The BBC has pulled a documentary about a cryptocurrency entrepreneur from television schedules at the last minute after the Guardian raised questions about some of its central claims.
The programme, called The Crypto-Millionaire and due to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Wednesday night, was to tell the story of Hanad Hassan, a 20-year-old from Birmingham who said he had become incredibly wealthy by trading cryptocurrencies. The program claimed he had turned a $50 (£37) investment at the start of 2021 into $8m (£5.9m) by the end of the year – suggesting he had made an astonishing investment return of almost 16,000,000% in just nine months.
An accompanying BBC website article entitled “Birmingham’s self-made crypto-millionaire giving back” also displayed Hassan’s £30,000 BMW and his city center flat, while describing how he “decided he was going to become a millionaire while he was still a teenager”.
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The BBC swiftly said it had withdrawn the show but did not make any further comment on its editorial checks. An accompanying online article, which had featured prominently on the BBC News homepage, was also deleted without explanation shortly after the Guardian raised questions. Hassan has also been approached for comment.
The decision to pull the show from BBC One schedules hours before it was due to be broadcast is embarrassing for the corporation, as it was one of the channel’s headline commissions for its new regional television news show We Are England. This new show replaced the long-running Inside Out regional current affairs series, which was canceled as part of BBC funding cuts in a decision that resulted in many investigative journalists based outside London losing their jobs.
Continuing cuts to BBC budgets and deep job cuts, caused by successive license fee freezes, have been blamed for recent errors in the corporation’s news output, especially in regional English newsrooms.
The BBC has a patchy track record of covering cryptocurrencies and publishing stories about young entrepreneurs making large amounts of money from online trading. In October the corporation infamously promoted the rapidly rising price of a cryptocurrency that used the name of the Netflix show Squid Game, days before its price collapsed in an apparent scam.
A BBC Three show about a 20-year-old from Wales who claimed to be making £8,000 a day from online currency trading was also removed from iPlayer in 2020 after the broadcaster accepted it “wasn’t explicit enough about the potential risks involved in forex trading”.