Anyway, last week's episode of the BBC's Fake Britain (series 2, episode 14) was one of the most mean-spirited and mendacious 'factual' programmes I have ever watched. The episode focused on so-called 'fake' immigrants, following UK Border Agency raids on restaurants employing 'illegal' workers. Throughout the programme, Littlewood mocked the immigrants with sarcastic comments and told us nothing about their life stories or sufferings.
Such anti-immigrant fare is not unusual on British television (Sky's UK Border Force, for instance, follows a very similar format). But what was particularly hard to stomach about the Fake Britain 'exposé' was its implicit comparison of immigrants to criminal scammers in the programme's central section, which focused on a Suffolk pensioner who had fallen for a well-organised fake inheritance scam. So: people who have travelled thousands of miles in the back of lorries, risking life and limb in order to have a measure of security in their lives, are equivalent to professional fraudsters? The cynicism of this comparison would have made Goebbels blush.
BBC television is still capable of great things; but it's not all Jonathan Meades and Sherlock - and those who argue that 'public service' broadcasting is superior to its commercial competitors should be encouraged to take a brief dip in this televisual effluent. Anybody disposed to doing so should heed the warning issued by Littlewood at the start of each episode: 'welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems'. For what presents itself as an innocuously diverting consumer affairs programme is in fact a scurrilous exercise in immigrant-bashing.