Amusing Leaked Letter – BBC Panorama Wi-Fi – now updated with further response from BBC

May 23rd, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, electrosensitivity, powerwatch - alasdair philips | 44 Comments »

This has fallen into my hands. It is – I am informed – the letter that the BBC complaints people are planning to send to people if they complain about the ludicrous Panorama Wi-Fi show from Monday, featuring Alasdair Philips and electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

I thought it might amuse you to know that it has apparently been written before you managed to write to them. Do please let us all know if you receive anything eerily similar yourself…

Dear ,

Many thanks for taking the time to get in touch following our show, Wi-Fi – A Warning Signal.

I’m sorry if you believe the programme lacked the hard evidence you wanted to see. Unfortunately, the truth is that as things stand, there is no hard evidence regarding the effects of long term exposure to Wi-Fi which is why we made the programme.

Wi-Fi is being rolled out into classrooms around the country by the Government contrary to the precautionary approach recommended by the head of its own advisory body Sir William Stewart – chair of the Health Protection Agency. As you will have seen in the programme, he believes that where radiation is concerned we should base policy on the precautionary principle particularly when it comes to children. This therefore raises questions as to whether Wi-Fi should be rolled out into the classroom without any long term health research being carried out.

Many scientists criticise the way in which the radiation exposure limits are set in this country. The programme featured both the WHO position and ICNIRP who base their limits on what they term a “thermal effect”. It is this view that courts criticism from some scientists, including those featured in our programme, because the safety limits do not take into account a biological effect which some scientists say they have found evidence of. The reason why these positions were not represented by different people is that Dr Michael Repacholi is perhaps the most qualified person to answer such questions given that he was the founding chair of ICNIRP (and continues to be Emeritus Chairman) and because he set up and headed the WHO EMF project for ten years. However, he was given the opportunity to make his position clear in the programme.

The other scientists in the film are all experts in their fields who have concerns that we are rushing forward into something before it’s been around long enough to know what the long term effects could be.

The fact that the Swedish government recognises radiation sensitivity as a disability that affects 3% of the population was, we felt, of interest given our Government’s publicly stated view that this condition does not exist.

The programme attempted to raise concern without causing alarm – always a difficult balance to strike but one which we believe we achieved.

Please continue to let us know your views on the programmes as they are always welcome and we hope you keep watching.

Regards

BBC Panorama

BBC Spokesperson says 25th May

(I’m typing this as we speak on the phone!)

“The letter was written in response to a number of similar complaints that were raised.”

I asked if people will get responses to the specific questions they raised, which were not addressed in this letter? She will get back to me on that.

25th May 2007

“If anyone’s upset with the response they can complain to BBC information if they want someone to look into it further.”

18:10 Paul Kenyon Chat:

Just had a nice chat with Paul Kenyon, presenter of the show, he’s asking his BBC overlords if he is allowed to do an unedited podcast chat about the show with me to post up here/Guardian. Fingers crossed, would be interesting I think.


25th May 2007 19:00 – a comment from BBC Panorama presenter Paul Kenyon is posted here:

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 high quality recordings of course.

www.badscience.net/?p=369


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44 Responses



  1. Cargo Cult said,

    May 23, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I wish to make a documentary about the invisible radioactive monkeys at the bottom of my garden. You may mock, but the truth is that as things stand, there is no hard evidence regarding the presence of the aforementioned invisible monkeys, which is why I wish to make such a programme.

  2. wewillfixit said,

    May 23, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    And the precautionary approach demands that no children are allowed into your (or anyone elses) garden until rigorous studies have been done to prove there are no invisible radioactive monkeys in your garden.

    Won’t somebody, please, think of the children….

  3. zooloo said,

    May 23, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Pity I can’t see the programme because televisions emit dangerous waves.

    Although the truth is that as things stand, there is no hard evidence regarding the effects of long term exposure to evil TV rays.

    Some people believe these rays make people stupid and that almost makes it a fact… doesn’t it?

  4. IanD said,

    May 23, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Perhaps the BBC should shut itslef down for using deadly television radiowave radiation. It’s a two-fold death blow: first the deadly TV radiation kills the children, and second, any survivors die from mental malnutrition after being infected by the polluted garbage in the broadcast.

  5. thaumaturge said,

    May 23, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Sad, how people fail to realize that you are constantly bathed in “radiation” from such dangerous devices as light bulbs. And what about that radio station down the street?

    We’ve had radio technology for over 100 years. Wi-fi is no different. Raising “concern” about it is at best an expression of ignorance.

  6. JQH said,

    May 23, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Interesting that they had the form letter all ready to roll out. It’s almost as if they knew people would complain…

    An awful lot about that program made me angry but the most blatant was the PowerWatch geezer “adjusting the range” of his betector to make the trace go to the top pf the screen and look suitably scary.

    Incidently, PowerWatch sell the very expensive antiradiation paint referred to in the program but neither their shill nor the journalist saw fit to mention this. Wonder why.

    Ben: any chance of the Grauniad letting you do a nice big article to take this crap apart the way the Indie did to Durkin’s global warming film?

  7. Filias Cupio said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Going off-topic a bit here:

    New Scientist reports:
    ‘WATER washes away many things, but could it be used to kill harmful viruses, fungi and bacteria in wounds? The developers of a form of “super-oxidised” water certainly think so – and they claim it may do so more effectively than bleach, without harming human tissue.’
    […]
    More at
    www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426053.100-bugs-struck-down-by-superoxidised-water.html

    Is this real or snake-oil? There are some danger signs, and I no longer trust New Scientist to be able to tell the difference, since about a year ago when they published a cover-story on a ‘relativity drive’ which was perpetual-motion-machine level drivel.

    They do claim to have a controlled trial:
    “… wounds of patients with diabetes treated with the product and an antibiotic healed within 43 days on average, compared with 55 days for patients given the standard treatment of iodine plus an antibiotic.”

  8. BrickWall said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Very pissed off and of serious concern to me now. Following a complaint from a parent following this wonderful show my wife’s school has decided to turn off their wi-fi network until an LEA representative will meet with the parent concerned etc.
    The head’s view is that although she thinks its all bogus and bonkers the use or not of wifi in school isn’t something she wants to go to court about (don’t ask me what basis any legal action could be brought under?).
    The luddites are gaining momentum and its starting to get scary out there.

  9. pv said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Really, the only argument against wi-fi is one of data security. All the health “concern” is just so much media pandering to ignorance. It’s the “new” MMR.
    The problem with the BBC’s official stance is that there has been a worldwide 100 year study into the effects of this kind of radiation (it just never used to be called wi-fi). The guinea pigs, that’s us, are still living normal lives, living longer, still procreating, with no discernible effects from said radiation… So, after a hundred years there’s no hard evidence it is harmful, and safety is thrown into doubt as a result. When contemplating BBC science reporting, the words “surreal” and “disrepute” come easily to mind.

  10. briantist said,

    May 24, 2007 at 6:06 am

    I wrote a detailed complaint so if I get the above letter back I’ll do a formal complaint to the BBC Trust.

  11. richard_p_auckland said,

    May 24, 2007 at 9:56 am

    “Really, the only argument against wi-fi is one of data security”

    Actually there’s a lot of snake oil there as well. All that stuff about mutating viruses and cyber-terrorism – 99.9% of data loss is caused by good old finger trouble. But the media loves a good story (actually, I think they’ve got a bit bored with it and stopped reprinting every doom-ridden press release that Graham Cluley produces).

    [If you set a WEP key and put passwords on all your wireless machines, then you are unlikely to be cracked unless you live next to a wannabee Kevin Mitnick. If you feel paranoid, set a WPA2 key and enable MAC address filtering].

  12. Mojo said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I wonder if the Beeb also have a letter prepared for all the people who are bound to write in demanding that, in the light of the shocking revelations on Paranoia, sorry, Panorama, they stop broadcasting TV and radio signals.

  13. j l smith said,

    May 24, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Quick back of the envelope calculation says that the family that lives nearest the Crystal Palace tower (98 meters from the base, 240 meters from the transmission equipment at the top) gets 20W of EMR largely courtesy of the BBC.

    Anyone fancy copying the Scientologists approach and doing a video of the deleterious effects of UHF radio on these poor people?

    (Their situation would be even worse if they haven’t actually upgraded all their TVs to LCDs as CRTs actually emit ionising radiation, not just the non-ionising type the Panorama team are determined to twist the nation’s knickers over. So the half hour of panorama probably did much more damage to its viewers than sitting in a Wifi showroom.)

    As a declaration, I used to work with Martin Durkin at VNU: perhaps we could get him make the video?

  14. Delster said,

    May 24, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Re the data security problem raised.

    Yes, using WPA” key and MAC address filters will make it harder to gain access to your wi-fi network but not impossible if somebody is determined enough.

    Even if you do get access to the wi-fi router it doesn’t mean you have access to the computers within that network.

    In any case once a computer is hooked up to the internet you don’t need to worry about hacking the wi-fi network they use to connect, just hacking the PC.

    Having said that the main wi-fi abuse is people hopping onto internet connections for free when people leave them open.

  15. George said,

    May 24, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Sorry to state the obvious, but are wireless networks really all that necessary in schools? I am assuming (I may be massively behind the times) that most schools still have dedicated computer rooms (with old fashioned network connections) rather than everyone bringing in their own laptops (again I am assuming that your typical 11-16 year old doesn’t own a laptop – yet.)

    I didn’t actually see the panorama programme but it sounds like a load of rubbish – I am not trying to side with “electrosensitivity” nutters for one second. I just can’t help wondering what all the fuss is about – whats wrong with a network cable?

  16. Fyse said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    George –

    I think the point is that they now want multiple computers in all classrooms, and in old schools it would be hugely expensive to try and lay wires too every room. Also, I suspect it’s a case of reserving a set of laptops when a teacher wants to run a computer-based lesson, and wifi is a lot more feasible than trailing wires to every table.

  17. siwilks said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    George said:

    > Sorry to state the obvious, but are wireless networks really all that necessary in schools?

    Are you crazy George?! We haven’t even touched yet on the consequences of using wired networks and thereby exposing schoolchildren to the potentially lethal induced electromagnetic field.

  18. superburger said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    children enjoy pulling wires out of ethernet ports and ticking other objects in the sockets instead.

    wires are trip hazard (bet more people suffered real chronic pain and injury from trips and falls in school due to wiring than have ever been ‘electrosensitive’)

  19. siwilks said,

    May 24, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I think I might be electrosensitive myself. I’ve realised that some no doubt sinister and life-threatening mysterious electrical signals seem to cause a strange thudding effect in my chest, muscle spasms and have even been known to case some unusual mental sensations. Who can I litigate?

  20. Greg said,

    May 24, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    My complaint focused upon the BBC’s own editorial guidelines regarding statistics and risk. I expressed my belief that Panorama breached, or at the very least undermined, them.

    From the Beeb’s website:

    “Reporting statistics & risks

    We should report statistics and risks in context, taking care not to worry the audience unduly, especially about health or crime. It may also be appropriate to report the margin of error and the source of figures to enable people to judge their significance. This may involve giving trends, taking care to avoid giving figures more weight than can stand scrutiny. If reporting a change, consideration should be given to making the baseline figure clear. For example, a doubling of a problem affecting one in two million people will still only affect one in a million. ”

    Despite asking about the above I received the standard reply from the BBC 30 minutes ago. Can’t say I’m happy with what I’ve been given.

  21. DoIHaveToGetRational said,

    May 24, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Yep, got that letter. Odd thing is that I complained that whilst they tarnished the ‘opposition’ with the links to industry comment they made no mention of the Alasdair Phillips link to his own business, seems to have slipped their reply – not had such a ludicrous reply to a complaint since Virgin trains sent me a letter about the lack of catering on a train that I complained about having been cancelled.

  22. j said,

    May 24, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    I’m finding this a bit worrying – what if people actually believe in this rubbish? For various reasons, I can’t do handwriting well so generally work on a laptop. Already been hassled on a train (well before all this panorama nonsense) for the ‘radiation’ it was putting out. I was able to pretty much laugh that off – ‘the wireless is turned off anyway, and what is it you believe…’ – but is the BBC giving the ‘electrosensitives’ the upper hand?

  23. j said,

    May 24, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    “there is a lack of evidence, so we’re urged to adopt a “precautionary principle”, which seems to require that we only introduce a technology after reliable data about the long-term effects of its use has been collected.

    So the central argument in the programme is that the government has failed us in (not) applying the “precautionary principle”.”

    Actually, was the broadcasting of digital TV and radio signals thoroughly tested for safety prior to its introduction. I mean, there’s absolutely no reason to expect them to be harmful, and it’s hard to think of any reason why they would be – but for god’s sake, won’t someone please think of the children…

  24. pigwiggle said,

    May 24, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426053.100-bugs-struck-down-by-superoxidised-water.html
    Is this real or snake-oil?

    – It’s a dilute solution of bleach
    Lots of things are “bleach” in that they bleach things (H2O2 for example). Don’t confuse this with household bleach, which usually contains hypochlorite. You can buy a device that produces the same effect from MSR as the MIOX water purifier. I considered one for backpacking, but they are slow and expensive (but light!). When chloride salts are electrically treated an antibiotic compound is formed. I think folks think it is some radical form of chlorine dioxide, but I may be confused about that.

  25. amoebic vodka said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Teachers use laptops as, it seams, there is a policy in many schools that the poor kiddies shouldn’t have to move classrooms. As a result the teachers have to move to a new classroom every other lesson, so have to take their stuff with them. As most schools have interactive whiteboards, this means needing a laptop.

    Why wireless? I suspect the answer is the same as to ‘why interactive whiteboards?’ Because schools can get funding to install it.

  26. TimD said,

    May 25, 2007 at 12:00 am

    d’oh, just saw it on the ticker – my version on my google homepage doesn’t seem to refresh to the latest news for some reason :(

  27. Nanobot said,

    May 25, 2007 at 5:07 am

    I love the fact that the jokers at the BBC haven’t noticed your leak yet, Ben. I thought this would be the first place they would check after broadcasting such nonsense. The most shocking thing of all is that there was a time when I trusted the BBC.

  28. briantist said,

    May 25, 2007 at 7:39 am

    I just got the letter.

    I’ve just written back asking them to answer MY complaint!

  29. briantist said,

    May 25, 2007 at 7:41 am

    Adam Sims,

    The reply you have just provided I have already seen as has been posted on the Internet some days ago.

    www.badscience.net/?p=415

    Please will you read MY complaint please and respond to the the points I raised in MY complaint and respond to queries that I made?

    I feel that you have not taken any notice of my complaint and have simply responded with a boilerplate letter that you prepared before you transmitted the programme in the first place.

    If you are unable to do this I will be forced to take this to the BBC Trust.

    Brian Butterworth
    www.ukfree.tv

    > —–Original Message—–
    > From: info@bbc.co.uk [mailto:info@bbc.co.uk]
    > Sent: 25 May 2007 07:24

    > Subject: BBC Information [T2007052300H3S010Z2321070]
    >
    > Dear Mr Butterworth
    >
    > Thank you for your e-mail regarding Panorama – Wi-fi: a
    > Warning Signal’.
    >
    > I understand you had concerns regarding the programmes
    > impartiality. Unfortunately, the truth is that as things
    > stand, there is no hard evidence regarding the effects of
    > long term exposure to Wi-Fi which is why we made the programme.
    >
    > Wi-Fi is being rolled out into classrooms around the country
    > by the Government contrary to the precautionary approach
    > recommended by the head of its own advisory body Sir William
    > Stewart – chair of the Health Protection Agency. As you will
    > have seen in the programme, he believes that where radiation
    > is concerned we should base policy on the precautionary
    > principle particularly when it comes to children. This
    > therefore raises questions as to whether Wi-Fi should be
    > rolled out into the classroom without any long term health
    > research being carried out.
    >
    > Many scientists criticise the way in which the radiation
    > exposure limits are set in this country. The programme
    > featured both the WHO position and ICNIRP who base their
    > limits on what they term a “thermal effect”. It is this view
    > that courts criticism from some scientists, including those
    > featured in our programme, because the safety limits do not
    > take into account a biological effect which some scientists
    > say they have found evidence of. The reason why these
    > positions were not represented by different people is that Dr
    > Michael Repacholi is perhaps the most qualified person to
    > answer such questions given that he was the founding chair of
    > ICNIRP (and continues to be Emeritus Chairman) and because he
    > set up and headed the WHO EMF project for ten years.
    > However, he was given the opportunity to make his position
    > clear in the programme.
    >
    > The other scientists in the film are all experts in their
    > fields who have concerns that we are rushing forward into
    > something before it’s been around long enough to know what
    > the long term effects could be.
    >
    > The fact that the Swedish government recognises radiation
    > sensitivity as a disability that affects 3% of the population
    > was, we felt, of interest given our Government’s publicly
    > stated view that this condition does not exist.
    >
    > The programme attempted to raise concern without causing
    > alarm – always a difficult balance to strike but one which we
    > believe we achieved.
    >
    > Nevertheless, please be assured I have registered your
    > comments regarding this issue and have made them available to
    > the ‘Panorama’ production team and the senior BBC management.
    > Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about
    > future BBC programmes and your comment will play a part in
    > this process.
    >
    > Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC.
    >
    > Regards
    >
    > Adam Sims
    > BBC Information
    > __________________________________________
    > Would you like FREE tickets for BBC TV and Radio shows,
    > including the hit Radio 2 series ‘Jammin” ? Call us on 0870
    > 901 1227 or visit www.bbc.co.uk/tickets
    >
    >
    > —–Original Message—–
    >
    > >{Title:} Mr
    > >{First Name:} –
    > >{Last Name:} –
    > >
    > >

    > >{Country:} England
    > >
    > >{About:} General
    > >{Network:} BBC1
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >{Programme Name:} Panorama
    > >{Transmission Date:}21 – 05 – 07
    > >
    > >{Comments:}
    > >The Panorama on “electric smog” was a travesty of scientific
    > reporting. I was appalled by the whole programme.
    > >
    > >The tone of the programme was “we are being deceived” but it
    > failed to grasp the most obvious basic scientific facts.
    > >
    > >For example, there should be no surprise whatsoever that a
    > radio receiver can pick up the radio signals from a radio transmitter!
    > >
    > >It failed to point out to the viewer the nature of radio
    > signals. For example, the “one over distance squared”
    > nature, which results in an exponential drop-off in signal
    > strength. So saying that a signal is “three times stronger”
    > whilst downplaying the inverse-exponential nature of the
    > measurement was extraordinary. Is this too complicated for a
    > BBC One audience?
    > >
    > >The programme conflated Wifi signals (at around 2.5 GHz) and
    > GSM mobile phone signals, which is as valid as comparing
    > light and heat, for example.
    > >
    > >No-one pointed out that the BBC used the GSM mobile phone
    > frequencies to broadcast 405-line black and white television
    > from November 1936 to January 1985. If it was OK for the
    > BBC to do this for fifty years without causing harm it is
    > offensive for the BBC to suggest that other companies using
    > the same signals is a problem.
    > >
    > >The only effect that has ever been seen from the vibrating
    > air molecules that provide the radio signals used for Wifi is
    > a heating effect, but the programme made no attempt to
    > explain this or measure it. It is deeply unscientific to say
    > “children’s skulls are thinner” without any quantification of
    > this, and without demonstration that the radio signals would
    > pass though and cause any measurable effect. At CERN they
    > can detect single subatomic particles which demonstrates how
    > Panorama misrepresented the ability of any competent
    > scientist to detect radio waves though a skull.
    > >
    > >There is also the nature of digital signal transmission, in
    > particular the “encoding systems” that ensure that the
    > signal’s “analogue” profile has certain properties which the
    > programme misrepresented.
    > >
    > >It is also offensive to suggest that these transmission
    > systems have been designed without the consideration for
    > human safety. Signal implementers and technicians are human too!
    > >
    > >It is a basic principle of scientific enquiry that a theory
    > can be proven or disproved by experiments, not just some
    > bloke waving around a probe connected to a signal analyser.
    > >
    > >The “electro-sensitive” woman was unable to actually detect
    > the signal Â- her responses were no better than “chance” but
    > this statistic was misrepresented. If she had performed as
    > well at something like “ESP”, Panorama would have rubbished her.
    > >
    > >It is my opinion that the BBC should get smart in the
    > science field. You removed the weekly “Tomorrows World”
    > show, “Horizon” is now “dumbed down” beyond belief.
    > >
    > >The BBC needs to restore the profile of science that it had
    > in the 1980s where it was able to run plenty of proper
    > science shows and also managed to have its own microcomputer!
    > >
    > >I did ask several years ago how many members of the BBC
    > management were scientifically qualified and I was told by
    > the BBC it was irrelevant.
    > >
    > >I hope you can now begin to understand how important it is
    > to approach science with the correct principles, so I need to
    > ask again who in the programme production and management
    > chain have the correct scientific education, experience or
    > qualifications?
    > >
    > >Please have a proper investigation into your failings on
    > this programme and provide a public apology as soon as possible.
    > www.bbc.co.uk/
    > This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may
    > contain personal views which are not the views of the BBC
    > unless specifically stated.
    > If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system.
    > Do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor
    > act in reliance on it and notify the sender immediately.
    > Please note that the BBC monitors e-mails sent or received.
    > Further communication will signify your consent to this.

  30. briantist said,

    May 25, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Thank you for contacting BBC Information.

    We are sorry but our email system will not receive your email unless you use one of our pre-formatted webforms. We realise the inconvenience but hope you will understand that this helps us handle the many emails we receive every day more efficiently and makes best use of your licence fee.

  31. GrahamBM said,

    May 25, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for all the sharp information above Ben!

    As suggested, would like to add this link from the Handheld Learning community:

    www.handheldlearning.co.uk/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,54/topic,807.0

    All the best!

  32. gantlord said,

    May 25, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Here’s some more material for your complaints:

    www.sciencepunk.com/v5/

  33. asimovfan said,

    May 25, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Everyone should read this fantastic article in the register:
    www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/22/wifi_science_bunk/
    I particularly liked –

    And frankly, even if we did find incontrovertible evidence that “electrosensitivity” is as classifiable as pollen sensitivity, what then?

    There’s not the slightest doubt about pollen sensitivity. The symptoms can be disabling, requiring medication to allow the victim to go out of doors, even in the city…and yet nobody says: “Destroy all grasses! They are merely making money for the big baking combines.”

  34. gantlord said,

    May 25, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Last BBC Complaint: (Takes 2 minutes, put your in on www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/)

    Further to my previous complaint regarding this programme, I have specific complaints regarding this programme and its wanton disregard for objective reporting. I feel that if you are going to make a programme on such a controversial topic, then you should at least do a minimum of research. You should at least use google for to research your contributers and basic facts. Here are points on which I demand a detailed answer:

    1. You present Alisdair Philips as a suitable expert to take measurements of “electrosmog”. You make no mention of the fact that Alisdair Philips makes his money selling the various tin-foil contraptions that people who believe themselves to be “electrosensitive”. He is not an impartial observer and is widely discredited in the scientific community.

    2. You present Professor Henry Lai as an expert in the biological effects of electromagnetics. Professor Henry Lai does indeed possess a doctorate, but it is in the field of Psychology and not Biology nor Electromagnetics. It is difficult to believe that there were not more reputable people with whom you could speak. Professor Henry Lai is also a deeply controversial individual, who has made claims regarding his research that even his co-authors dispute! (Don’t take my word for it, contact Bill Guy, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington)

    3. You suggested that the thickness of children’s skulls was in some way relevant to the wifi debate. The difference in thickness of adults’ and children’s skulls relates to mobile phone usage. Not mobile phone masts, and certainly not to wifi. This point just further shows the wilful ignorance undertaken by the programme makers.

    4. You took the word of Olle Johansson, an utterly discredited individual in his native Sweden, where he has won the coveted title of “Misleader of the Year 2004″.

    5. Where do you get your claim that the Swedish government “recognises electrosensitivity as a disability”.

  35. r3m0t said,

    May 25, 2007 at 11:28 am

    “The fact that the Swedish government recognises radiation sensitivity as a disability that affects 3% of the population was, we felt, of interest given our Government’s publicly stated view that this condition does not exist.”

    Liars. The Swedish government backtracked that view after a year.

  36. gantlord said,

    May 25, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    These guys are trying to dig dirt on the scientists that have spoken out against the Panorama programme:
    www.mastsanity.org/

  37. briantist@work said,

    May 25, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Ben – please can you remove my email address from the post above? Thanks

  38. h2g2bob said,

    May 25, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Re mastsanity.org – I know these are ad homium attacks, but Prof Will J Stewart’s entry gets a little too personal: “here is a link to some of the staff he was working on at Marconi”

  39. matth said,

    June 10, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I followed up the stock response to my original complaint, and to the BBC’s credit got a personal reply on Thursday. In the interests of not hogging any more space that this already does, I’ve not included my original complaint – just my followup.

    I can’t say I’m exactly an expert in these fields and am certainly not professional scientist – hence limiting my complaint to what I felt were issues of lack of balance and inadequate contextualisation. I do feel a little silly for the slip up of mis-attributing a claim that we need to “prove wifi is safe” to Panorama, when it was actually William Stuart about 3/4 of the way through.

    Looking at the style of their response (and perhaps the flaw in my line of criticism) it feels like Panorama basically tries to justify the programme style and approach by saying “we’re reporting the controversy” (sigh!)

    —My reply—-

    This is a followup to the response given to my original complaint
    (>) – the response did not address several of
    the concerns I specifically raised:

    Thank you for your swift reply to my complaint; however I believe you
    have misunderstood my complaint and failed to address the specific
    issues I raised concern about; in particular:

    * Despite your stated intention to avoid “scare-mongering” – there was
    inadequate contextualisation of the strengths of the signals against
    some common reference points that non-expert members of the public could
    relate to – such as mobile phone *use*; broadcast signals etc…

    * You did not address my concerns regarding the inclusion of coverage of
    electro-sensitivity.

    * You did not address my concern that interviewees speaking in favour of
    the programme’s premise were not adequately challenged – particularly
    with respect to the “balance of weight of evidence” argument.

    * You did not address my concern about making illogical
    recommendations/assertions.

    More generally, you failed to recognise my concern (which I perhaps
    could have stated more explicitly)that a scientific issue (with public
    health implications) was being investigated and assessed on the basis of
    contrasting viewpoints, rather than by applying scientific literacy and
    educating the audience.

    I am concerned that Panorama did not seek adequate third party
    assistance in understanding the nature of a scientific debate such as
    this; enabling the panorama team to be able to properly assess the
    quality of the evidence and arguments involved.

    Many thanks,

    —– the response —–

    From: info@bbc.co.uk
    Subject: BBC Panorama

    Dear >

    Thank you for your further e-mail.

    I’ve spoken directly to the programme’s Deputy Editor on your behalf and
    enclose his response to your ongoing concerns:

    “Thank you for your e-mails following the recent Panorama programme “Wi-Fi
    – A Warning Signal.” I will try and address your concerns point by point

    * Regarding our use of the term “radiation”. We did not feel that the term
    “radio waves” was a fair reflection of the step change to microwave
    frequencies which some scientists believe can have a biological effect on
    human cells. Like it or not “radiation” is the term that has become common
    currency in the debate on mobile phone masts and now Wi-Fi. However, at the
    opening of the programme we made it crystal clear in the commentary that we
    were talking about “radio frequency radiation” and we used the word
    “signal” in the title and wherever possible throughout the programme to
    keep alive the idea to that what we were dealing with was an inevitable
    by-product of active Wi-Fi communication and downloads.

    * Regarding “viewpoints supportive of the prevailing mainstream scientific
    view.” This is not an issue which I believe is best approached with a stop
    watch. We did reflect the fact that Dr Repacholi (the architect of the
    current safety limits), the British Government and the World Health
    Organisation all fall in behind the WHO statement that Wi-Fi use has no
    “adverse health effects.” However, we would not have entertained making the
    programme if there was not a credible cast of characters calling for more
    research in this area and questioning the whole basis of the “thermal
    effect” approach to safety limits.

    * There is a well worn knock for knock debate on signal strength, emissions
    and rates of power absorbed from the use of this kind of technology
    compared with a range of other home electrical devices. However, I’m not
    sure what value this sort of comparison would have had — given that each
    side disputes much of what the other says. Panorama made plain (by way of
    contextualisation) that all the exposure rates we found were comfortably
    within current safety limits, and in the school we specifically stated the
    measurements were six hundred times beneath those limits.

    * We were clear in all our references to electro-hypersensitives that this
    was a “possible” biological effect and kept that doubt alive with
    commentary lines such as “if genuinely effected” and “if the symptoms are
    because of radiation.” We reported (as you acknowledge) that Sylvia’s tests
    results had been inconclusive. When you say that “undue weight was given to
    Government policies” you are dismissing a key element of Panorama’s
    interest in the subject. When we asked for a Government Minster to talk on
    these issues we were directed to the HPA and the interview with Sir William
    Stewart was instrumental in shaping our approach to the subject. The fact
    that there are growing calls for the Government to review its policy on the
    roll out of Wi-Fi in schools (from a credible cast of characters) is what
    makes this a Panorama project and not one that can be judged wholly using a
    Horizon style science template.

    * It would not have been possible for our programme to reflect the body of
    scientific evidence available in the detail you suggest in the time
    available to us. However, by using Prof. Lai and Dr Repacholi we were
    hopping to show that there is a genuine and growing world-wide debate
    around this issue that may eventually change public policy. There are many
    scientists who I am sure you are aware would dispute your assertion that
    the studies that run counter to the status quo are flawed.

    * The quote you refer to does not appear in the programme commentary.”

    I trust this reassures you although if you do wish to pursue this complaint
    further, you can now contact the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit who will
    independently investigate your complaint. You can write to them at the
    following address:

    Editorial Complaints Unit
    BBC
    Media Centre
    MC4C6 Media Village
    201 Wood Lane
    London W12 7TQ

    Alternatively you can email the Unit at the address: ecu@bbc.co.uk

    Please note that any complaints submitted via email must include your
    postal address as all responses will continue to be issued via letter.

    Thank you again for contacting the BBC.

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