Friday 24 July 2015

Of BBC science reporting, ghosts and Noel Gallagher

Given that I seem to be on a bit of a mission at the moment about Feedback, I think I ought to post something about what was discussed on the rest of this week's programme

Three other subjects were covered. 

The first concerned the BBC's science reporting. Roger Bolton said that many Radio 4 listeners felt that the station's dedication to science programmes has improved under its present BBC supremo but some listeners still worry about its science reporting (specifically on current affairs programmes), worrying about how sensationalist it can sometimes seem (they say). 

A listener's voice was heard praising Justin Webb for getting it about right during a Today interview about whether tobacco use might be correlated to psychosis before Roger interviewed the BBC's health correspondent Jane Draper. 

She said that she thinks long and hard before selecting a science-based health story to go with, She doesn't just read the press releases but the actual scientific papers, if they appear in reputable places like the BMJ or The Lancet. If they sound newsworthy to her she reports them. 

The second subject concerned a short series of Radio 4's One to One featuring Selina Scott. The three programmes focused on ghosts. Selina thinks her house is haunted because her cheerful dogs freaked out over something (yes, really). 

In the course of the three programmes, she talked to a ghost-believing Anglican priest (who carries out 'home blessings' for people who think they've got a ghost), a Muslim who believes in djinns and a sceptical 'ghostbuster'. 

A whole chorus of ghost-denying rationalist, science-loving Radio 4 listeners descended upon her like a pack of reasonable-but-annoyed spectral hounds. 

I know quite a few people who believe in ghosts (including a family member who claims to have seen one more than once). I don't myself believe in ghosts, at all. I think ghosts are purely phantoms of the imagination - and possibly signs of worrying emotional and mental issues (if genuinely believed in rather than faked). 

However, the onslaught of the Feedback listenership was so strident as to make me wonder about the fairness of excluding licence-fee-paying believers in ghosts from the nation's airwaves - or demanding, if the BBC deigns to indulge them in their fantasies, that the BBC must subject them to a fiercely debunking interrogation on every occasion (as some Feedback listeners clearly wanted).

I really don't know the answer to that. I'm still working on it, for some reason - and please feel free to advise me here.

The BBC high-up interviewed about it felt that the BBC had got it about right, of course.

The third subject concerned Noel Gallagher's appearance on Desert Island Discs. One Radio 4 listener objected, saying the programme was pandering to a non-Radio 4 audience. (She sounded far too posh to say, "Radio 4, you're twisting my melon, man".) Roger Bolton lined up loads of other Radio 4 listeners who loved it, loved it, loved it. 

Actually, I loved it too. I completely missed the 1990s, pop-wise, so Oasis largely passed me by, leaving me (by the end of the decade) feeling like that 1980s judge who asked, "And who, pray, is Bruce Springsteen?"

So I was coming at Noel Gallagher from a fairly uninformed starting point. I rather took to him (to my great surprise).

He said a lot of very interesting things. And his choice of music clearly wasn't just for show either (and somewhat surprising). 

So let's dance.

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