The BBC was going to broadcast a documentary called The Crypto-Millionaire last night, supposedly telling the story of a young man from Birmingham, England, who turned $50 in $50m trading crypto. But when the time came, the show wasn't on. The Guardian had, at the last moment, asked some difficult questions.
The documentary, due to be broadcast on BBC One in the West Midlands, followed Hassan as he distributed money to food banks in Birmingham, supposedly funded by a charitable cryptocurrency he set up himself. The Guardian asked the BBC if it was confident in his claimed financial returns and questioned why the programme's promotional material did not mention that Hassan's cryptocurrency Orfano was abruptly shut down in October, with many unhappy investors claiming they were left out of pocket as a result.
The BBC has even deleted some fawning local news coverage of the subject (archived here) without explanation.
The implication is that the BBC, beset by budget cuts, was suckered into credulously reporting something false or fraudulent. It's also possible that the coverage fell short in ways that the documentary's creators didn't think mattered at the time (such as not really understanding what crypto is, what scamcoins and rug pulls are, or not even touching on the accusations) which in fact do matter now.
"In the nick of time" doesn't cut it, either. Journalists report on cryptocurrencies and NFTs without knowing what they are, or the scale of ongoing fraud and flim-flam, or how quickly decentralization and anonymity were compromised, or that the involvement of Brands and high-profile investors isn't vetting or confidence. Criticism isn't just about the carbon footprint, which tends to push coverage into a highly-politicized rut.
We won't get away with it after the music stops, and the BBC's sudden fast-moving panic here shows we already know how loud the silence will be when it does.