Saturday, 25 November 2017

Email from the BBC

A complaint was made to the BBC regarding BBC Radio Oxford's David Prever show as broadcast on 17 October 2017. The offending show is no longer available but basically the segment discussed homeopathy giving undue coverage to pro-homeopathy opinion resulting in false balance.

The BBC have recently been accused for false balance in giving too much prominence to the views of Lord Lawson on climate change.

Below is part of the response -

I was naturally sorry to hear you were unhappy with the programme segment and concerned to learn that you felt the item was troubling, so I've carefully reviewed the show in question and have also discussed all your concerns personally and at length with the radio station's Editor in Oxford, and other senior editorial personnel within BBC News. With your feedback in mind, we do feel that you have a point here in that whilst the programme's production team clearly attempted to ensure a balance by hearing from both sides, actually they hadn't fully understood the risk of potentially straying into the area of 'false balance' which you mention here. I would assure you, though, that the first guest did very clearly explain to listeners how the new website's data shows the extent to which a medical practice embraces the principles of evidence-based medicine, and he made very clear that there’s no evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy as a medical treatment. 

The presenter then sought thoughts from listeners as to whether they had had any homeopathic treatments and if so whether they felt they had worked or not for them, after which we then heard from a second guest who also explained why homeopathy can’t work in that it's not evidence-based. Following this we heard from a third guest who talked about her own experiences and why she personally believes it can work, which in this context we acknowledge could have inadvertently suggested to listeners that there isn't a majority medical and scientific consensus on the matter. We of course regret this occurrence, and are very grateful indeed to you for bringing the issue to our attention with your detailed points. As a direct result of your feedback, the station's Editor has personally spoken to the entire team there to ensure that going forward there is a full and thorough understanding on the crucially important issue of 'false balance' for topics such as this and the pitfalls which can arise if not handled carefully, thus making sure that when subjects like this are covered the balance is appropriate and proportionate as you rightly say. This is clearly an important area, and I can assure you that this has been a very valuable learning experience for the team and I would like to again express my thanks to you for your very valuable feedback as this has allowed us to review the output, to reply to you with an explanation and an apology, and most importantly to take specific action as a direct result of your complaint to ensure this isn't repeated in the future if such matters are revisited. I do hope that you will agree from my reply here that this matter has been taken incredibly seriously by both my team and the senior management team at BBC Radio Oxford, and that you are assured that your points have been fully understood, discussed at the highest level, and immediately acted upon to address the issue and to prevent a recurrence.  

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