BBC response to complaint about Quinnell and Dore on Radio 5: it’s all about the balance.

The BBC have now responded to a complaint I submitted about how Scott Quinnell was allowed to plug Dore for dyslexia on Radio 5. The substantive parts of the BBC’s response are below:

It’s not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on a subject within individual programmes. In dealing with any controversial matter the BBC is required to give a fair and balanced report. However, balance can’t simply be judged on the basis of the time allocated to the representatives of either side of an argument. Account also needs to be taken of the way a subject is covered over a period of time, across our output as a whole. Perfect balance is difficult to achieve on every single occasion but overall we believe it is a more achievable goal.

It’s part of our role as an impartial observer is to report a wide range of views on a particular topic but the BBC makes no editorial comment or judgement on the views expressed by contributors to our programmes. Although some people believe that a programme should not allow certain groups or individuals to air their views, we feel that it’s better to include many viewpoints wherever possible. This may include hearing opinions which some people may personally disagree with but which individuals may be fully entitled to hold in the context of legitimate debate.

We hope such an approach is more likely to provide the public with access to differing perspectives on a subject and to help explain context. Programmes do aim to ensure guests are challenged about their views or provide opportunity for contrasting views from other contributors and the audience. I’m sorry if you felt this wasn’t the case on this occasion but as mentioned this isn’t always possible within individual programmes.

However, a key part of ‘5 Live Breakfast’ is listener contribution and they do have different ways for listeners to get in touch and add to discussions and debates. The following website provides details on how you can do this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/5live/shows/5live-breakfast/get-in-touch/

In this context, the reference to balance is completely unhelpful. There is not good evidence that Dore is effective. If ‘balance’ means giving non-evidence-based interventions as much or more coverage as evidence-based ones – and attributing as much credibility to interventions without a good evidence-base as to evidence-based ones – this does not serve the BBC’s listeners well.

By prominently reporting particular views – and by allowing certain treatments to be plugged on BBC programming – the BBC unfortunately does give certain viewpoints undue credibility and does, albeit unintentionally, help to promote certain non-evidence-based treatments. Dore’s own Twitter feed reports that:

Lots of interest has been coming in about the Dore programme following SCOTT QUINNELLS broadcast this morning on radio 5 live

I hope that ‘5 Live Breakfast’ is pleased with this achievement.

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5 Comments

Filed under Dore, dyslexia, dyspraxia

5 responses to “BBC response to complaint about Quinnell and Dore on Radio 5: it’s all about the balance.

  1. Daniel

    Sad.

    Always the same lame excuse that a “balanced view” on a controversial (is it? really?) topic is achieved by letting everyone push his view.

    Greetings from Oslo,
    Daniel

    • Thanks Daniel – definitely is sad.

      By the way, hope you don’t mind – but I edited the comment slightly to avoid falling foul of some of the UK’s more novel laws. Feel free to get in touch if this is a problem.

  2. Daniel

    That’s alright.

    Although it leaves me wondering about the state of free speech in the UK.

    Oh… am I allowed to phrase it like that or would that constitute an insult against crown and country? ;-)

    Have a nice Sunday,
    Daniel

  3. I’m afraid I received a virtually identical response to a complaint about the lack of challenge exhibited by Andrew Marr when interviewing some NuLab politico recently.

    The relevant extract reads:
    ‘Part of our role as an impartial observer is to report every side of the argument. The BBC makes no editorial comment or judgement on the views expressed by contributors to our programmes, and our aim is simply to provide enough information for viewers to make up their own minds. We feel that it is better to include many viewpoints wherever possible. This may include hearing opinions which some people may find objectionable but which individuals may be fully entitled to hold in the context of legitimate debate. Such an approach is more likely to provide the public with access to differing perspectives on a subject and to help explain its proper context.’

    It seems that Auntie would rather allow an unopposed platform and then recycle an identikit ‘in the interest of balance’ response, as opposed to actually doing some work and investigating the claims of the interviewee. Sad….

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