BGIT #19: The BBC examines Chicago's culture of corruption

January 7, 2011

Download Story

Chicago's reputation for hardball politics and public corruption is legendary.  But who knew that reputation was global? 

We didn't have a clear idea of it ourselves until the BBC World Service called to ask if we'd be willing to collaborate with them on a documentary examining the history and culture of political corruption in Chicago. 

Producer Michael Gallagher explained the doc was for a new BBC News series on extremes called 'Extreme World' and that when it came to corruption, well, Chicago was certainly extreme. 

That's right:  of all the cities on the planet, they chose Chicago as an example of "extreme" corruption.  Nice.

Gallagher flew here and we teamed up on a quest to unearth the deeper forces that have led to the conviction of more than 1500 Illinoisians on corruption-related charges since 1970.  The key questions animating our work were "How did this political culture arise?" and "Why does it endure?".

The result is the 23 minute documentary Oiling the Machine.  It first aired globally in December 2010 on the BBC World Service.   We present it here as part of a special edition of the Best Game in Town.  We hope you find the results as fascinating as we did.

Click here to read producer Michael Gallagher's behind-the-scenes perspective on producing the documentary.

Click here to read more about the BBC's Extreme World project - and to hear other reports in the series.