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:
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. Continue reading
BBC Radio 5 Live had Scott Quinnell on the 6/11/09 breakfast show*, for Dyslexia Awareness Week. Unfortunately, his conversation on the breakfast show gave him an opportunity to plug Dore unchallenged. We have a number of concerns about this radio segment:
- Quinnell is allowed to state that by “stimulating…three senses” Dore “allows the neural pathways to be automatic between the cerebellum and…your thinking brain”. There is not good evidence for this claim, but Quinnell is allowed to assert it unchallenged.
- The BBC presenter talking with Quinnell comes across as supporting such claims, stating that it is “extraordinary…to think that [Dore exercises] can translate into being able to look at a page and to read”.
- There is no mention of the lack of good evidence that the Dore treatment is effective.
- There is no mention that Dore UK went into administration last year.
- There is no mention of the fact that Dore is a commercial (and rather expensive) programme, nor that Dynevor, which now owns Dore, was established by Quinnell
- The presenter has to check pronunciation of ‘Dore’ while discussing it with Quinnell on air. I am not sure if this speaks to the quality of the pre-broadcast research into Dore and dyslexia.
In response to a previous complaint, I was told that the BBC
never intended to give Quinnell a platform in any way to promote Dore
I wonder what the intention was with this national radio slot?
It is a shame that Dyslexia Awareness Week could not have been used as a reason for discussion of evidence-based approaches to dyslexia. It is not appropriate for the BBC to allow an expensive and highly time-consuming commercial dyslexia treatment – without good evidence of efficacy – to be promoted in this way. I will be complaining to the BBC about this. I would encourage readers to do the same.
* on iplayer now, about 2:56 in.
PS: apologies if there is some repetition of this post: some of the mistakes made were similar enough that I found this hard to avoid.
Filed under Dore, dyslexia
Sigh. John Hopkins in the Times has given Scott Quinnell substantial opportunity to plug the Dore treatment for specific learning difficulties (which Quinnell has now invested in). Quinnell is a former rugby international, and his current support of Dore does not change the fact that there is not good evidence that Dore works.
Quinnell states that
I want to help children and adults overcome dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, autism and Asperger’s…I want to be able to help people not to be what they were before.
If he does want to help people with learning difficulties, there are so many more things that he could do. Promoting expensive ‘miracle cures’ – without good evidence that they work – is not helpful. Neither is the negative approach of seeking to have people “not…be what they were before”.
Many people with learning difficulties develop extremely effective coping strategies (in the article, Quinnell says he is/was dyspraxic; nonetheless, he was able to do remarkably well at sport). Providing appropriate support for people with learning difficulties is much more valuable than promoting non-evidence-based miracle cures.
The Times does give brief mention to the criticisms of Dore. However, these are not given nearly enough weight: the fact that expert psychologists specialising in the field have been scathingly critical of Dore is rather more relevant than the fact that a former rugby international (with a financial interest in Dore) says it works. However, the focus of the article is very much on Quinnell’s views; Hopkins does not even both to include a quote from any of Dore’s critics.
One would hope that a responsible newspaper would offer more evidence-based coverage of learning difficulties. The Times itself has noted some of the problems caused when Dore went into liquidation: it should be aware that plugging such ‘miracle cures’ is not risk-free. I have previously argued that
‘miracle cure appears not to work’ stories are seen as far less newsworthy than ‘miracle cure saves children and cute fluffy bunnies’ stories
It also appears that ‘miracle cure endorsed by celeb’ stories may be more newsworthy than ‘miracle cure still doesn’t work’ stories. That is a pity.