Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Absurd Dichotomies — A Comment on BBC Journalism.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Continuing today's theme of BBC related programming:

I found this article published on BBC News Online under the banner: Scientists make 'healthy' pizzas.

Some quotes:

US researchers have developed a way of baking and fermenting dough which can increase levels of antioxidants, which protect against cell and tissue damage.
"I would rather people ate their five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, than ate more pizza" Jacqui Lowdon, British Dietetic association.
While there is a lot of extra supporting stodge on the BBC page, these 2 sentences say all that has to be said in the article. A serious-minded team of US researchers engage in efforts to increase the health benefits of a stock food (likely to be achieved with a humongous grant from someone like Proctor And Gamble), much like Omega 3 in eggs or fluoride in water, and the BBC decides to write an article on the topic. Institutionally incapable of delivering news without converting it into a dichotomy the BBC Journalist finds and interviews a talking head. Then, rather than presenting whatever opinions she gave straight, cuts them down to a meaningless one sentence soundbite that (to be frank — I love that phrase, it just means I am about to be rude) makes her sound like a health-police robot(1).

Not only has the BBC journalist entirely created this issue of a "healthy pizza", they have then attacked their own invention in a truly inept way.

I raise this because it is a perfect demonstration of the need to turn issues into dichotomies that is probably the most malignant streak in BBC journalism — Left/Right, Europhile/Europhobe, Capitalist/Trade Unionist, Healthy/Unhealthy. Then in order to be balanced both of these extremist sides are then given the chance to put their absolutist case. It leaves those of us who sit outside the traditional boundaries of politics screaming at our computers/televisions.

If you need to stoke your BBC rage any further please read these three articles which wonderfully demonstrate how Auntie has documented the accumulating evidence of the damaging effects of the Scottish smoking ban on the hospitality industry:

1) A cancer research charity states that pub takings will not be harmed — Auntie takes their research at face value.

2) The representatives of the hospitality industry state their takings are down — Auntie treats them as a pro-smoking pressure group.

3) The representatives of the hospitality industry publicise job losses — Auntie finally takes this seriously, but still feels the need to present it as a pro/anti-smoking dichotomy.

I love the BBC, and have written elsewhere in their defence. I really, really, wish they would cut this nonsense out.

(1) Since writing this article I have Googled Ms Lowden - I love completely individual names - and found that she truly is a health-police robot. She gives twee soundbites like this on any topic, from "choco-holics" to longer lunch times for school children, that any halfwit journalist asks her about... And here I was hoping she'd been mis-represented.

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