Disclosure: The Seduction Game

BBC1, Scotland


WHAT a time to be alive. You may have come across the phrase on Twitter where it is used, dripping with sarcasm, to sum up weariness with modern life and how low people can stoop sometimes.

Charity collection box nicked? What a time to be alive. Government action ruled unlawful? What a time … you get the idea.

The expression slithered to mind last night on watching the BBC1 Scotland documentary Disclosure: The Seduction Game. That, and icy fury at the behaviour of so-called “pick-up artists” who hang about the streets, preying on young women in a bid to get their phone numbers and eventually have sex with them.

“Only the brave get laid,” said one practitioner of the sleazy process known as “gaming”. His nickname was Addy A-game, real name Adnan Ahmed. You may recall the Glaswegian from a video earlier this year on The Social, a podcast from BBC Scotland.

Read more: YouTube pulls 'pick-up' videos after BBC investigation

The Social commissions short videos aimed at the 18-34 audience, covering everything from panic attacks to leaving the house with a toddler in tow. Most, it is fair to say, do not rack up huge viewing figures.

Then along came the film about Ahmed by Myles Bonnar, a reporter and producer who has worked with the BBC before. Two million hits and one intervention by a First Minister later (Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament she had been “utterly sickened” by what she had seen in the film) and police acted.

Police Scotland had been contacted by a whistleblower several months beforehand, but it took the film going viral, and being raised at Holyrood, to get the investigation moving.

The story also came to the attention of BBC Scotland’s Disclosure unit, the channel’s equivalent to Panorama. In what was a first for BBC Scotland, the short film for The Social was developed into a half hour investigation that was broadened to include London and the pick-up business in general.

Panorama became interested, and after investing some money it received a version to show in the rest of the UK. The two programmes, with some differences, mainly to do with differing legal systems, aired at the same time last night. “Two for one” no longer applies to just supermarkets: it is the modern, multi-platforming way in the media too.

Read Alison Rowat's TV week: Catherine the Great, World on Fire, The Apprentice, The Capture, reviews

Bonnar spoke to two young women who had been approached by Ahmed in Glasgow. Chillingly, he had secretly filmed the encounters; stupidly, he had uploaded them on to the web. We saw one woman being polite but clearly trying to distance herself from him. She had, she explained later, been trying to spare his feelings.

Digging deeper, Bonnar discovered a “seduction industry” worth, he said, £80 million. It was not clear how he arrived at such a precise figure, but there were training courses advertised on the web ranging from £1500 for a weekend up to £4000 for a week abroad.

Bonnar enrolled on a course and went to London to learn from a couple of self-styled Lotharios. He went undercover, which consisted of shaving his beard, changing his name, and wearing a hidden camera. Not quite Serpico, but then he was hardly dealing with the sharpest pencils in the case.

After rattling along for the first half, there was a drop in pace when Bonnar returned to Glasgow to show a crosssection of young people some clips from filming. They were duly horrified and angry. Who knows why, other than filling time, we needed to have such reactions set out when the viewer was doubtless feeling the same way.

Otherwise, the interviews, one with an academic who had researched the industry, added context and an explanation of the law in this area. But where was the chasedown, the scene without which no piece of popular reportage is complete?

Bonnar supplied it at the end, confronting his “tutors” with a confidence that hinted he will go far in this investigative journalism game. “It’s disgusting what you guys do,” said one of the exposed without a trace of irony.

As for Ahmed, he was convicted last month of threatening and abusive behaviour and is awaiting sentence. Just goes to show what bigger things from short films can grow.

Available on iPlayer.