broadcast media

A Doctor Writes: “Why the Panic?”

There follows a guest post from our in-house medical expert, formerly a senior NHS doctor.

At the end of March, I thought I’d written my last article for Lockdown Sceptics. All the data was pointing in the same direction – hospitalisations falling, vaccinations increasing. I firmly believed that we would be back to normal by the summer and there was no further need for me to comment on graphs of hospital admission data.

But I’m back. Not because hospitals are once again packed with Covid patients, but precisely because they aren’t. Last week I wrote a piece showing that hospital admission rates and intensive care occupancy continue to fall – yet we are exposed to a daily diet of catastrophising about rising community ‘cases’ and deadly new variants to justify continuing societal restrictions. 

So, let’s have a look at the news of hospitalisations increasing. Graph One shows the admissions from the community broken down by English regions from April through to June 8th. Indeed, there is a scary looking increase in admissions. The biggest increase proportionally seems to be in the North West and the Midlands.

But let’s put this into context by looking at Graph Two. Not quite so scary. The Prime Minister is correct in saying that hospitalisations have risen in the last few weeks. He must have forgotten to mention how that relates to the overall context – in that the rise is negligible in practical terms.

And the case mix continues to reflect a different segment of the population being badly affected enough to be admitted to hospital. Graph Three shows a continuing increase in the proportion of younger people and a continuing drop in the older, more vulnerable age group admitted to hospital. The difference is substantial, consistent and obvious. We know that younger people are less likely to be seriously ill, less likely to need prolonged admission and far less likely to die. So why the panic? Continuing to measure ‘Covid cases’ in the community makes about as much sense as testing for the common cold – also frequently caused by a coronavirus, by the way.

Why Haven’t We Heard Dominic Cummings’ Shocking Revelations About the Chaos in Downing St Until Now? Was it Because of Ofcom’s 1984-Style Diktat that Muzzled the Broadcast Media?

I’ve written a piece for Mail+ today about one of the overlooked aspects of Dominic Cummings’s testimony. The reason he was able to dominate the news headlines is because the broadcast media hasn’t uncovered most of the scandals he revealed before. We’d heard about a few of these stories, but the sheer depth of incompetence he revealed at the heart of Government last March was genuinely shocking. Okay, he was protected by Parliamentary privilege and it might have been difficult for television journalists to broadcast some of these stories – to accuse Matt Hancock of being a serial liar, for instance – but that’s surely not the main reason we hadn’t heard any of this stuff before. So what is the reason? I think Ofcom has a lot to answer for, as I explain in my article.

On March 27, 2020, four days after Boris announced the first lockdown, Ofcom sent some “important guidance” to its licensees, cautioning them to take “particular care” when broadcasting “statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease”.

Was this a shocking attempt to muzzle the free press? Three weeks later, the regulator showed it meant business by reprimanding Eamonn Holmes, presenter of ITV’s This Morning, for breaching this guidance. His sin, according to Ofcom, was to say he didn’t think people expressing unorthodox views about the virus – such as the one linking the symptoms of Covid-19 to 5G masts – should be vilified by the mainstream media. He didn’t say he thought that particular conspiracy theory was true. In fact, he described it as “not true and incredibly stupid”. He merely said it ought to be discussed.

For that heresy, Ofcom gave him a stern ticking-off, telling him he “could have undermined people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the coronavirus”.

After that, we barely heard a squeak of criticism from broadcast journalists about the Government’s handling of the crisis. Whenever a dissenting voice popped up on the BBC, it often felt like a mistake, as though the person had only managed to slip past the official gatekeepers when they were looking the other way.

For instance, on October 14th, 2020, Professor Sunetra Gupta, a prominent critic of the Government’s approach to the pandemic, appeared on BBC News to talk about the local lockdowns that had been imposed in the north of England. It is claimed that just before she went on air, one of the producers told her not to mention the Great Barrington Declaration, a document signed by eminent scientists setting out an alternative policy. Where did that instruction come from?

Another example: At the end of September, Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, tweeted that she’d been invited on to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the lockdown on the understanding that the scientists who opposed it would be portrayed as beyond the pale, only for Prof Gupta, who appeared alongside her, to make a compelling, logical argument. The SAGE panjandrum was furious.

“I’d got prior agreement from R4 about the framing of the item,” she harrumphed. “I was assured that this would not be held as an even-handed debate.”

Luckily for the BBC, it managed to avoid being censured by the state regulator for this momentary lapse.

Worth reading in full.

Negative Impact of Restricting Travel Extends Far Beyond Tourism

The broadcast media is wrong to focus only on holidays abroad when considering travel restrictions, Lord David Blunkett says. In a letter published in yesterday’s Telegraph, he highlights that the impact on trade and aviation is just as important.

Am I the only one who is tired of interviewers on broadcast media, particularly the BBC, asking: “Do you think it will be impossible to go on holiday abroad this year?”

Questions on this theme are not only put to politicians, but also to anyone with any kind of expertise – whether it’s relevant or not – on an almost hourly basis. This obsession then drives the narrative, which affects how decisions are taken.

Decisions about foreign travel have ramifications way beyond whether anyone can go on holiday. All of our future trading arrangements depend on people being able to be on site, to demonstrate products, and, of course, to be able to maintain and service what is delivered. Maintaining our aviation capacity is as much about freight as it is about passengers, and when airlines go into liquidation and airports cease to be viable, all of us lose out.

Perhaps in the weeks ahead these kinds of questions might replace the constant reiteration of the anxiety displayed by broadcasters.