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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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Home BBC Watch Basic science is beyond the BBC’s ‘science correspondent’

Basic science is beyond the BBC’s ‘science correspondent’

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IT’S difficult to imagine how the BBC could get its reports on Tuesday’s Beirut disaster so wrong. In the opening ‘highlights’ of its News at Six programme on Wednesday, presenter Sophie Raworth referred to ‘almost’ 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate causing the Beirut explosion. 

This figure strangely dropped to ‘over 2,500 tons’ later in the main part of the bulletin only to revert to ‘3,000 tons’ towards the end of the piece. The BBC website refers to 2,700 tons, a ‘take the middle figure’ safe bet pick of an uncertain editor? 


In the meantime the corporation’s science correspondent David Shukman got the nature of the reaction wrong when he referred to the orange cloud as being due to the stored ammonium nitrate. This was in fact caused by a product of the explosive reaction, nitrogen dioxide. 

Now I realise that the BBC’s science correspondent doesn’t have a science degree (an upper second in geography, according to his Wikipedia entry) but he did have all day to look it up in a GCSE science text book. For his future reference he can find the simplest explanation for the explosive reaction of ammonium nitrate by following this link. It’s not hard. 

It makes me wonder why the BBC (a massively funded and supposedly worldwide news service) is so little interested in getting these simple things right. The staff think they are doing a brilliant job and appear to be accountable to no one.

I’m infuriated by their stance on climate change – which I do not accept – and increasingly frustrated with their ill-informed Covid-19 coverage. This for me is the final straw. I will be unplugging my TV and cancelling my licence.

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Jeff O'Leary
Jeffrey O'Leary is a geologist with a PhD in applied statistics.

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