Friday 29 May 2015

Is the BBC biased in favour of assisted dying?

It concerns the BBC's coverage of the death of Jeffrey Spector (54) at the Swiss Dignitas clinic - i.e. the BBC's reporting of what some call 'assisted dying' and others call 'assisted suicide'.

Alistair is strongly against assisted dying.

I'm not with Alistair on that at all, but his case against the BBC is interesting.

He writes:
Given this catalogue of horror, you might expect the BBC to present this case in a neutral and non-partisan fashion, but the Corporation, which has acted as the cheerleader for changing the law, could not help itself banging the drum for legal reform.
The BBC 10 O’clock News represented the pinnacle of this one-sided reporting.  The package started badly as BBC’s medical correspondent Fergus Walsh appeared to get giddy with glee as he reported on the details of this man’s sad story, but it got worse.
The whole item continued without a single person from the medical profession, disability right movement, or even from one of the major religions putting a contrary view. That’s right. Not a single person from groups like Care Not Killing, the British Medical Association, any of the royal medical colleges, Association of Palliative Medicine, or the hospice movement took part.
A clear example of biased broadcasting, but the BBC has form. In the last eight years we have seen consistent bias from the BBC reporting on assisted suicide and euthanasia. Indeed the BBC has screened no less than five primetime docudramas and documentaries positively portraying assisted suicide and failing to give the opposite perspective.
And it not just news programmes that see the BBC push their pro-death propaganda. Increasingly light entertainment and soap-operas use assisted suicide to base some salacious storyline on.
This is an area that a blog like this should, perhaps, be investigating (even though, as I say, it runs against my own beliefs). 

Is the BBC cheerleading for changing to law to allow assisted suicide? 

I'd hoped to check out Fergus Walsh's News at Ten report but, as the programme is only on the iPlayer for 24 hours, it's vanished forever, leaving not a rack behind. And I can't find it on the BBC website either.

Still, there is a recent article (from three days ago) by Fergus Walsh on the BBC website entitled The Assisted Dying Debate

The headline is promising, giving hopes that Fergus will give a balanced flavour of that debate.

Please read it for yourselves though. Even if - like me - you incline towards allowing assisted dying, please judge whether you consider it a balanced article or not.

Once you've done so...'s my verdict: I'd say that Alistair Thompson has grounds for complaint: Most of the piece 23 paragraphs (out of 25) balances descriptive reporting with pro-assisted suicide quotes/polling evidence; only the final 2 paragraphs (out of 25) gives the opposing, anti-assisted-dying point of view.

I'm struggling to see how that's balanced - duly or otherwise. Can you defend it? 


Even Feedback's Roger Bolton, usually no slouch when it comes to defending the BBC against charges of bias, has admitted that the BBC's "liberal secular humanist" tends to make the BBC behave in a biased way when it comes to social issues like this, relegating the 'socially conservative' counter-arguments to the sidelines (due to not understanding/being able to empathise with them).

Is this another example of that?


  1. Memory is failing me, but there is a quote out there from some BBC bigwig expressing his queasiness over the singular direction of BBC's output on this issue.

  2. I personally favour a legal framework for assisted dying but I am also appalled at the BBC bias on this.

    The BBC never tires of highlighting the "hard" cases that support assisted dying legislation - nice intelligent people about to be consigned to a living hell of paralysis and/or severe mental decline.

    But there are cases the other way. How exactly do you decide who has the right to assisted dying. Most countries who go down that route realise there isn't an easy definition of what constituted "living hell"... and end up leaving the definition to the individual, which then means people - and people could mean your 18 year old son or daughter - with severe depression can elect to choose death.

    The BBC nearly always only allow the "antis" to put the case that voluntary euthanasia will make life difficult for the disabled etc - they don't allow such difficult cases as 18 year olds with severe depression to be considered.


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