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BBC Upholds Panorama Wi-Fi Program Complaints
By: MarkJ - 01 December, 2007 (9:06 AM)

Readers may recall that the BBC ran a special episode of TV program Panorama ('Wi-Fi: A Warning Signal') during May this year, which attempted to investigate the potential dangers of wireless networks.

Sadly the program used very little actual science and drew strong criticism (example), not least for its use of so called "experts", some of which had been debunked by their own peers. Happily the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has now agreed that the episode was indeed "misleading":

The viewers also argued the BBC One programme was factually inaccurate and that an experiment designed to test whether certain people were especially sensitive to radiation was presented in a misleadingly way.

In addition, one of the programme's contributors, Professor Michael Repacholi, complained that the scientific evidence was presented in an unbalanced way. On Friday, the ECU said it had been "legitimate" for Panorama to examine concerns about wi-fi raised by chairman of the Health Protection Agency Sir William Stewart.

But it said the programme included only one contributor, Prof Repacholi, who disagreed with Sir William, compared with three scientists and a number of other speakers who supported him.

"This gave a misleading impression of the state of scientific opinion on the issue," the ECU said. "In addition, Prof Repacholi's contribution was presented in a context which suggested to viewers that his scientific independence was in question, whereas the other scientists were presented uncritically. This reinforced the misleading impression, and was unfair to Prof Repacholi."

The BBC News Online item doesn't go into the nitty gritty but promises that meetings will now be held to "explore issues of balance and fair dealing with contributors in relation to scientific and medical topics". The once excellent ‘Horizon’ series could do with a good dose of that too.

Sadly elements of the mainstream media, which widely added to Panorama's overly sensationalist piece by helping to raise fears, is unlikely to put any headlights on this and thus many people may remain in ignorance.

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