BBC and helmets

Discussion in 'Technical Chat' started by burtthebike, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. burtthebike

    burtthebike Guest

    Just had a letter from the BBC Editorial complaints unit, responding
    to my complaint about the R4 prog "More or Less" of 27th August, which
    "examined" the case for cycle helmets. The programme was completely
    biased, intererviewing Angela Lee from BHIT, but no-one of any other
    view, and she was not challenged on her views. For the first time in
    the programme's history, it didn't look at the statistics behind the
    case, rather strange, if only because that is its sole raison d'etre.
    The presenter, Tim Harford, made it clear that he was in favour of
    helmets, and that he knew that the subject was highly controversial.
    All of this is completely against the BBC's own rules on bias.

    The BBC ECU doesn't think that there was any bias.

    There could hardly be clearer evidence that the BBC is institutionally
    biased on the subjec of cycle helmets, and despite many complaints,
    they continue to make programmes which ignore the evidence and promote
    cycle helmets, and refuse to make programmes which do examine the

    I shall be taking this to the BBC Editorial Standards Committee, but I
    don't expect a different answer.
    burtthebike, Dec 15, 2010
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  2. burtthebike

    A.Lee Guest

    And as stated here at the time, many other people didnt think there was
    any bias either. Some said there was bias, but even then, it wasnt a
    blatantly biased report.
    Maybe as it is your view, and not the general consensus?
    I listened to it at the time,and didnt think there was any bias - from
    my post 3 months ago:
    "in fact, he did say there was no evidence either way that helmets
    helped or made things worse, and it is down to personal opinion whether
    to wear them or not. Why you say it was biased is beyond me. He also
    said that the anti-helmet / helmet campaigners were vociferous in their
    protests, and a few loud voices drown out the other people in espousing
    their views."

    A.Lee, Dec 15, 2010
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  3. burtthebike

    Matt B Guest

    We discussed it here, and IIRC, the consensus was that it wasn't too bad.
    I've heard commentators, err, comment that on controversial issues the
    BBC usually get complaints from both sides about how biased the coverage
    was. I think they take that as evidence that they are fairly neutral.
    Matt B, Dec 16, 2010
  4. burtthebike

    Peter Fox Guest

    Oh dear!

    The programme was massively incompetent and off-topic. It failed to deal
    with the use/mis-use of stats and it got sucked into opinions eclipsing
    stats. Exactly as per the OP said. Sorry if you couldn't see that a
    programme that purports to use stats to debunk opinions failed to do that
    - in spades.
    Peter Fox, Dec 16, 2010
  5. burtthebike

    burtthebike Guest

    Well, if you look at the BBC's own rules on bias, you'll find that it
    was blatantly biased, on almost every criterion listed in those rules.
    I've just reviewed the original thread, and there are a couple of
    people who think that there was no bias, but the majority agree that
    there was.
    and you were wrong 3 months ago, and you're still wrong. It was Angie
    Lee who said that, not the presenter, and it's the helmet promoters
    who are vociferous, not the other side.
    Can you tell me why you think that uniquely for this programme, no
    data were examined? Why no-one of the opposite opinion to Angie Lee
    was interviewed? If it's not bias, what is the explanation?
    burtthebike, Dec 16, 2010
  6. burtthebike

    bugbear Guest

    Yes - I think that (very reasonable) analysis is used outside the BBC too!

    bugbear, Dec 16, 2010
  7. burtthebike

    burtthebike Guest

    I've just looked at that thread again, and there was no concensus such
    as you describe, most people appeared to consider that the programme
    was biased.
    Somehow, I can't imagine that the BBC had any complaints from people
    promoting cycle helmets, certainly not BHIT, but perhaps you know
    better? Since it appears that the only complaints are from people
    opposed to the helmet promoters, your comment merely demostrates that
    there was bias.
    burtthebike, Dec 16, 2010
  8. burtthebike

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    I'm an avid listener to More or Less and was interested in the piece
    on cycle helmets because of what I've read and because as I've always
    found the MoL analysis to be concise and level headed.

    While I could not detect any massive bias (and I've no particular
    opinions on helmets) I did get the impression that it was a bit of a
    nothing piece with no firm conclusions one way or the other.

    That said, with all the various interpretations of the statistics I've
    seen, perhaps that /is/ a fair representation of the facts.

    Tim Harford is allowed his own opinion but it was clear that it was
    just his personal preference. I'll agree though that he might have
    been better keeping it to himself unless he could prove it was based
    on the statistics.
    Geoff Berrow, Dec 16, 2010
  9. burtthebike

    Tony Raven Guest

    I have an email from the production team accepting the points I made to
    them about bias, particularly about finding time for a lobbyist in a
    programme about evidence and statistics but not time for an expert on
    the evidence and statistics.

    They ran a further item on it the following week IIRC that conceded it too.

    Tony Raven, Dec 16, 2010
  10. burtthebike

    PhilD Guest

    Given the comments made by others, perhaps the line you should take
    with the BBC (should you wish to persue it) should be entirely to do
    with lack of statistics. Make a thing of it that that's what you
    wanted to hear.

    The possibility of one opinion being promoted over another is an
    entirely different issue, which should be kept separate in your
    dealings with the BBC, even to the extent of two separate letters
    covering the two separate issues. Big organisations get confused by
    multi-topic letters and can provide inappropriate answers (Q: "what's
    the time?"; A: "tea, no milk, please").

    PhilD, Dec 16, 2010
  11. The second piece on _More or Less_ was quite a bit better as it looked
    at the numbers. The first piece really didn't deliver anything at all
    apart from opinions. At the time a lot of the complaints about the
    first piece was that it didn't really look at the figures with any
    rigour or analyse just what they meant (which is the usual MoL approach).
    Andy Leighton, Dec 16, 2010
  12. burtthebike

    D.M. Procida Guest

    How on earth would you know?

    They are probably fuming in their bunkers right now about the dismissive
    brush-off they got from the BBC.

    D.M. Procida, Dec 16, 2010
  13. burtthebike

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <>
    Yes what was clearly different from most other items on the programme is
    that they didn't even bother to go into detail about the numbers. So if
    nothing else it was off-topic and out of character for the programme.

    mrc7--urcm, Dec 16, 2010
  14. burtthebike

    Mike Bristow Guest

    I don't think it's a reasonable analysis, in general. A program
    on, say, geography might generate a complaint from the Flat
    Earth Society, but it would be unreasonable to demand that the BBC
    take a "neutral" view on the shape of the earth.

    I tried to think of a cycling equivilent, but I don't think that
    there is a Society for the Promotion of Ordinary Bicycles who might
    complain they make suitable commuting machines.

    Mike Bristow, Dec 16, 2010
  15. burtthebike

    nmm1 Guest

    Since the ineffable Hutton scapegoated the BBC for the Blair/mandarin
    offences, the BBC has toed the government line with a conscienciousness
    that Lenin would have approved of in Pravda.

    I doubt very much that any politician is directly involved with
    that, and I doubt that any of the current bunch are even consciously
    involved. Whether this is an example of that is less clear, as I
    wouldn't have thought that it would have reached the attention of a
    senior enough person to lean on the BBC.

    However, if it has, we can expect some further 'action' towards
    making helmet wearing mandatory - though not, of course, to make
    helmet design effective.

    Nick Maclaren.
    nmm1, Dec 16, 2010
  16. burtthebike

    burtthebike Guest

    I don't know Daniele, that's why I asked the question.
    What dismisive brush off? The founder of BHIT, Angie Lee was
    interviewed at some length, was able to make statements of opinion,
    which although not proven and highly contentious, were not challenged
    by the presenter. Nobody with any other view was given that
    opportunity. Not exactly the standard definition of "brush off". The
    BBC rules about avoiding bias specifically mention challenging
    contentious views and opinions, and the presenter clearly knew that
    these were contentious, so how could this not be bias?
    burtthebike, Dec 16, 2010
  17. burtthebike

    Tony Raven Guest

    My (paraphrased) exchange with the production team went along the lines of:

    PT: We couldn't find anyone to comment on the statistics and evidence

    TR: Did you try Hewson or Hillman or Adams or...

    PT: No, but we wouldn't have had time to fit them in.

    TR: But you found time to fit in a lengthy interview with a lobbyist and
    the personal opinion of your presenter. Lobbyists will tell you what
    they want you to hear which is not what I thought More or Less was about.

    PT: Point taken, both sides of the argument should have been presented.

    Tony Raven, Dec 16, 2010
  18. The unstoppable Joff Summerfield says something like that. His contention
    is that when the safety bicycle was invented, the main danger lay in
    taking a header. Now the main danger is caused by motorists, and a bicycle
    which is enormously tall and has an undeniable "what the hell" factor
    tends to obviate that.
    David Damerell, Dec 16, 2010
  19. burtthebike

    burtthebike Guest

    Thanks Tony, do you have the original?
    burtthebike, Dec 16, 2010
  20. burtthebike

    Mike Bristow Guest

    There is a certain logic to this, but I think the stop-start nature of
    urban commuting makes it very tricky. How hard is it to track-stand
    an ordinary?
    Mike Bristow, Dec 16, 2010
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