Sunday, April 03, 2011

BBC- dumbing down daytime TV?

Was the story of TB accurately portrayed in the BBC 1 TV programme A Hundred Years of Us?

Dr Carole Reeves, my co-author on the book" The Children of Craig-y-nos" and a medical historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine UCL voices her concern.

A Hundred Years of Us
Broadcast on BBC 1, 22 March 2011, 9.15 am

Dr Reeves writes:
"This 45-minute programme, produced by Twenty Twenty Television for BBC1 to coincide with the census, is described as showing how Britain has changed in the past 100 years. A 10-minute feature on Craig-y-nos and tuberculosis right at the beginning of the programme ‘starred’ ex-patient, Barbara Pye, and ex-nurse, Valerie Brent. Both were excellent and it’s great that we were given the opportunity to contribute to this programme.

Both Ann and I spoke to the programme producers right at the beginning of the project and worked with them to give the historical background to tuberculosis and the Craig-y-nos story. We knew that the producers wanted to adopt a ‘positive’ slant on the issue of tuberculosis but weren’t prepared for the story to be whitewashed and spun to such an extent that it is simply untruthful. Viewers were told that tuberculosis in Britain has been almost totally eradicated due to the advent of the NHS in 1948 and the development of streptomycin. This was certainly not the information given to the programme producers but they chose to ignore it.

TB in Britain has NOT been eradicated. Indeed, it is on the increase. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a worldwide increase in TB of about 1 per cent. In Britain, the increase has been nearer to 2 per cent, and about 400 British people die of the infection every year. In 2009, 9040 cases of TB in Britain were diagnosed, up from 8621 in 2008. In some parts of London, the incidence of TB is equal to that in developing countries. Furthermore, there is a seriously scary increase of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The producers said that the programme needed to be positive and fairly simply presented for daytime BBC1 television viewers. Who do they think these simpletons are that they can’t cope with a factual history of TB over the last century? Of course TB is not the scourge that it was in 1911 when 1 death in every 8 was a TB death but presenting it untruthfully as a ‘problem gone away’, does a disservice to the BBC and emphasises what many people regretfully realise is an escalating devaluation of its independence and integrity."

I share Dr Reeves concern with the dumbing down of the BBC in order to obtain good daytime television ratings especially within a programme that is of such potential historical significance.

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