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BBC: Balanced, Biased or Just Plain Conkers?


Posted on 06 February 2012

holmes.jpg“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze, 1892

Like Dr Watson, Dr No is in awe of Sherlock Holmes, and forever baffled by his cryptic utterings. Unlike Dr Watson, who had the delight and privilege of watching Holmes in action at first hand, the rest of us must enjoy Holmes at our leisure, and many will already know that the reason the dog did not bark was because the visitor was someone whom the dog knew well. Dr No finds himself wondering whether a similar reason might explain the BBC’s ongoing curious incidents on the Health and Social Care Bill. The BBC should be barking like a Baskerville about it, but instead much of the time it remains silent. When it does make a noise, it is more whimper than bark. Could it be that the BBC knows who its master is?

BBC One’s News at Ten’s mission statement these days appears to be to show those of us stuck on the home front that, come what may, the BBC is still out there, cutting mustard on the world front. Even if Aldermaston were to go thermo-nuclear, Nice Huw would still be chatting to a headscarf in Tehran about Iran’s thermo-nuclear ambitions. “Thanks Orla. That was Orla for us, talking to us from Tehran.” That’s another nice thing about Huw. He always goes the extra mile to tell us who’s behind the headscarf, and what’s going on. Unless, that is, what is going on happens to be the Health and Social Care Bill.

Radio Four’s Today programme isn’t doing much better. Recent moves to a witches’ coven style presentation, replete with cackling noises, have gone far to lift the programme’s prior gravitas. Being radio, one cannot see who is doing the cackling, but one has strong suspicions that it is Humph and the Accidental Sassenach, remembering the good times over a shared dish of eye of newt and toe of frog. Whoever it is, it isn’t Monty the White Witch, because she does a different class of cackle; nor is it Wingnut who, being still in shorts, does more giggling than cackling.

When not cackling away amongst themselves, the Today presenters do occasionally find time to cover the Health and Social Care Bill. In this they are invariably assisted by their sorcerer’s apprentice, Adam Brimelow. Being an apprentice, Mr Brimelow has but a limited clutch of spells, his favourite and most practiced one being the Independent NHS Future Forum spell, but as spells go, the binding is wearing a bit thin. He probably needs to add a bit more adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, if he wants listeners to believe the Future Forum really is independent.

Dud spells notwithstanding, over the last week, Today appears to have covered the HSCB and NHS reforms one way or another four times. Last Tuesday we had the joint BMJ/Health Service Journal/Nursing Times ‘unholy mess’ editorial. The following day, Wednesday, we had Tankers Field and Ham out doing a bit of steam-rollering, and on Friday, a story about hospital mortality was bizarrely spinjacked, and turned into a 24/7 hospital/fantastic business for Britain/that’s how we’ll put the compassion back into the NHS vision. And lastly, today, Humph, the Senior Grey Witch, recalled Dickie Bow Dixon from the front-line to tell us how things were going. Swimmingly, apparently: “real reform,” with front-line doctors and nurses in the “driving seat”. Dr Dixon is a man who clearly favours being up front, in the driving seat. One wonders how he manages back seat drivers.

Now, the question Dr No asks is: how balanced is this coverage? Last Tuesday, the pro-bill protagonist was one Dr Charles Alessi, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, and described by Pulse as ‘one of the most vocal advocates of the Government's NHS reforms’. On Wednesday, we had a double-decker sandwich of pro-bill heavyweights, assisted by Messrs Brimelow and Seddon, pitched against a hapless Baroness Williams, who sounded like an increasingly distant rambler with her bloomers caught in the brambles. Friday’s spinjacker was none other than Prof Cough, a Department of Health Chief Pongo. And finally, today’s Dickie-Bow Dixon, Attila the Commissioner, up against a hapless Prof Lister, who spoke in a disembodied voice, as if hiding behind a veil, as well he might, faced with Dixon’s Dickie-Bow at such an ungodly hour of the morning.

So: we had three anti-bill speakers (Godlee, Williams and Lister), pitched against six pro-bill speakers (Alessi, Field, Ham, Seddon, Keogh and Dixon). That, even by numbers alone, does not seem balanced. And if we add that two of the pro-bill speakers come from the Kommissioning SS, two are in or in close contact with government, and two belong to pro-reform thinks tanks, then, we might be forgiven for thinking, that not only is the coverage numerically unbalanced, it is further strongly weighted towards the extreme view, the government stooge, and the professional lobbyist – and hardly a reflection of what used to be called the groundswell of grass roots opinion.

Balanced? No. Biased? Yes. Just plain Conkers? Well – that depends which way your wind blows.

5 comments:

Just a point about Aldermaston. The Atomic Weapons Establishment is "formed of three equal shareholders - Serco, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering Group" with the MoD holding a golden share. If you thought that our nukes were looked after by khaki suited squaddies, think again. Dunno if that is a foretaste of things to come in the NHS.

You are correct. I think the BBC coverage on the NHS Bill has been biased, due, paradoxically to their attempts to have "balanced " reporting. This is due to pure ignorance. Unfortunately, neither the BBC nor the British public understand that the likes of Dr Alessi, Dr Dixon et al are only articulating the views of themselves and the small pressure groups with whom they are associated, in order to promote and to take forward these potentially disastrous, so called reforms.
These people do not represent the views of the great majority of primary care physicians or hospital doctors to say nothing of the nurses or professions allied to medicine. Alessi, Dixon et al are being given far too much prominence and, of course, are being used by Cameron and Lansley to give respectability to their proposals. I have absolutely no confidence in Dr Alessi, Dr Dixon or any of their associates. I really think there are quite enough problems in general practice land to demonstrate that giving £50 to 80 billion pounds to general practitioners run our health care system is lunacy. I think that GPs who think they should be in the driving seat should get back to GP land and sort out the problems that exist in their back yards. If they have so much spare time to indulge themselves in commissioning serviced and spending billions of pounds of taxpayers money, perhaps they should use their time to see some more patients and, perhaps, provide some out-of-hours cover from their practice, rather than relying on some anonymous cooperative staffed, often by outsiders and locum doctors from Europe.

You are correct. I think the BBC coverage on the NHS Bill has been biased, due, paradoxically to their attempts to have "balanced " reporting. This is due to pure ignorance. Unfortunately, neither the BBC nor the British public understand that the likes of Dr Alessi, Dr Dixon et al are only articulating the views of themselves and the small pressure groups with whom they are associated, in order to promote and to take forward these potentially disastrous, so called reforms.
These people do not represent the views of the great majority of primary care physicians or hospital doctors to say nothing of the nurses or professions allied to medicine. Alessi, Dixon et al are being given far too much prominence and, of course, are being used by Cameron and Lansley to give respectability to their proposals. I have absolutely no confidence in Dr Alessi, Dr Dixon or any of their associates. I really think there are quite enough problems in general practice land to demonstrate that giving £50 to 80 billion pounds to general practitioners run our health care system is lunacy. I think that GPs who think they should be in the driving seat should get back to GP land and sort out the problems that exist in their back yards. If they have so much spare time to indulge themselves in commissioning serviced and spending billions of pounds of taxpayers money, perhaps they should use their time to see some more patients and, perhaps, provide some out-of-hours cover from their practice, rather than relying on some anonymous cooperative staffed, often by outsiders and locum doctors from Europe.

Sadly the main argument of this blog has been borne out amply by subsequent events. The BBC's non-coverage of the important Lord's debate yesterday was inexcusable. There was nothing on the main news, and BBC Parliament was beaming out pictures of MPs waiting around for an inconsequential Commons division just when the real action was taking place elsewhere. Luckily I managed to find the Parliament webcast just in time to hear Earl Howe's dulcet-toned ofuscations.

I read this article with a lot of interest because I am currently reading a very interesting book on Goodreads called THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORKS by Vivek Sood which argues similar points in a much more forceful and coherent manner. However, there is one thing which you should always remember when you make this a daily habit, as you are investing a part of your life doing it. Too much reading, without any thinking and action isn't of much use. When you know you are ready to do something it's time to move to the next step. Act upon what you think is right and what you have decided to do. I will encourage the journalist to talk to the author of the above book to get deeper insights into the material he is covering. THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORKS


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