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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.




Childhood: Exploring the world through play

In the earliest years of our lives, play is crucial to building our understanding of our surroundings, culture and even ourselves. The UN considers play to be a fundamental right for every child, and a growing body of interdisciplinary research is leading to greater implementation across the globe. But how do we begin to define something that is so intrinsic to our human nature? We look into the very beginnings of play and how our first interactions with adults have a lasting impact on the...


Hope – Amal

The road to democracy is rarely straightforward. There are steps forwards, and backwards, and times when it feels like you’re just not going anywhere at all. So what does the future hold for the countries of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions? Where can people look for hope now? Abubakr and Ella al-Shamahi explore if Tunisia’s new democracy is at risk, after what some are calling the coup of July 2021, when the Tunisian President sacked the PM and assumed executive power. They ask what the...


Displacement - Tashreed

While movement of people was a feature of the Middle East and North Africa (as it is worldwide) before the revolutions of the Arab Spring, there are now 11.7 million internally displaced people in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and more than 2.7 million refugees across the region. People are fleeing war and humanitarian disaster, economic problems and political persecution. Many have fled their homelands entirely, and many more have had to leave their homes and move to different parts of...


War - Harb

Violence and loss of life were features of the 2011 Arab Spring from the outset - peaceful protests were met with live bullets in multiple countries, and protesters were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Brother and sister Abubakr and Ella al-Shamahi look at the revolutionary prisoners of Bahrain, the chaos of the conflict in Libya, the Yemeni Civil War and the destruction and devastation that Syrians have experienced over the last 10 years. (Photo: A Yemeni sits next to the grave of his...


Bread - Khubz

Freedom is important - but what is the use of freedom if you can’t put food on the table? Ella al-Shamahi and Abubakr al-Shamahi look at the importance of the economy in starting the protest movement itself, and how the citizens of these regions view their economic standing a decade on. They speak with young Tunisians who are bearing the brunt of a devastated economy, and investigate how power is still tied up within economic opportunities under the rule of President Al Sisi. And they hear...


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...