Low ratings for BBC’s Undercover Soldier

Normally, a young reporter’s first steps into the media world might be a stint of work experience; the dramatic peak might be an exciting court case.

Not so for Russell Sharp: his first job in the media was to enlist in the British Army and go undercover for six months, to report on the bullying, for a BBC documentary.

It made remarkable viewing last night. The film showed Sharp’s fear at being discovered by his fellow recruits and superiors as he secretly filmed them during training.

The racism and bullying he witnessed was shocking – it’s been documented here at the BBC website. As numerous papers reported, five suspensions of army instructors have since been made – it is unclear how many are a direct result of allegations made by the BBC.

Yet BBC1’s unusual documentary ‘Undercover Soldier’ got the worst broadcast figures for the slot since June 2006 despite its controversial subject matter. It started with 2.6m (10.1%) watching, and then slowly declined to 2.3m. Even Ann Widdecombe and the girl gangs, over on ITV did better than that.

Why the low ratings? Was it because they didn’t send out preview copies, or that it was a last minute addition to the broadcast schedule? Or was the viewing public just not interested?

18 thoughts on “Low ratings for BBC’s Undercover Soldier

  1. cancelthelicencefee

    Maybe because people realised it was the biggest made up load of tripe to have ever been aired on public television.
    Not one piece of evidence was presented to support any of the reporters allegations.
    Despite spending 6 months in training, he did not personally witness any acts of bullying. Only third hand “he said, she said, I heard that” statements from young recruits having a whinge.
    Editing the spurious allegations he made with dramatic music in the background did not make his claims any more true.
    Indeed all this programme did was go to show that the Army has a top class system in place to deal with bullies. As all reported incidents mentioned were immediately investigated with the instructors suspended, before they even had any clue tax payers money was being wasted training a poor excuse for an undercover reporter.
    Perhaps you can point out the instances where the army encouraged racism or bullying, it appears you were watching a different programme to me.

  2. John

    Well, I’ve said this once on a Facebook group and I’ll put it here;

    “At the start he tells us how he was a psychology student at uni (smart lad, right?) *but* he ends with how he felt a bond was made between him and the other recruits – Which of course, is quite normal. But ermm well hello?!? How did he think this bond was created? It wasn’t through pillow fights and their NCOs tucking them in at night. If he passed his psychology degree I demand an investigation in to that, for letting retards through who obviously can’t grasp the basics!

    He touched upon the case of the recruit being seriously injured due to a pace stick being hurled at his head. That is obviously way o.t.t and I’m sure you all agree with me there? But here is the important bit; the instructor paid the price. Just like other instructors mentioned who have taken it too far – they have also been dealt with/or being dealt with.

    The ‘Undercover Soldier’ uncovered NOTHING, other than letting us all know that he is a complete and utter cheese dick. Congrats Russell!”

    In conclusion, ‘Undercover Soldier’ was nothing more than a stunt to get up in the ratings at no one elses expense other than the British tax payer. Not only did we pay for that poor quality ‘documentary’ that *tried* to put the British Army in a bad light, but we as British tax payers also paid for his 6 months of training, which him and the Beeb knew full well he would quit prior to pass out parade.

    To Russell, I say thank you very much for undermining the British Army and also, UNDERCOVER on a British military base?!? Done for treason, please!

    And to the Beeb, come on guys, is THAT as good as it gets these days? I believe we (the public) are now owed at least a years free tv licensing in compensation!

    As for the Facebook group, check it out here:
    http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php#/wall.php?id=40814827880

  3. Angela

    I watched for a while and then turned it off because I was disgusted with the BBC for doing it. Everytime Russell Sharp came on screen I wanted to slap his face. This idiot has broadcast video footage of this barracks for everyone to see, this could result in attacks on the barracks. He pledged allegence to queen and country and as punishment for lying should be made to serve at least the minimum term of four years on the front line, maybe then he would understand why these boys need turning into men.

  4. Andre

    Is was not at all surprised at the images i had seen on the BBC program (Undercover Soldier), yet! I wondered what the outcome will be. As a serving soldier I have been the unfortunate recipient of racial discrimination and i am finding out the hard way about the choice i had made to challenge it.

    I have heard testimonies from other people of black Caribbean and African background of their experiences and I have experienced some of my own. The funny thing is, those who are there to protect you and “should be seen to be fair” are the ones who look you in the eye and lie to and misguide you. When ever you find the courage to challenge such behaviors the end result usually look like this, 1. You are always sidelined and the balance of work is always often unequal 2. You feel a lot of tension not only not just from the chain of command but from your colleagues everyday 3. Those in the CoC always approach you as though you are a long lost friend to be seen to care but really don’t! You get so much attention for all the wrong reasons and become the most famous individual on the entire camp. 4. You’re always being watched round the clock and constantly scrutinized. The end result is, you feel all alone and believe me when i say there is no one to represent you in anyway possible and the list goes on…
    Now i am moved from one regiment to another with the promise of a fresh start but one don’t have to be a half wit to know that in the army things follows you throughout your career, as it is at the moment i believe strongly that a lot has followed me and is continuing to haunt me, I had been asked in the past under no uncertain terms by some members of the higher echelon if i believe i can carry on a successful career in the army after challenging the Chain Of command, I was no more surprised as i was the day i discovered they had lost my details i had given them upon joining up. Racism is alive and well not only in the army but in the rest of the world at large and though we attempt to flush it out we may never be rid of it but we can find ways to try and reduce it through education and proper training.

  5. Matt Hardwick

    Once more the BBC shows itself as almost incapable of balanced reporting. Undoubtedly, there were some serious issues raised in the programme – yet the young reporter was very quick to gloss over some salient issues: notably the reaction from Officers who took any allegation of bullying very seriously; that some of the instructors were removed from their posts pending an inquiry (before the Army even knew of the undercover reporter); and there was even mention of an Officer teaching the recruits the dangers of voting for the BNP. As a standalone piece of reportage, I also felt that the broader picture was distorted by a focus on some of the more verbose recruits.

    The British Army does a nasty, dangerous job which most journalists sipping on their lattes simply couldn’t imagine. I applaud the journalist in this case for his dedication yet I came away from the programme with the overriding feeling that the liberal agenda of the BBC is still firmly entrenched in the cutting room.

  6. anthony phillips

    It had low ratings because it was quite a poor programme. Sharp lost any balance or perspective and therefore lost the audience. The proof of the pudding is the lack of any interest afterwards, so the low ratings tie in. Russel was to evidently “shaping” the story he wanted to portray rather than the story presenting itself. Indeed many of the recruits appeared to be being overly encouraged to speak about incidents and that was poor journalism. With regard to the public interest: so a Corporal threw the occasional punch etc. Yes distasteful but these men are going to face so much worse, and we the public now know it.

  7. Charlie

    On watching this program i didn’t see much wrong with the way the recruits were treated. I was a Royal Marine Commando for 6 years, the training i went through was alot harder than Russell Sharp will ever experience.
    If you join the forces you have to expect some rough treatment! You are joining the forces to go to WAR. If you get captured do you really think that you are going to be treated like a human being? If you do then you shouldn’t think about joining the forces.
    “smash two recruits’ helmets together” Please… if you are on a firing range you have live rounds, people can get killed if you make mistakes, the corpral needs to knock some sense into recruits who are not paying attention. Sadly the reporter had to use the word Smash to beef up his story.

    So many people go through the same process and come out a better person, if the training gets any softer we will have to start to issue cotton wool to wrap the recruits up in.
    REMEMBER THE FORCES ARE A FIGHTING FORCE IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRAINING THEN ITS NOT FOR YOU!!

  8. Russells Sharps LackofPride

    In this climate of openness, I request to know how much this so called reporter was paid to attempt to darken the profile of the British Army, no doubt far more than those that have continued onto service in Afghanistan and Iraq. the cowardess he showed in `bailing` out of the Army by lying just reflects the poor ethics of this whole incident. I`m sure if he like nearly all the other soldiers he trained along side went to Afghanistan, he would understand the need for robust training. Sadly he probably won`t he`ll remain a coward, who has mocked the very uniform and the British Army`s reputation and those that have given their lives to further his career. He won`t stand a proud man, knowing he did his part against terrorism. It was very good to see that any coplaints at Catterick, were investigated, the 2nd and 3rd hand reports did not accertain any real bullying or Racism. This program reflects the BBC`s lack of Britishness and responsiblity to those that give there lives for this country in war. To take my hard earned money via my TV license to produce such rubbish is a sham, I won`t be paying mine until Russell Sharp is where he trained to be, in the sights of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

  9. brad

    got to say well done for putting up with army life for 6 months.
    but if you are messing arround in the army or do things wrong then you desereve punishment we are turning into a petty nation

  10. Melanie Duffy

    The methods used in the British Army training have been in place for longer than this so called “reporter” has walked the earth and has made the Army and its soldiers one of the best in the world. They do not get trained to be whining wimps and the process helps to sort out the weak links in the ranks before they get a chance to endanger their fellow soldiers.
    Maybe Mr. Sharp should have asked serving and ex soldiers about how they were treated during basic training, the stories would have made him cry.

  11. Lewis

    ‘Undercover Soldier’ was a waste of the taxpayers money.

    These infantryman need tough training for the frontline.

    If a soldier looses concentration with his rifle on the ranges, he deserves to be woken up, or someone will get seriously wounded or killed.

    Not only did Russells Sharps lie to the Army and his platoon mates, he also wasted the taxpayers money for the Army to train him.

  12. lisa

    hold on people lets not blame evrything on the BBC. it was only trying to show us what goes behind close doors. so maybe the way it did wasnt perfect. but thes things do happen in our country. we need to find a way in dealing with this without making our boys and girls suffer. yes we need to support our soldeirs and be behind them 100% but not if they have to suffer like that. i sure wouldnt advice my brothers sisters, children or anyone close to me to work under these idtiot who think they can bully anyone and everyone they like. i mean damn. there is law in this country is about time we enforce it, dont you think?

  13. Gareth

    This was blatant treason. He broke the official secrets act, he lied to gain entry to the army, he gave terrorists the upper hand in attacking military establishments, he stabbed our troops right in the back, he offered NO hard evidence, he has denied soldiers access to good training staff, he has wasted tax payers money, he was wasted license payers money and he has damaged the army in ways his tiny little brain obviously couldn’t see coming.

    Have you seen the amount of recruitment ads on t.v since the program aired? Costing the MOD a fortune to try and counter the effects of this ill judged piece of trash journalism.

    He should be court marshalled for desertion and when he has done his time in colchester also be tried for treason in a civvie court.

    What an absolute maggot of a man.

    GWJ

  14. Dave Lee

    It’s a shame the heavy anti-BBC sentiments in this comments thread have meant that the very good points that have been made are buried underneath all the spite.

    I’m a big fan of the BBC. I support the license fee. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it could even be higher and still great value for money.

    However, this documentary was terrible. As others have said, there was no evidence of abuse presented in the program, other than hearsay from fellow soldiers. Indeed, those soldiers themselves didn’t even appear themselves. What’s to say Russell, under pressure, simply ‘sexed-up’ his footage? Poor.

    I’m convinced that the BBC only showed the program because they felt obliged to. Imagine if Russell had have been freelance. He’d never have sold the program to the Beeb on the basis of it being an exposé, would he?

    A poor show from the BBC, sadly.

  15. Andrea Smith

    We are reknown for having the best army in the world – we didnt get that by training our lads and lasses to flower arrange. most of them are going to a front line war zone where they will literally be fighting for their lives. Of course you will get a bad apple in every barrel, there are bullies in EVERY walk of life and every workplace or school – thats just a fact of life. It is, however unfair to tar everyone with the same brush, as this programme seemed to do. The programme didnt focus on what a fantastic job our servicemen and women are doing under extreme circumstances. I would suggest next time the BBC have a bright idea about producing a documentary trying to discredit the Army, they look at the poor housing our servicemen and women are expected to live in, or the lack of basic body armour and boots given to troops on the front line or the basic pay received by young privates who risk literally life and limb every day. I sincerely hope Russell Sharp does the right thing and donates his fees to Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes campaign or towards the new military medical facility being built.

  16. Pingback: Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog » Blog Archive » Undercover Soldier: why didn’t the Beeb open up the debate online?

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  18. Tony Wilde

    No comments from Russell on this “Jurno” website or BBC to explane their action to destroy the creditability of the British FIGHTING Forces.Come on Russell Sign back on , Do 4 Years and write a book!!!!!!!

    SGT A Wilde RE

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