Tuesday, May 29, 2007


A comment on a friend’s blog set me thinking over the weekend. If you’re into things computational, then Chris Linfoot’s blog is the place to go. Although some of it is very technical and written in a language known only to a chosen few (of which I am not one!) there is a range of light and shade in many of the subject matters on which he writes, which allows us mere mortals occasionally to understand and appreciate what’s going on. Last Saturday he wrote the following, under the title “Yet more on lazy journalism and dangerous wi-fi”.

(See http://chris-linfoot.net/ and read the 26th May entry)

Won't somebody, please, think of the children? Three weeks ago, I received my favourite email of all time, from a science teacher. "I've just had to ask a BBC Panorama film crew not to film in my class because of the bad science they were trying to carry out," it began, describing in detail the Panorama which aired this week. This show was on suppressed dangers of radiation from Wi-Fi networks, and how they harm children.

There was no science in it, just some "experiments" they did for themselves, and some conflicting experts. Panorama disagreed with the WHO expert, so he was smeared for not being "independent" enough, and working for a phone company in the past. I don't do smear. But Panorama started it. How independent were the "experiments" they did?

It seems that the Grauniad is as incensed as I was about that silly wi-fi exposé.

Apparently, the school where the documentary was being filmed became aware of the slant of the Panorama investigation and asked Panorama to leave on the grounds that the study was unscientific. Bravo.

My favourite quote.

Chris makes an important point. We rely on the BBC, as much as we can rely on any large organisation for an impartial, unbiased and disinterested view on the things which go on around us. Especially when those things are shown on something like the flagship Current Affairs programme "Panorama". That’s why it’s such a disappointment to read what Chris has written here.

From my viewpoint, I can add two more instances of the failings of the Panorama programme, which I have seen over my business life. I have worked for almost all of my life in the Motor vehicle industry, and given the huge changes which have occurred in that industry over the years, it is no surprise that some of the changes have been weighty enough to be seen as national “News”. As such they have garnered the interest on two separate occasions of those who create the "Panorama" programme.

Now, when you are immersed in the middle of these stories, you probably feel that you know, as much as anyone can, what the real truth behind the story actually is. You know the people, you know what has happened, as well as what people say has happened. You know who has done what to whom and how the various strands of what is actually quite a complex story, knit together.

You therefore watch with considerable interest the TV teams appearing where you work, watch them talking to people, and seeing what they record and take away to be edited into their final programme. After all, they are involving themselves in “your” story.

In both cases, the programmes which were finally broadcast were, in my opinion biased, disjointed, lop sided and badly unbalanced pieces of sensationalist journalism, none of which sat comfortably with the brand of Integrity and impartiality one expects from such a highly thought-of programme. I was not alone in my thoughts in that many of my colleagues were appalled by the misleading way some of the material had been used. It seemed to many of us in retrospect that the team of reporters had already decided on “The Story” when they arrived, and had collected their interviews and edited them in such a way as to fit in with their own preconceived ideas.

We all felt let down by a serious lack of professional journalism. These programmes were made between 10 and 20 years ago, but Chris’s piece shows the same things happening again, in 2007.

These programmes have a duty to present an unbiased case – there are so few places today where you feel an independent approach is ever taken, adn if you can't rely on this programme, where is there to go? If these three cases are anything to go by, they seem to be failing in that requirement. On the personal basis of Played 3, Lost 3, it is difficult to retain any trust in the way such a flagship programme is controlled.

The BBC can and should do better than this. At the very best, they are letting themselves down.


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