HAS the BBC’s complaints system finally come up against a foe that won’t be put off? A brief history of complaints about the travesty of a BBC documentary, Unvaccinated, proudly promoted in July, suggests it may well have.
The programme, presented by Professor Hannah Fry, signalled its bias from the start. Tom Coveney, BBC Commissioning Editor, Science, set the scene with this promotion: ‘With Covid infections on the rise again, there couldn’t be a more important time to examine the reasons why so many adults are still not getting the vaccine. It’s an explosive debate that goes to the heart of modern life and growing mistrust in the establishment . . . Hannah will bring seven unvaccinated participants together under one roof to unpack the long-held opinions, beliefs and fears that have prevented them from getting the vaccine . . . They will come face to face with leading experts, confronting the latest science and statistics to emerge in the field and dissecting how misinformation spreads on social media.’
Beliefs and fears, misinformation and social media all nicely flagged up, the BBC’s presumption as to where blame lay for an implicitly indicated irrational vaccine hesitancy was clear. Though rationally based scepticism or reasonable doubts about safety were not expected to be part of this investigation, the extent of its bias, its dismissal of safety concerns and neglect of evidence still came as a shock when it was aired.
An outraged Professor Norman Fenton immediately identified its base bias – the gross inaccuracy on which the programme was premised of a massive underestimation of the number of unvaccinated people in the UK.
In further posts Fenton listed the programme’s many serious omissions, including the BBC’s failure to disclose the Pfizer links of its two key experts, its silence on the failure of the vaccination to stop infection or transmission of Covid, as well as on reported data on adverse reaction and the true (low) risk of Covid based on world-wide data.
One of the unvaccinated participants, feeling cheated and betrayed, exposed the fundamental production deception. The purpose of the show was not to understand why they were not vaccinated but ‘to change our minds’.
But it has taken a forensic examination of the programme, minute by minute, by a group of doctors and scientists led by the indefatigable retired consultant paediatrician, Dr Rosamond Jones, to reveal the full extent of the programme’s glaring inaccuracies and convenient data cherry-picking. You can read their formal letter of complaint to the BBC (plus the subsequent correspondence) here.
The programme, they wrote to BBC Complaints early last August (two weeks after Unvaccinated‘s transmission), threatened ‘to seriously undermine the ethical process of obtaining legally valid informed consent to medical treatment, and thus trivialised the proper practice of medicine, in the name of entertainment’. It should have sent shivers running through the Corporation. How had a piece of such blatant propaganda in the guise of documentary got off the drawing board? Whose heads would roll?
No such thing. True to BBC form came back a casually brief and dismissive reply from Deborah Dawson of the Complaints Department thanking them for ‘sharing their views’.
Dr Rosamond A K Jones, MBBS (Hons), DObst RCOG, MD, FRCPCH and the other 20 signatories were not having that. Writing back on September 6 they reiterated their complaints: not only was the whole thrust of the programme ‘to try and correct the participants of their misinformation and see if they would change their minds’, their listed complaints were not ‘different views’ but factual errors and lack of balanced evidence, and would the BBC answer all the points individually?
It took six weeks for Complaints Manager, Mr Paul Kettle, to complete his attempt. Resorting to tautology to discount any duty to be balanced and impartial or to consider the factual biases by omission detailed, he said that since the omitted matters were not in the programme, they could not be a matter of discussion. Noticeable too in his reply is the underlying reason for ignoring those with whom the BBC disagree – an assertion that ‘scientific consensus’ (i.e. the views of WHO) is on their side. It can hardly be stated, however, that the science of the new technology mRNA and DNA vaccines is settled, with still incomplete trials and long-term safety data.
Kettle’s efforts to defend the programme’s specific assertions on male fertility, safety for pregnant women and myocarditis risk come across as a painful exercise of contortion with the evidence, the final gem of a defence being that since no one on the programme was under 21 it could not matter that it failed to mention the heightened myocarditis risk for vaccinated young males.
Signing off ‘In line with BBC Editorial Guidelines, this programme appropriately reported the latest science and statistics’ was another favourite BBC tautology. Any further complaint, if they dared was implied, would take them into the next area of the BBC complaints labyrinth – the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU)
Well they have dared and they won’t be daunted as Dr Jones’s covering email to ECU shows.
‘I wrote with a number of medical colleagues to the complaints department on August 4, regarding a documentary Unvaccinated shown on BBC2 on July 20. We detailed a number of instances throughout the programme of either bias or frank misinformation.
‘This was particularly serious, as the programme appeared to be actively promoting a prescription-only medication and we pointed out in our complaint that requires an especially high level of care in the accuracy and completeness of information.
‘The first reply was woefully inadequate, only answering one of the various queries we raised so we wrote again. This time we got a more detailed response but still perpetuating many of the inaccuracies or omissions which we had highlighted. Attached below is a third letter addressed to the ECU. Hopefully you will be able to resolve the issues involved and avoid the need for a referral to Ofcom.’
You can read the full letter here.
Twenty one senior doctors and scientists await their reply.
But if ‘BBC Complaints’ at whichever stage of their deliberately tortuous process think they can dispose of these highly qualified experts with their usual stonewalling tactics of delay and dismissal, they are mistaken. They are trying to ignore people who know what they are talking about and are determined not to be fobbed off. The longer The BBC resists, the worse this pro-vaccination propaganda effort will look. The data and information are now clear that the vaccines did not work as promised. Every week that goes by, efficacy and safety claims erode while evidence of inadequate or absent safety data and of risk and injury builds.
Tomorrow, Dr Alan Black, a retired Pharmaceutical Physician, writes of his further concerns about Unvaccinated – that it breached medical advertising regulations, that the MHRA is meant to monitor.