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…



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:

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.

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

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

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.

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61 Responses

  1. 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…

  2. 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!

  3. nicemandan said,

    May 28, 2007 at 4:53 pm

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. ceec said,

    June 7, 2007 at 6:42 pm

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

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  11. 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.