chapter  9
12 Pages

A new space for democracy? Online media, factual genres and the transformation of traditional mass media


In 2007 the BBC investigative journalist John Sweeny was working on a documentary on Scientology, following Scientologists around for a long time, much to their dissatisfaction. It seemed to be a case of broadcast media fulfilling their normal role of critical watchdog, trying to investigate a powerful institution in society. However, in this case the Scientologists, as a precaution, made their own documentary about Sweeny’s work, and as they were closely following him around they caught him losing his temper with a Scientologist. What they captured on camera could be described as a journalist not being able to stand his own, critical, investigative methods. Scientologists put sequences of this on YouTube, so by using new online media, the Scientologists managed to put the BBC’s powerful Panorama on the defensive. The BBC had to respond to this in the programme.1