Sunday 5 September 2021

Sunday morning reading


The Mail on Sunday quotes Sir Iain Duncan Smith not so quietly ripping into the BBC's Covid coverage:

The vaccines are really good at stopping hospitalisation and death, yet every night we report the infection rate – why?

Why does the BBC throw over every single bit of data, when Covid is about sixth on the death toll? Can we have the death toll for pneumonia while we're at it? 

Cancer, heart disease, liver problems? Why are we continuing with the Covid stuff on the BBC and the main news channels? It frightens people.

Older people are still asking, 'Are we allowed to hug now?' Even when they have had all the jabs.

We have people who are now scared of normal life.

We certainly don't do it for flu, and we don't do it for cancer. 

Either we go the whole hog and every night publish a list of how you're going to die, or not at all. Covid isn't the major reason for death.


The same paper also reports Peter Hitchens's rare victory over the BBC Complaints department. 

It concerned an episode from a Radio 4 series Mayday: The Canister on the Bed, broadcast on 20 November 2020. The BBC summarised the case like this:
The programme, part of a series on aspects of the conflict in Syria, dealt with the chemical weapons attack at Douma, which it described as “one of the most contested events in the war”, and included an account of the role subsequently played by a former inspector with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), known pseudonymously as Alex, who had expressed concerns about the OPCW’s conclusions on the matter. The journalist Peter Hitchens complained that the programme had been inaccurate in insinuating that Alex’s disclosures had been motivated by a reward of $100,000 offered by WikiLeaks, that he believed the attack had been staged, and that he had made his views known only through “a select few journalists who share the Russian and Syrian state views on the war”. The ECU considered the complaint in the light of the BBC’s editorial standards of due accuracy.

And the BBC upheld Mr Hitchens's complaint, concluding that this episode in Chloe Hadjimatheou's Orwell Prize short-listed series [a] did indeed make an “insinuation” against Alex and that [b] the evidence for that insinuation wasn't strong enough to warrant the programme calling Alex's motives into question. It also found that [c] the programme's claim that Alex “believed the attack was staged” wasn't justified by strong enough evidence and [d] the programme mischaracterised Alex’s dealings with journalists, saying he had collaborated with journalists who held broadly the same views on the war as the Russian and Syrian governments, whereas he had in fact “also collaborated with journalists of whom that could not be said (Mr Hitchens among them)”.

The ECU found that, although they were limited to one aspect of a investigation into a complex and hotly contested subject, these points represented a failure to meet the standard of accuracy appropriate to a programme of this kind. The ECU noted that a posting about one point of the complaint had been made on the Corrections and Clarifications page of but, as it was not reflected in the extended version of the programme which continued to available on BBC Sounds and the website of the series, it did not suffice to resolve the issue in question.
And what Further Action has been taken? Well, “the finding was reported to the Board of BBC News and discussed with the programme-makers in question.” 

That'll teach 'em!

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