I always felt it would have been fine if they’d called it “Alternative Medicine: what Kathy Sykes would like to say about it”. The subtitle was definitely the problem, gotta do what you say on the tin.
This from Simon Singh, i’m bunging it up with his permission so that anyone can see it on the grounds that it is “important” and he spent ages sorting it out.
More on the same program from Colquhoun here, including his admirable tracking down of all those so-called “signatories” the BBC claimed they had, but who actually didnt sign the letter. Stylish…
This is an email to the dozen or so people involved in the complaint that I submitted to the BBC regarding the 3-part series on Alternative Medicine that was transmitted in February 2006.
As you may remember, I wrote a couple of articles for the Guardian and Telegraph pointing out major inaccuracies in the series. The BBC’s response was to deny everything. So I lodged a complaint to the BBC, which was rejected. I appealed, and the complaint was again rejected. I appealed to the highest level (Board of Trustees) and at last the complaint was upheld.
I made ten criticisms of the series, of which seven were subjective and not serious, and three were more obvious and serious. Of the three serious criticisms, two were upheld.
First, the BBC agreed that the acupuncture open heart surgery sequence “could have misled the audience”. Second, the BBC agreed that their attempts to discredit my criticism of the series “was a breach of trust with the audience” because the BBC had not disclosed its role in organising critical letters Third, unfortunately the BBC did NOT agree that the brain imaging acupuncture experiment was portrayed in a misleading manner, as the BBC felt that “the statements made by the scientists were a true reflection of their views and an accurate presentation of the experiment”.
It was hard work submitting and following up the complaint, so thanks to those who offered me support and advice along the way. I think it has been worth the time and effort, because I know that the articles and complaints were discussed by several people within the BBC, from programme-makers to senior managers. In general, I think BBC standards are high, but when there are examples of highly misleading programmes then these need to be highlighted, otherwise mistakes are repeated and the balance shifts towards inaccuracy and sensationalism.
You can read the full complaint and findings at:
The original articles are at:
If you come across any similar examples of bad science on TV then I would encourage you to complain to the BBC website or OFCOM (if it is not a BBC programme):
And if you would like to forward this email to anybody else or post it on your website, then please go ahead.
Thanks again to everyone for your invaluable support.