Panorama’s ‘feckless fathers’: FI quoted out of context…and a big opportunity missed

18 January 2011

Last night’s Panorama (BBC1, 8.30pm – click here to view on iplayer) claimed to shine the spotlight on Britain’s ‘feckless fathers’.

On the plus side, the show highlighted the excellent work of St Michael’s Fellowship in south London – offering some tantalising glimpses into the persistence, high expectations and sheer hard work of Seany O’Kane and colleagues, and showcasing the fantastic dads with whom they work – and for this alone we commend it to you.

On the negative side, the programme perpetuated some very unhelpful stereotypes of young dads, did little to challenge traditional attitudes around the gendered nature of responsibility for breadwinning and hands-on caring – and failed entirely to question the failure of successive governments to dismantle the institutionalised exclusion many fathers (especially those who are young) face from all sorts of public agencies.

Along the way it misrepresented the Fatherhood Institute, by slashing a 2-hour filmed interview in which our Head of Research, Adrienne Burgess, covered with great subtlety and compassion the issue of so-called ‘disappearing dads’ – into a 10-second soundbite about what a ‘feckless father’ was.

It will be for the programme makers to consider whether they made the best use of their resources, and a prime-time slot on the BBC, by angling their documentary in this way. For our part, we would like to apologise to anyone who felt disappointed by the FI’s contribution – as is always the case when fatherhood has a brush with the media, we had no control over the end product.

If you saw the programme and would like to tell the Panorama team what you thought of it, please send an email to:, or contribute to the online debate .

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