BBC Panorama on WiFi – Updated with response from Panorama presenter Paul Kenyon

May 22nd, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, electrosensitivity, powerwatch - alasdair philips | 61 Comments »

You have to skip through 2 minutes of Eastenders to get to it…

.

“Discuss”.

I haven’t got time right now to go forensic on its ass right now, but there is a lot to be concerned about in this show. For example, the discussion on “electrohypersensitivity” rather neglected this kind of material:

www.badscience.net/?p=239

And it was striking that their criticism of the WHO expert – other than to allude to some loony websites writing mean things about him – was simply to say that he had a vested interest because he had done some work in the past for “industry”. Did they raise this same issue with their Panorama expert Alasdair Phillips, the bloke from Powerwatch who sells people their thousands of pounds worth of foil-lined insulating silver-plated nylon/polyester thread curtains, insulating lead carbon paint, and beekeeper electrosensitivity headgear? No. Mmm.

Thank god you’ve bought one of these from Patrick Holford to protect you.

And do feel free to post links to your own blogs discussing the Panorama show, would be good to get as many in one place as possible.

The BBC “have your say” comments on the show are pretty funny.

qurl.com/njqhh

and Guy “not Goma” Kewney in the Reg is pretty interesting on Stewart.

www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/24/open_letter/


25th May 2007 19:00 – Comment from BBC Panorama presenter Paul Kenyon below:

www.badscience.net/?p=416

Paul Kenyon Podcast

We also had a long chat on the phone, “stilted” while the tape was on, cheery when it wasn’t. Nice chap. Unfortunately it’s on audio cassette – not posh podcast recorder – because you stingy bastards don’t ever spend anything here or here, and god bless you for it, ideas were meant to be free. I’ll try and transfer it over if I can find a weird enough audio cable, it’s just about audible.

You’ve, er, heard the previous recordings of course.

www.badscience.net/?p=369


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61 Responses



  1. jackpt said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:54 am

    I’m stunned. The language, the lack of context, and the general “you’re being lied to” tone is scaremongering at its worst.

  2. monstermunch said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:07 am

    The distortion and bias in that programme really made my blood boil. I was stunned by the bad reporting and the bad science on display.

    Ben, have you ever thought of doing an annual “Bad Science” awards? You could pick some nominations for things like “Bad Science Article Writer”, “Bad Science Health Product”, “Bad Science Complementary Medicine” etc., we could have an online vote and you could send the each winner a rubber duck with their name and award printed on it. It might be a fun way to raise awareness of bad science when the awards are sent out. I think we have a nomination for “Bad Science Documentary”.

  3. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:14 am

    yeah i did some 2 years ago, got the vid somewhere, must upload. doing more this year, soonish. this panorama is a cracking contender.

    www.twonilblankblank.com/2007/05/22/panorama-electrosmog-waves-as-particles/

    wongablog.co.uk/2007/05/22/panorama-on-wi-fi/

    education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2084525,00.html

    www.quackometer.net/blog/default.htm

  4. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:31 am

    If it helps, BBC News Online isn’t impressed. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm

    I wonder if a major wi-fi manufacturer or vendor will sue the BBC.

  5. j said,

    May 22, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Every day, TV transmitters are bombarding the whole country with electromagnetic radiation – including *digital* signals. If this is the type of shite that gets broadcast, I demand that they stop this madness *now*.

    Maybe we could get the Daily Mail on board for the campaign…

  6. Ed Yong said,

    May 22, 2007 at 4:49 am

    I am absolutely sure that BBC online’s news coverage has changed since it first came up. The article I originally saw yesterday had:
    – a more fear-mongering headline
    – the William Stewart quote much further down the page
    – the Prof Challis quote much further up the page
    – a different first paragraph.

    It would seem that the Beeb have lost faith in the documentary over the course of 24 hours.

  7. le canard noir said,

    May 22, 2007 at 7:28 am

    I’ve written my own tuppenceworth yesterday on the appalling state of science in the anti-wi-fi lobby, the MPs linked to pressure gorups and their associations with quackery and health fraud. More to follow I am sure when I get to watch the programme.

    www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/05/wi-fi-quackery-and-parliament.html

  8. Rich Scopie said,

    May 22, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Half an hour of shouting at the TV…

    The complete lack of evidence, the sneering tone when confronted by views contrary to the programme’s premise, the ignoring of basic scientific principles, the wheeling out of lobbyists and “hypersensitives”, the use of inflammatory language (“ELECTROMAGNETIC SMOG!!!”), the glossing over of inconvenient facts, the convenient omission of any of their “studies”, and the thinly veiled implication that the WHO fella was simply lying (I hope he sues)…

  9. Kess said,

    May 22, 2007 at 7:59 am

    The public response on the BBC News’ Have Your Say page is reassuring. At least 90% of contributors are making the same comments as us.

    newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?threadID=6357&&&edition=1&ttl=20070521165820

  10. johnp said,

    May 22, 2007 at 8:35 am

    I’m an RF Engineer, and watched last night’s documentary with a combination of writing notes (I suspected it would be bad) and shouting at the TV (It was…).

    The measurements they made with a spectrum analyser (the big box the Powerwatch nutjob was playing with) looked very suspect, and running round Norwich with an “electronic smog” meter making a whirring noise was just laughable. And the “hypersensitive” people covering their walls with tinfoil almost had me rolling around on the floor.

    I hope the BBC was well paid for that Powerwatch infomercial.

    Cheers
    John

  11. Paul Crowley said,

    May 22, 2007 at 8:40 am

    (”ELECTROMAGNETIC SMOG!!!”)

    No mention of “heavy electricity” then?

  12. outeast said,

    May 22, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Wasn’t this on Brass Eye?

  13. Azimov said,

    May 22, 2007 at 9:03 am

    I love the sections like “a growing number of scientific studies” great, care to reference any “err… erm well you know there’s like erm molecular biology and stuff”. I think we need better scientific education, won’t somebody think of the children?

  14. Tony Jackson said,

    May 22, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Disappointed to see Ian Gibson in with the woo-woo crowd. I used to think he was one of the few sensible MPs when it came to science….

  15. paperpig said,

    May 22, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Blimey! Eastenders is depressing isn’t it!

  16. jbone said,

    May 22, 2007 at 10:26 am

    My favourite bit was when the “electrosensitive” woman demonstrated the remarkable effect of the aluminium foil covering her entire house by wrapping some sort of EM radiation detector in foil and marvelling as it got quieter. Genius.

  17. JohnK said,

    May 22, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Utterly awful. This was quack journalism, all manner of sciency bits without any deep unbiased consideration of the evidence. A lot of it hinged on Stewart’s precautionary position, but we didn’t hear any details from him about the particular evidence that led him to that position. We had a freakshow from a couple of people who claim to be electrosensitive, one of whom has been investgated at Essex Uni. But we didn’t get any detail about how that study was designed or what it demonstrated, just the 66% figure which sounds good out of context but may well be within the 95% confidence interval for a chance result. If this woman really needs to shield her house, she should be able to tell nearly all the time whether the field is present. If she operates at chance, I’d have thought she was more of a psychiatric case than a medical one.

    The main problem though was hinted at in the interview with the WHO advisor. Policy decisions aren’t made on the basis of single studies, the whole body of evidence has to be examined. If a study finds an interesting result, it then has to be replicated and considered in the context of all the negative findings. The alternative is chaos, we’d be blown in the wind by every Type I error. The journalists involved in this programme know this, but they chose to focus on one side of the story. Shame.

  18. BrickWall said,

    May 22, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Whilst I completely agree with every comment raised so far and was similarly enraged by the programme. Can anyone explain why the head of the Health Protection Agency was being so ridiculously cautious?

    I’m sure the woo and anti-wifi brigade will latch on to him and the other professors quoted (they were from Sweden and Seattle so obviously must be believed as they come from such nice places!) and ignore any arguments about science. Why let the truth get in the way of a good panic! Any ideas what to say with respect to these people? Presumably they’re not all marketing their own brands of tin foil?

  19. Tim Worstall said,

    May 22, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Apologies for the self promotion:
    timworstall.typepad.com/timworstall/2007/05/wifi_is_killing.html

    As usual at my place, the comments are more informative than the post itself.

  20. dolfinack said,

    May 22, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I feel like being sick. And its nothing to do with the raditaion tearing my body apart daily. These people should be fired. The BBC continues to grow into an irresponsible scare-mongering organisation. Next we know ITV will be dishing out reliable science :S

  21. Andy Donovan said,

    May 22, 2007 at 11:27 am

    These things always remind me of something I saw a few years ago (forget where exactly). They got a bunch of people who had wrapped their houses in tin foil and took them to a hotel. They then set up a temporary mobile phone aerial outside and got them to guess when it was switched on. Interestingly, the results weren’t random as you may expect – they actually felt significantly better when the aerial was turned on. I forget how they squirmed their way out of explaining this result, but I remember it wasn’t pretty.

  22. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 22, 2007 at 11:32 am

    haha from tim worstall’s blog comments (sorry i can’t find a way to link direct to comment):

    Posted by: Tristan Mills | May 21, 2007 10:13:44 AM

    Wifi uses frequencies of 2.5 GHz to 5 GHz, and power levels of transmissions are typically around 1 W.

    However there is another technology also used in schools that emits electromagnetic radiation and is potentially more dangerous, because:

    1. this other technology emits radiation in the range of 450-750 THz, i.e. 100,000 times the frequency of Wifi; which means that each electromagnetic particle (or “photon”) will carry 100,000 times more energy and is therefore 100,000 times as potentially damaging. Furthermore there are structures near thr human brain which nave been scientifically demonstrated to be especially sensitive to radiation of these frequencies.

    2. this other technology uses more powerful transmitters that typically emit 60-100 W. Furthermore, these transmitters are typically kept on all the time (unlike wifi which transmits in bursts), which increases the total amount of energy radiated over a given time.

    These facts suggest to me that this other technology is potentially a lot more harmful to health than wifi might be (although having said that it is entitrely possible that neither technology poses a significant harm to health), and that consequently if wifi is to be investigated as a risk to health, this other technology should be investigated much more rigourously.

    The name of this other technology? light bulbs.

  23. Fyse said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Something has to be done about the general standard of science journalism. The newspapers are bad enough, but then Channel 4 wade in with the appalling drivel about climate change, and now this. How many irate scientists d’you reckon we could muster for a march on Westminster? The press just want a good story, and several thousand laboratory-bleached, bespectacled, placard-wielding nerds would surely grab a few headlines…

  24. jjbp said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I remember a while back there was an episode of Watchdog about mobile phone masts. It was in the Anne Robinson days of the programme, and she tried a combative interview with a scientist from some govt body (ok the details are a bit sketchy in my mind). The thing that does stick in my mind was after a bit of badgering about the supposedly detectable effects from masts in a typical school playground, the science bod pointed out that the similar power of the BBC transmitter at Crystal Palace, and had the BBC had any complaints about that? As Eric Morecambe used to say “there’s no answer to that”.

  25. Despard said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I’d do it, if I could bring my laptop. I have data analysis to do…

    ;-)

  26. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/james_randerson/2007/05/why_fear_wifi.html

    blog.bibrik.com/archives/2007/05/wifi_fears.html

    keithprimaryict.blogspot.com/2007/05/more-on-wi-fi-health-debate.html

    p10.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/blog/2007/05/bbc_tv_panorama_conflates_wifi_radiation_fears_with_mobile_phone_masts_ignores_handsets_in_schools.html

    blogs.guardian.co.uk/technology/archives/2007/05/21/the_dangers_of_wifi_radiation_updated.html

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm

  27. electros said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Why are all these comments so patently emotional reactions on a website supposedly rational, and about good and bad science?
    If this is the company Ben keeps it is little surprise he occasionally falls off the high standards he requires for others, and usually applies to himself too.
    On this electrosmog/EHS topic it is getting funny watching him get it so wrong, and digging his hole deeper. As the earth flies out from his industrious spade he is quite unable to hear or see biologists and many very other experienced scientists, like the chief government scientist, highly qualified individuals with decades of published, peer-reviewed science presenting thought through assessments.
    The hysterical and irrational style of comments here about this excellent Panorama programme will wind him up and make his spade flash faster yet, we hope.
    Cheers

  28. Winno said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Hmmm…. A wonderful example of well balanced journalism….. johnp thanks for confirming what the powerwatch guy was faffing about with, shame you could see the scale though; “look the yellow swiggle is bigger”. My other moan- what is this “electromagnetic smog” stuff? Lost count how many times this phrase was used in the programme, funny thing is I don’t remember hearing it once in all my electromagnetism lectures at uni. And yes I’m proudly typing this on a WIFI enabled laptop!!

  29. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    thanks for that comment at #27 electros, or should I say….

    Mr Rod Read of Electrosensitivity.

    www.electrosensitivity.org.uk

    i must say these comments are extremely tame compared to your normal barrage of abuse. my personal favourite is this letter you sent around to various people, which i think you should consider publishing on your website.

    Oh dear, this is turning nasty,

    several times it has been suggested by your Joseph Harker I should write a letter, so lets have you print it.

    Rattled old Ben Goldacre down in the gutter again, such a high-falutin scientist when he can make the facts fit, and down in the gutter when it pleases him if they won’t.

    And paid to have his high and mighty pedestal, to swing left and right, by you.

    So he offends hundreds with insults and innuendo, then, when his nose is pushed in the evidence and he wobbles, acknowledging risks “the mobile phone network being a danger to health – which could well turn out to be the case”, but hey retrieve it, with a mass smear none of us can know to be true. Like a squid retreating in a cloud of stinky gas to cover his passage.

    We do know he had many genuine accounts of electro-sensitive illness sent in. What about Brian Stein then Ben? Explain away his lucid detailed account of how he runs a 500 million pound a year company, with an electricity-free office, because of what heavy mobile use did, and does, to his health. Oh no. Pick one wishing you get cancer, an emotional response to insult, far more ‘scientific’. Now I am into sarcasm, that is what it does to you, dealing with those down in the intellectual gutter.

    Off he goes disdainfully holding his nose in the air, he disgusts many of us with his chicanery deceit and double standards. No wonder some blow their tops..and you pay him, ugh.

    Yours sincerely

    Rod Read

  30. Winno said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    electros nice analogy…. Isn’t the whole point of the discussion here that two quite polarised sides exist in this debate and that Panorama presented a distorted view of the science by giving more airtime to those who question the WHO/government standing whilst alluding Dr Repacholi is somehow biased due to his involvement with the nebulous evil of “industry”?? Doesn’t this constitute bad science/scaremongering?

    Sorry for multiple posts….

  31. jackpt said,

    May 22, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    There is also the perception that the health affects of EMF have not being monitored. Which, upon further examination, is complete nonsense. The affects have being monitored for half a century. One word: Radar. There’s this perception that because Wi-Fi is ‘new’ that exposure to EMF is new. It’s not. That’s why when scientists talk about a body of evidence being against the hypothesis that common EMF damage they’re not talking balls.

  32. briantist@work said,

    May 22, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,2084219,00.html

  33. briantist@work said,

    May 22, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I still find it amazing that people can get all frightened by GSM mobile phones and then ignore the fact that the frequencies were used from April 1925 to January 1985 for black and white television…

    Possibly a amazing as people who think air molecules vibrating at 2.4 GHz do harm.

    In particular the “sensitive” lady who managed just slightly better than chance!

  34. briantist@work said,

    May 22, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve just checked the BBC News website for today’s vote:

    Are you concerned about wi-fi safety?
    Yes 26.50%
    No 73.50%
    4751 Votes Cast

    Perhaps there is some hope yet!
    newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/default.stm?dynamic_vote=ON#vote_vote_wifi

  35. Dr* T said,

    May 22, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    ha ha ha ha ha

    Rod Read….ha ha ha ha

    Defo living too near something monkeying with his brain.

    There’s too much to laugh at but my favourite:

    “Like a squid retreating in a cloud of stinky gas to cover his passage”

    A beautiful mixed metaphor, from someone who deeply understands the marine world.

  36. Quercus said,

    May 22, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Following Kess’s link above and sorting the comments on Have Your Say by ‘Readers Recommend’, it’s restored some small amount of faith that you get two pages pointing out what a terrible load of scientific illiteracy the programme was.

    You have to go down to page three before you get the first pro-Panorama comment: “Well done Panorama for outlining this very concerning and important issue. I fully support this and am amazed that so many ignorant people could add these kind of comments – the truth is no-one knows if it is dangerous or not, therefore lets be cautious. Like other countries as outline in your report. I hope my school never put WIFI.” It’s not clear whether this is a pupil or a teacher. I *hope* it’s a pupil.

    The next comment is even more depressing, as it comes from someone calling herself Cllr Sylvia Wright. Oh dear. “The highest authority on this subject, Sir William Stewart, has spoken. Any sensible adult, whether a parent or not, would be backing a call to halt the rollout of wi-fi – especially in our schools – until we know for sure that the health of our children is not being compromised.” A politician, however lowly, playing the “won’t someone think of the children” card. Who’d have thought it? Confiscate the little darlings’ mobile phones, councillor, if you’re that worried.

    Incidentally, well done Sir William for undermining your own agency.

    (Oo, I feel a headache coming on…must be my wireless bridge, router, laptop and print server conspiring to fill my home with evil electrosmog…sigh…)

  37. Idolator said,

    May 23, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Wow! That show’s pumpin’ techno beat really reaches out to my demographic! I’m gonna make sure I watch BBC Panorama with all my friends approximately 18-30!

    Sincerely,
    Anglo-American youths

    PS that was sarcasm. I hate you so hard.

  38. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 23, 2007 at 1:21 am

    BBC stories often are quite similar to previous BBC stories, being the latest version of a thing. The “it’s unproven” story is described as “Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK”, before the broadcast, but so is the version in Google cache as I write – grab it now – which is indeed different as you say.

  39. Thom Shannon said,

    May 23, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I’ve been writing a bit about all this wifi scaremongering

    www.ts0.com/labels/media.asp

  40. spudhead said,

    May 23, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Just complained via the bbc website. Handily, the bit where you enter the programme name had “eg Panorama” by it. They must be getting pretty sick of that programme.

  41. John Craddock said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    Something struck me about the experiment with the lady who could tell when the field was turned on two thirds of the time. The program said that the results for the other people taking the test weren’t available yet. It seems to me that checking some ones result is as simple as counting up the number they got right and wrong and shouldn’t take long to do. If they had time to take the lady to Sweden and back after the test, the other results really should have been available by the time the program was made.

    Perhaps someone more proactive than me could hunt down the rest of the results and publish them? Also, I’d be interested to know if this Lady was the first person to be tested, as her results were the first ready, so as I can convince myself that she wasn’t cherry-picked from the group.

    I wouldn’t like to rush to conclusions about this electro-sensitivity one way or the other until I’ve seen some evidence but I’m made suspicious by the fact that none was presented in the program.

  42. Peter Mellor said,

    May 24, 2007 at 5:17 am

    While nosing around through the tons of stuff on the web about the risks Wi-Fi and related technology, I came across the following from Powerlines and Substations
    www.powerwatch.org.uk/powerlines.asp

    “There are serious health effects, including cancer and depression, associated with living in electromagnetic fields above 0.2 microtesla (magnetic field) and also with high electric fields (measured in volts per metre).”

    I did a quick check on Wikipedia and found:

    “The strength of the field at the Earth’s surface ranges from less than 30 microteslas (0.3 gauss) in an area including most of South America and South Africa to over 60 microteslas (0.6 gauss) around the magnetic poles in northern Canada and south of Australia, and in part of Siberia.”

    The survival of the human species does seem to be remarkable!

    Pete

  43. rjmunro said,

    May 24, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Looking at Beckley Church of England Primary School, news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/education/04/school_tables/primary_schools/html/931_3256.stm

    it is about 400 yards from the TV transmitter that pumps out 2 million watts of TV signals, and it it top of the Oxfordshire league tables. Therefore the radiation must help the children’s learning.

    Robert (Jamie) Munro

  44. tonyy said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Wonder if the reporter thought about the hazards of his radio mic? I detected a lot of dangerous stuff being emitted from it.

  45. grey1618 said,

    May 24, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Remember, Wifi Eats Babies

  46. ayupmeduck said,

    May 25, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    If you’re still collecting blog links, here’s one:

    www.qnoodle.com/public/blog/2396

    Strangely, there’s seemingly not much interest compared to past rants (e.g. McKeith), even though the consequences IMHO are bigger.

  47. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 25, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    I’ve just been sent this by the BBC publicity office, it is a note from Paul Kenyon.

    He is talking about the posts here and here.

    “If you could post Paul’s piece below online today that would be great.”

    I have read the comments expressed about the Panorama WiFi programme and, though often entertaining, I do think much of it is unfair criticism of a programme with a very straight forward thesis. The head of the HPA, who is a well-respected and influential scientist calls for a review of WiFi technology in schools because he feels it is being rolled out too rapidly….isnt that worth reporting?

    As many of your readers will know, in 2000 Sir William Stewart carried out a review of the studies carried out into the possible health effects of mobile phones and masts. His key recommendation was that we should take a “precautionary approach”. It is his view that the government has not taken a sufficiently “precautionary approach” in relation to WiFi. I think you will agree this too is worth reporting.

    He also recommended against the beam of greatest intensity from a mobile phone mast falling on any part of a schools grounds. Now, you may disagree with his thoughts, but do bear in mind that this view was reached by Sir William’s expert group, and not by him alone. The expert group included Dr Mike Repacholi. If Sir William is concerned about pulsing radio frequency radiation from phone masts, it would follow that he might well have concerns about the similar pulsing radiation from WiFi. He says he does. We went to a school and measured it. We then compared it with a mobile phone mast, which he had expressed his concerns about. Since the outrage expressed on this website, I checked again to ensure this was comparing like with like (even though we did of course check on numerous occasions during the making of the programme). I checked this time with a scientist at University of Bristol, who said that for the purpose of this programme these two sources are comparable. So, put simply, Sir William Stewart is uncomfortable about the main beam of a mast falling on a school…the WiFi had a higher reading. He is concerned about that too. However, it must be pointed out that we interviewed Sir William before we carried out the tests at the school, and so his concern was not as a result of the tests.

    Ben compares it, amusingly enough, with the radiation from a light bulb, therefore qualifying himself for his very own Bad Science Award. The bulb doesn’t produce pulsing radiation for a start.

    On the subject of Alasdair Phillips, whatever you think about his views, they didn’t impinge in any way on the programme. All he did was take the readings, not express a view.

    In terms of interviewees, Professor Henry Lai is well-respected by both sides in the argument. Dr Repacholi agreed with that when I put it to him. Just because he is in a minority of scientists who have found an effect at these low levels of radiation doesn’t mean he can be brushed to one side. Dr Olle Johansson specialises in the field of electrosensitives, and is from the Karolinska Institute and so absolutely worth having in the programme.

    Panorama was not trying to suggest there is any new science around, we were merely reporting on the views of the government’s chief advisor in this field. It is the mainstream view, which your readers appear to unanimously support, that there is no evidence of any adverse health effects from this form of radiation. But when we put that quote, from the WHO website, to Sir William he said this:

    PK: Is that an accurate reflection of the science do you think?

    BS: I think they’re wrong

    PK: How are they wrong?

    BS: Because there is evidence and the Stewart report pointed out some of that evidence

    The fact that the head of the HPA believes the WHO is incorrect in the message it’s putting out to the world seems to me to be a legitimate piece of journalism.

    Yours Paul Kenyon

    I ought to mention in passing that obviously I didn’t compare electromagnetic signals with lightbulbs, I quoted a funny skit from somebody called Tristan Mills on another blog. He was mocking the use of the word “radiation” in the program (30 times in 28 minutes) to describe electromagnetic signals. It’s quite a funny skit from him, you should read it.

    Paul Kenyon Podcast

    We also had a long chat on the phone, “stilted” while the tape was on, cheery when it wasn’t. Nice chap. Unfortunately it’s on audio cassette – not posh podcast recorder – because you stingy bastards don’t ever spend anything here or here, and god bless you for it, ideas were meant to be free. I’ll try and transfer it over if I can find a weird enough audio cable, but I warn you it may be only just about audible.

    You’ve, er, heard the quality of the previous recordings of course.

    www.badscience.net/?p=369

  48. Nanobot said,

    May 25, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    They can’t do anything right, can they? Well, I’ve written a complaint so lets see how it goes.

    Sadly the BBC fails to have realised that David King is a political animal and his views are coloured both by science and politics.

    I also disagree that Alisdair Phillips didn’t express a view. ‘Wow, that’s quite spectacular’ – I did hear that coming from the man’s lips didn’t I? Sounds like an opinion to me.

  49. Mr Scopes said,

    May 25, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Ok now I have a practical question. I’m as much a sceptical rationalist as everyone else but here’s the situation. My household wifi sits right next to the desk that my 12 year old son spends far to many hours each day playing computer games (and a little homework). Should I move it? Should I even bother to ask you here and just move it anyway? Could this be my John Gummer moment. (here little daughter, stuff this beefburger in your face to prove BSE doesn’t exist)
    A parent needs to know.

  50. tomh said,

    May 25, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Re No 56 (Mr Scopes)
    Don’t bother moving it, just invest some time to learn how to set it up correctly, and by this I mean setting a time limit on the router so that your child can’t spend so long on the computer (presuming he is playing multi-player games of course…

    This should elimanate the primary cause of your dilemma (son spending too much time in front of the computer), while saving you the hassle of moving something for no good reason at all…

  51. fenderplayer96 said,

    May 28, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Should I be reading anything into the way Alisdair Phillips felt it necessary to “make sure this is set to the right scale” immediately before he took the reading and made his “quite spectacular” comment? Naah, probably nothing…

  52. nicemandan said,

    May 28, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    What concerns me, is that this Panorama follows the one about Scientology, where John Sweeny lost it. The BBC were trying to gain the moral high ground over the barrage of anti-BBC propaganda put out by Scientologists.

    Yet producing such poorly researched programme, just for the sake of sensationalism degrades the BBC even more and weakens its position against its critics.

    Scientologists can quite rightly say Panorama doesn’t research its facts properly and is guilty of scare-mongery. Well done BBC for shooting yourself in the foot!

  53. nicemandan said,

    May 28, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Having said that… was the teacher who complained about the BBC a Scientologist?

  54. Robert Carnegie said,

    May 29, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Channel 4 just ran the story of the Soviet fencing competitor at the Olympics who had a button to press on his foil to make it score “hit”.

    I think Scientologists have their own funny gadgets, they wouldn’t want to draw attention to other people’s. I also was presuming the important documentary on wi-fi was on the shelf next to Scientology waiting for a week when nothing of actual importance happened, but Ben getting a letter saying “the Panorama people and Mister Tin Foil Hat were just here, we threw them out” counts against that.

  55. fstorr said,

    May 29, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Bit late to the party on this, but Ed, you can use the rather fine News Sniffer site to track changes on BBC news articles.

  56. ceec said,

    June 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    From the powerwatch page in post #48

    “Due to the spurious nature of electromagnetic fields, the only way of knowing exposure levels is to measure the field levels.”

    I like collecting poetic physics terminology but am a bit suspicious of it in this case. Can one of you physicists tell me if it’s a genuine technical term or not? I am hoping so, for the good of my soul.

  57. ceec said,

    June 7, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Sorry – I mean is “spurious” a genuine technical term?

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  61. grumpy bloke said,

    August 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Have to agree that Panorama has been completely dumbed down (any link to difficulty of GCSEs ?). I am probably wrong but, the power output of a wi fi transmitter will only vary if it is using amplitude modulation (QAM). If the wi fi protocol is using PSK modulation then the power output remains constant. I also believe that the transmitters are continuously transmitting.

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