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The Documentary Podcast


Original BBC documentary storytelling, bringing award-winning journalism, unheard voices, amazing culture and “unputdownable” audio. New episodes every week from The Documentary, Assignment, Heart and Soul, In the Studio and OS Conversations.


London, United Kingdom




Original BBC documentary storytelling, bringing award-winning journalism, unheard voices, amazing culture and “unputdownable” audio. New episodes every week from The Documentary, Assignment, Heart and Soul, In the Studio and OS Conversations.




Trending: The new fight for land rights

In Malaysian Borneo, indigenous people have struggled for land rights against companies and the state. Using new mapping technology, communities in Borneo’s rainforests are racing to prove their claims. We explore how technology and social media are being used and misused to shift the balance of power.


Two Years of War: Voices from Russia

As the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, Oleg Boldyrev reports on how ordinary Russians are dealing with life in a country at war with its close neighbour. Are there new economic and social challenges, and what do we know of attitudes to the invasion? We talk to Russians across the country to gauge the mood. Photo by ANATOLY MALTSEV/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (14329432c) People stand at a bus stop near an image depicting St. Isaac's Cathedral (back) on a sunny day in St. Petersburg, Russia, 02 February 2024. Temperatures in St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city, reached minus two degrees Celsius on the day.


In the Studio: Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz says he owes his artistic career to being shot as a young man, not because he had an epiphany about the meaning of his life, but because he won enough compensation from the accident to move to New York and kick-start his career in the art world. He is now probably one of Brazil’s most successful visual artists and his pieces can range from tiny specs that are photographed by microscopes to giant landscapes captured from helicopters. He is known for working with unconventional materials; some of his most famous works have been created out of sugar, chocolate and a plate of left over spaghetti. Andrea Kennedy went to New York to meet him as he prepared for an exhibition full of illusions.


World Wide Waves '24

Radio can be a lifeline for women: a place to speak out in safety; a place to find their voices. We hear from women taking to the air and making waves in the cracks left by the Taliban in Afghanistan; in Fiji's scattered archipelago threatened by climate change; in the migrant farmworker community of the Yakima Valley in North America's Pacific north-west; and in the Ecuadorean Amazon, where indigenous women are coming together to save their land from pollution and destruction by oil companies.


Bonus: The Global Jigsaw - Does Russia’s election matter?

Putin’s re-election is certain, but there is still a lot at stake for the Kremlin. We look into the efforts aimed at achieving unequivocal victory in what seems to be the most oppressive election in Russia for two decades. What are the stories state media can and cannot touch, how much of a headache does dissent from the mothers and wives of soldiers pose to the authorities and does Putin really have body doubles? We have the answers. Producer: Kriszta Satori Presenter: Krassi Twigg Editor: Judy King Twitter handle of contributors: @VitalyBBC, @jen_mon1, @oivshina Original music: Pete Cunningham Sound engineer: Martin Appleby


BBC OS Conversations: The earthquake in Turkey and Syria – one year on

When we first reported on the earthquake in February 2023, the scale was overwhelming. We heard from families who had escaped as buildings around them collapsed and rescue workers described the devastation as the worst they had ever seen. Each day the casualty figures mounted. It is now thought that at least 55,000 people died. A year on, we have been catching-up with survivors to hear how their lives have changed. One family – Iman, Karim and their 7-year-old daughter Nada – had fled from the war in Syria to have a new life in Turkey. They lost family, friends and their home in the earthquake. When host James Reynolds called the family up in the last few days, they told him they were doing much better. Young Nada, however, is still having nightmares about the floor shaking and people she has lost. “I have a dream about my friend Iman, she died from the earthquake,” Nada tells James. “I’m so sad about her, and I have a friend who moved to Canada – I miss her so much.” We also hear messages from BBC listeners in Turkey and reunite with Harun, an English teacher in southern Turkey, and Bilal who is living in the east of the country and had his business destroyed last year. A Boffin Media production in partnership with the BBC OS team.


Bonus: HARDtalk - Alexey Navalny: The interview

Russian authorities have announced the death of one of the country’s most significant opposition leaders Alexey Navalny in a remote penal colony in the Arctic Circle. Stephen Sackur spoke to him in Moscow in 2017 about the risks involved in being a prominent critic of President Putin.


Heart and Soul: The killer's counsel

Doctor Gwen Adshead is a forensic psychiatrist working with the UK’s most violent offenders, many of them serving life sentences at Broadmoor Prison for murder. Gwen believes that empathy starts with a recognition that there is a capacity for evil in all of us. She believes that for her patients, “no matter what their history”, therapeutic treatment works. She speaks to the writer and convicted murderer Erwin James. Together they reflect on Erwin’s life story and how he came to commit the crime he did. Erwin asks Gwen about her relationship with Christianity and how it has supported her in her work.


Assignment: Tempting fate - Istanbul's earthquake dilemma

Millions of residents living in Istanbul face the dilemma of whether or not to find out if the buildings where they live are resilient to earthquakes. Many cannot afford to do anything about it even if they are unsafe. A year on from the earthquakes in south-east Turkey that killed over 53,000 people, it is clear poorly built homes, hospitals and hotels that collapsed within seconds contributed to the high death toll. There are warnings that a similar fate awaits Istanbul, where scientists predict a major earthquake could strike any day now. Emily Wither looks at the challenges facing Istanbul and discovers a story of politics, poor urban planning and a struggle to find safe housing.


Trending: The Mexican mayor and a deepfake scandal

When an audio recording alleged to be from the Mayor of one of the world's largest cities started circulating online, reality was called into question. Mexico City's mayor, claimed the clip- which sounded like he was discussing a campaign against a political candidate- was AI generated. Others are convinced the audio is real. In this episode of Trending’s Power season, Jack Goodman and Laura García go on the hunt for answers. Using the latest AI detection tools, they explore the possibilities and limitations of verifying such content, and question how disinformation may shape Mexico's general election in June. Could AI disrupt elections around the world?


Reporting Greece

Greece is the birthplace of democracy. But how free is Greece’s media? Nikos Papanikolaou travels to his home town, Athens, to speak to journalists who have had their phones hacked by an advanced new spyware, been sued for defamation, and been under surveillance by the Greek national intelligence agency. In the south of the city he visits the widow of the an investigative journalist – murdered just outside their family home. Nikos also hears from Members of the European Parliament – those who want the EU to withhold funds until Greece improves the position for journalists – and those outraged by the idea that Greece does not already have a free media. Presented by Nikos Papanikolaou Produced by Giles Edwards. This podcast was edited after it was published


In the Studio: Jon Foreman

Jon Foreman is a land artist. He creates work in natural spaces using natural materials like stones, sand, leaves and driftwood. Known for his mesmerising sculptures that harmonise with nature, Jon’s work has captured the imagination of art enthusiasts worldwide. His artwork may last as little as 10 minutes before the sea washes it away, but his sculptures are not meant to last; his art is a testament to the beauty found in the ephemeral moment. From the ancient tools he uses to create his sculptures to the modern technology he employs to capture it, we follow Jon's creative process as he takes us to his favourite location to work - the pristine beach of Lindsway Bay on the Pembrokeshire coast, west Wales.


Bonus: The Global Story

A bonus episode from The Global Story podcast. Could Taylor Swift swing the US election? The Global Story brings you one big story every weekday, making sense of the news with our experts around the world. Insights you can trust, from the BBC, with Katya Adler. For more, go to or search for The Global Story wherever you get your BBC podcasts.


Bonus: Sportshour at the Super Bowl Las Vegas edition

Some claim that the romance between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce has been manufactured by the NFL for political gain, and whilst that is clearly nonsense we look at the impact of Swift's relationship with the NFL. Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome causing the fingers on his left hand not to fully develop. The pain was so intense that at 4 years of age he grabbed a butcher knife, planning to cut the hand off. His mother took the knife away, and scheduled an amputation the next day… Despite the obvious setback of only having one hand, Shaquem still fulfilled his dream and played in the NFL for four seasons. He tells us his story. And Cyndy Feasel who watched on helpless as her husband, former NFL star Grant Feasel died the victim of alcohol abuse and a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. She tells us about one NFL wife’s story of concussions, loss, and the faith that saw her through. Plus, in the year America elects its next president we explore the relationship between the Super Bowl and the Commander in Chief. And we speak to SpongeBob Square pants best friend Patrick Starr as he prepares to give an alternative commentary of Sunday's game for younger viewers!


BBC OS Conversations: Deepfake attacks

After explicit faked photos of Taylor Swift went around the world, US politicians have called for new laws to criminalise the creation of deepfake images. The term ‘deepfake’ describes how artificial intelligence – AI – can be used to digitally alter pictures, audio or video and trick us into seeing or hearing something that is not real. It is not just the famous who are being targeted. Host James Reynolds hears the story of how a daughter’s voice was copied and used to make a scam phone call to her mother. “She said mom I messed up, and all of a sudden a man said ‘put your head back and lay down’ and that’s when I started to get really concerned that she was either really hurt or something more was going on,” Jennifer tells us. “And then she goes ‘mom, mom, these bad men have me, help me, help me and she starts crying and sobbing.” Thankfully her daughter, Brianna, had not been kidnapped but the call has had a lasting effect on the family. Technology has made the process of adjusting images easier but artificial intelligence provides the means to create media from scratch to generate completely fake content. We bring together two women – in the US and Australia – who have had their faces manipulated using AI to produce malicious pornographic images and videos.


Heart and Soul: Religion in the 21st century - Buddhism (episode 3)

What does it mean to be a Buddhist today? For this last programme in a special series on religion in the 21st century, Heart and Soul on the BBC World Service brings together three global Buddhists from Singapore, the USA and the UK. Venerable Canda Theri Bhikkhuni is the only fully ordained bhikkhuni, or female Buddhist monastic, in the UK. She founded the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project, which aims to provide the country’s first monastery where women can train towards full ordination. Heng Xuan Tio is based in Singapore and is the co-founder of Handful of Leaves, an online community which aims to show young people how Buddhism is relevant to their modern lives. And Lama Rod Owens is a Black gay Buddhist teacher and author based in the USA. His teaching focuses on social change, identity, and spiritual practice. For this special discussion programme, the BBC’s Alice Bhandhukravi brings them together to discuss Buddhism’s difference branches, how it’s been interpreted in western countries, the differences between monastic and lay Buddhism, and the unique challenges of following a 2,500-year-old faith tradition in the present day. Presented by Alice Bhandhukravi.


Assignment: Is Ireland’s reputation for tolerance under threat?

Ireland is known as the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. But the government says the country has run out of accommodation to house all new eligible refugee arrivals. Some properties earmarked to house asylum seekers have been fire-bombed and others are subject to protests. Hundreds of people seeking asylum have been forced to sleep in tents in Dublin and elsewhere. Ireland has taken in around 100,000 people from Ukraine and the number of people seeking international protection from other countries has increased four-fold since pre-Covid times. The government has slashed benefits for new arrivals from Ukraine and limited to three months the time it will guarantee to house them. As the country leads up to local, national and European elections, migration is rising up the political agenda. Is Ireland’s reputation for tolerance under threat?


Bonus: Killer drug: Fentanyl in Mexico and the US

Fentanyl is deadly. Thousands of Americans die every year from a drug overdose – the majority of them after using a synthetic opioid like fentanyl. It was developed as a legal, and effective, pain killer. Now, fuelled by insatiable US demand, it is illicitly produced in makeshift laboratories in Mexico by organised crime groups. In the first part, Assignment travels to the Mexican Pacific port of Manzanillo. This is one of the main entry points for the chemical ingredients required to make fentanyl. It is a town where Mexico’s powerful cartels have fought for control, and where the mayor lives under armed guard after a failed assassination attempt. In the second part, we cross the border into the US from Mexico to explore the devastation this lethal drug has left in its wake in San Diego County. Presenter / producer: Linda Pressly Producer: Tim Mansel Producer in Mexico: Ulises Escamilla This Podcast was originally published in March 2023


Trending: Serbia’s real life ‘bots’

Over the summer, a mysterious Twitter persona published details of over 14,500 social media accounts - all of them controlled by real-life Serbian citizens, it's claimed. They stand accused of posting… whatever the President’s party tells them to. It’s long been rumoured that Serbia’s ruling SNS party commands the online activity of a small army of citizens, dubbed ‘bots’ by the opposition. But this kind of list, naming and shaming thousands of ordinary Serbians, is unprecedented. If true, their activity represents a form of political corruption according to Serbia’s public prosecutor. The government’s response has alarmed observers - it shrugged off the story, publishing instead a veiled tongue-in-cheek ‘admission’. But who is behind the list, and can it be trusted? BBC Trending has analysed the data in an attempt to establish if the ‘bots’ are indeed real people. And whether their accounts show evidence of co-ordinated activity. Featuring interviews gathered on the ground in Belgrade, we hear from opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists and a self-professed real-life ‘bot’. She tells us she trolled the President’s opponents under threat of losing her job – as a receptionist at a state-controlled electricity company in a small Serbian town. Reporter: Sam Judah


Cairo in comics

Modern Cairo is a crowded metropolis. The city’s ‘thousand minarets’ are now dwarfed by a new skyline of slick tower blocks. Modern highways fly over bustling kiosks where residents gather to smoke and buy soda drinks. Inspired by the lives of their neighbours, playing out among mosques, high rise buildings and on busy streets, Egyptian writers and graphic artists, including Deena Mohamed, Shennawy and Mohamed Wahba bring their thousand-year-old capital to life.