The BBC can truly be a malign, bullying and worrying influence.
The BBC’s operatives, when challenged, always put on an air of superiority and talk about their world class standards. Most of the time, this is a dangerous illusion, it seems to me. The BBC is a monopoly, is funded by government edict, often has the gutter standards of the worst tabloids, and unlike the rest of the media, is still immune from the recession’s impact.
Recently on BBC South Today I saw our state news provider at its worst. It used the inconclusive meanderings of an anonymous source to traduce the reputation of a doctor. Because this doctor was once subject to a court case for which he was found not guilty, and had since been struck off by the GMC, the BBC felt it could run the story without fear of retribution. Just like the worst examples of our gutter tabloid press. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink; there’s no smoke without fire, don’t you know.
I contacted the editor of South Today.
His reply is published below.
This is what I wrote –
BBC South Today
From: Neil Winton
I watched the lunchtime report on Dr Tate today, and again this evening on BBC South Today. It was a travesty. It was irresponsible journalism. The report at 1.30 interviewed an anonymous woman, whose accusations amounted to only that the doctor looked at her. He was the doctor doing the examination for goodness sake. Of course he looked at her. I wasn’t sure that this was so because the lunchtime report didn’t have subtitles, I don’t think. It was very difficult to make out what the women said.
The version this evening had the transcript. How dare you use such a thin amount of evidence to try and traduce Dr Tate. Then you followed it up with some stern words from a lawyer, based again on the thinnest of evidence, but assuming his guilt from the film you had shown.
It may well be that the other charges you mentioned may indeed be stronger, but to air evidence on a case like this on zilch evidence is totally irresponsible. It seemed clear from the film, (I’m no doctor, I don’t really know) that ………. woman …. presumably had lost her baby (although you didn’t explain this, another example of irresponsible journalism) and felt that Dr Tate was somehow responsible for this.
Once you have aired accusations like this, it is hard to undo them. But I hope, as Editor, you will admit that this is not the way to report on serious cases, and that you will make sure the journalists responsible will be reprimanded.
I ought to point out that I know Dr Tate slightly. He is a member of my golf club. I know him well enough to say hello to, but that’s it. I have no knowledge of his background…… But that surely doesn’t justify your sickening and irresponsible trashing of his rights.
(I’ve edited this version)
This is the BBC’s response
Dear Mr Winton
Thank you for your e-mail about our report on Dr Rodney Tate on June 17. Please allow me to explain some of the background before I answer the issues you raise.
Five days before the report was aired – June 12th – we carried a short piece saying that Dr Tate had been struck off the Medical Register by the GMC.
Seven patients had complained that he had violated their privacy and performed examinations without their consent. He was a well known GP in Brighton, having practised at the Old Steine Surgery for 36 years.
The story you were unhappy was a follow-up. On the basis of the GMC’s decision, several patients had approached a lawyer called Sarah Harman. She was featured in our report and had told us that the patient we interviewed was considering suing Dr Tate and that others were doing the same.
We took the decision that, with the history of the GMC’s findings the previous week, it was a valid story to run. We pointed out that Dr Tate had not been convicted in a criminal court of any offences. He was acquitted in 2006. That is an important fact in this case and was clearly stated in the graphics part of the report.
However, an equally important fact was that he had been struck off by the GMC – the professional body which regulates doctors. Based on the fact that the GMC had ruled his behaviour was inappropriate and struck him off I took the decision that the story was important enough to run. Any action by the women would not suggest guilt of a criminal offence, it would be a civil matter.
The woman we interviewed was prepared to talk on the condition she was not identified. This is something we are happy to agree to in sensitive stories such as this one. Her interview was relevant as she was one of the complainants in the GMC case. No sexual intent was proved her case but his behaviour was considered inappropriate which amounts to more thanas you arguea mere examination. So the report we carried was not based as you assert on ‘thin evidence’. It was based on fact – that Dr Tate had been found guilty by a professional body of inappropriate behaviour in a working environment . A second fact is that patients are considering suing him. There is an important difference in language here – we did not state that they are definitely suing him.
I should also add that we did approach Dr Tate for an interview but he declined to comment. So rather than ‘trashing his rights’ we gave him the right of reply and he madea decision not to take it.
I hope this sheds some light on why weran the story.
BBC South Today
Nothing you say alters the fact that the interviewee, hiding behind anonymity, leveled accusations against Dr Tate that amounted to very little indeed. It seems to me that you ran this story because you knew that because of Dr Tate’s record, it would be very difficult for him to deflect even these flimsy accusations. Offering him the right of reply is meaningless in this context. Because you knew Dr Tate was in a weak position, it was alright to attack him, even if the material you had amounted to very little indeed. The material did not take whatever case might be forthcoming against Dr Tate any further. It simply made him look bad, even though what was said didn’t amount to much. You set up a bad context, then filled it with nudges and winks but no fact.
It seems to me that an ethical and responsible organisation would have declined to run this material, unless the participants were willing to come up with something substantial. This is the gutter journalism of the worst tabloids, not what I would expect from the BBC.
The controversy over the National Health Service (NHS), inspired by President Obama’s health reform attempts in the U.S., shows the infantilism of our political leaders, and gets us no closer to what we should be aiming for; a better way to deliver health care.
It is impossible to have a rationale debate in Britain about health care. For some reason, many British people have allowed themselves to be brainwashed into thinking that the NHS is, or was, the envy of the world. This was never true. Sure it has one big advantage; it delivers services to everybody, regardless of income or status. But that’s it. It’s a classic Labour party idea; we get wonderful equality, but it’s the equality of crap for all.
If you take the trouble to look at data published on comparative outcomes of health services, the NHS comes very close to the bottom in the civilised world. Look at cancer survival rates. Look at MRSA disease rates. Look at the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and its not so NICE arbitrary ways (You can only have this expensive drug to save your sight until you have lost the sight in one eye).
The U.S. system by contrast is clearly the best in the world in terms of standards for those lucky enough to have health insurance, and that’s a hefty percentage of the population. The U.S. needs reform, to include the 40 odd million without insurance (about 250 million have it). So the trick for the Americans is first – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – don’t screw up the best system in the world when you reform it.
As American politicians look around the world for ideas on how best to reform health care, they will quickly avert their eyes from the debacle that is the NHS. And yet it is impossible for any politician in Britain to stand up and say the simple truth. The NHS might have been a noble idea when it was first floated in the 1940s, but it has outlived its usefulness. (It wasn’t really a noble idea, it was a trick to make us all clients of the state, taking the gruel we were given and asking no questions, but all done with the politicians saying it was good for us, and fairer and equal etc).
There are better ways to deliver healthcare. Look at the French and German systems for instance. These countries insist their citizens are insured. Everybody pays for what they use, then they claim it back on the insurance. There are safety nets for the poor, but there is no doubt that health outcomes in France and Germany are better than in Britain. There are no waiting lists, because the system reacts to demand for operations by using market mechanisms to move investment to where it is required. There are no wards. Try and explain to an American what a ward in a hospital is. You will get blank looks. Because we Brits have been forced to take second rate care for so long and it has been doled out like a charity, not something we’ve paid for (which of course we have), we meekly accept this degradation, which includes mixed wards too.
So here we go again, with Dan Hannan’s remarks on American TV inspiring this ludicrous non-debate between the Tories and Labour. David Cameron knows as well as anybody that the centralised, wasteful, Stalinist NHS stinks. But he also knows that the Labour party is fiendishly clever at trashing the arguments of anybody seeking to improve health delivery by repeating over and over the holy mantra that the NHS is sacred, and can never be touched, and the Tories want to change this glorious system, which doesn’t come close to doing what it says on the tin.
Cameron is so desperate not to rock the boat which seems certain to deliver him into Downing Street next year, that he criticises Hannan as an eccentric. As soon as the cry goes up about the NHS, the media, led by the state-financed BBC, can be relied on to fuel the ya-boo arguments about who loves the NHS most. Watching Andrew Lansley (Tory) and Andy Burnham (Labour) argue about how much they are devoted to this failed organisation is too contemptible, too depressing for words. They do think we are children.
Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 on Friday night conspired to have a panel who all more or less said the NHS is the way to go, even though none of them were politicians. The BBC reports this argument as though it’s the paid PR man of the NHS. (Incidentally, the cretins who produce this programme, managed to invite an audience in Rye, deep in true blue Sussex, who remained silent when one panellist criticised hated, reviled Gordon Brown, but cheered communist union agitator Bob Crow to the rafters!)
So the debate about health drones on pointlessly, with never a word about what is the best way to deliver health care. All we hear are silly claims that this party loves the NHS more, and thinks it is a national treasure. If Cameron was a Margaret Thatcher or a Norman Tebbit, one might hope that this professed love of the NHS was a smokescreen which when the election was over, might reveal a plan to design something more sensible and efficient for us Brits. (Just copy what the Germans and French do Dave, it’s not very difficult).
I fear that the awful, glib Cameron believes what he says about the NHS, and so mediocrity will be the watchword in healthcare for us in Britain for the foreseeable future.
The weekend media is full of talk about the right to die, with earnest pleas “to do something”. Tory MP Damian Green on Friday night’s Any Questions on Radio 4 tried to inject a note of caution into the arguments supplied by his fellow panellists, who seemed to be eager to change the law to make assisted suicide easier.
Not for the first time do we see a policy developing which will haunt us in years to come. Green pointed out that if the law is changed to make suicide easier, one of the unintended consequences will be pressure on the aged, particularly those in care homes facing huge bills which eat away at the inheritance, to do the decent thing, take the pill, and die. The pressure will also be on those who feel that they are an encumbrance to their families and carers.
If in the 1960s when abortion was legalised, we had been told that by 2009, there would be almost 200,000 abortions a year, I don’t think Parliament would have approved it. At the time, we were persuaded by those saying it would save a handful of desperate women from death at the hands of illegal, back-street abortions. I think that if we knew then what we know now – 200,000 abortion a year in Britain – we might have said that was a price worth paying for the sordid and corrupting production line of death which is the current abortion industry.
We’ve also got the 1960s in general and David Steel in particular to thank for changing the law on homosexuality. If we had been told then that we would have homosexual marriage, homosexuals getting priority over normal couples for the adoption of children, and annual municipal sodomy celebrations courtesy of the ratepayers, maybe we would have designed it a little differently. Surely it would have been possible to legalise homosexual acts, with going the whole hog and promising it would treated as a different but equal lifestyle, with just as much validity as the heterosexual, otherwise known as normal, world. Bill Clinton said two things which stick in my mind during his two terms as president (apart from “it depends on what the meaning of “is” “is”, and “I never had sexual relations with that women”). One was “the era of big government is over” – totally wrong on that one Bill – and “don’t ask-don’t tell”. The latter was his decision to roll back on his plan to allow open homosexuality in the military. If instead of Gay Pride day, we had don’t ask and don’t tell, surely we might get back to a saner world where we kept our sexual preferences to ourselves.
But I digress.
The Dignity in Death movement is trying to railroad us into changing a situation which might be unsatisfactory theoretically, but works as well as can be expected in practise. Let’s face it, nobody yet has been prosecuted for accompanying some poor unfortunate to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich. We also know that doctors in this country have put the dying out of their misery for centuries. I suppose a pedant would call this murder, but this mercy killing happens all the time. If Parliament tries to formalise this, it will create awful unintended consequences. The possibility that poor Debbie Purdy’s husband might be prosecuted for aiding and abetting suicide is a small price to pay for the unintended production line of the elderly being pushed into premature death that any attempt to rationalise the law will mean.