awaits the assistances of Turkish relief...


Back to school

Does the misunderstanding of science begin in schools? Science journalist and former BBC Science correspondent, Sue Nelson visits the UK’s National Space Centre to discover how space is being used to entice children into studying science. She also speaks to teachers around the world about the challenges of ensuring the next generation better understand the scientific and technological world around them. Presenter: Sue Nelson Producer: Richard Hollingham (Photo: Pupils of the Ecole Vivalys...


The Public Misunderstanding of Science: Racist robots

Sometimes it’s right to be sceptical about new technologies. US tech reporter Katherine Gorman joins Sue Nelson to report on artificial intelligence and how it’s rapidly pervading our lives. Katherine reports from New York on controversial facial recognition cameras and we hear how regulators are struggling to keep up with innovation. Image: Concept illustration of an electronic eye (Credit: ValeryBrozhinsky/Getty Creative)


Toxic debates

Across Europe, activists fearful of 5G technology have attacked phone masts. Science journalist and former BBC Science correspondent Sue Nelson teams up with science reporter Hidde Boersma in the Netherlands to find out how conspiracy theories take root and what can be done to combat them. She also hears how scientists can improve their communication and what they have learnt from debates around climate change. (Photo: Protesters march against 5G technology in 2019, The Hague, Netherlands....


Trust: What is the best way to communicate public health messages?

Anti-vaxxers, flat Earthers, 5G arsonists and climate change deniers – why have so many people given up on science and where are governments, scientists and the media going wrong? As Covid-19 continues to affect us all, what is the best way to communicate public health messages, when the bottom line is saving lives? Umaru Fofana reports from Sierra Leone on the Ebola prevention and vaccine campaigns and former BBC science correspondent, Sue Nelson, speaks to public health experts and fact...


Thailand: Asia’s sugar bowl

Lainy Malkani looks into the story of sugar in Thailand, now the second biggest exporter of sugar in the world. We hear how farmers there are coping with climate change, what sustainable production might look like and what sugar cane can be used for once the sweet juice has been removed, from fuel to water bottles. Lainy looks at the future of sugar, talking to those experimenting with sugar to try to make it healthier, like the company Douxmatok, who are hacking sugar crystals at a...


USA: Plantations and plains

Lainy Malkani focuses on the story of sugar in the USA. From one of the oldest confectionery shops in New Orleans where the local delicacy of pecan nut pralines are made every day, to a former sugar plantation along the Mississippi river, she hears about the role of sugar in the history of Louisiana. She speaks to Khalil Gibran Mohammed about the legacy of sugar and slavery in the region, and hears from the manager of the Whitney plantation about what remains there today. From there to the...


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...