Dear Mr Vander
Thank you for sending the letter of 29 August from Francesca O’Brien (on behalf of Richard Tait, Chairman of the ESC), outlining the ESC’s decision. We are pleased that the Committee endorsed the decision of the ECU to uphold the complaint of bias against the programme.
I am contacting you again as requested in the letter because there is an issue regarding an error of fact in the finding to be published: namely the ESC’s finding that ‘the lack of a challenging argument had not rendered the programme inaccurate.’
Our complaint was not that the lack of a challenging argument rendered the programme inaccurate: it was that the documentary was built entirely on a falsehood. This clearly rendered the programme inaccurate and yet the ESC has failed to address this key complaint.
In my letter of appeal, dated 23 August 2007, I pointed out that: ‘the whole premise of Monkeys, Rats and Me was dishonest’ and that ‘this major part of our complaint has been systematically ignored and must be addressed.’
In my letter of 18 March 2008, I reiterated that:
‘The central theme of the programme was that treatments such as deep brain stimulation, which can restore mobility and dignity to patients such as Sean Gardner, would not have been possible without experiments on monkeys. Yet I have pointed out all along that this claim is false and provided evidence to prove it… Once again, I repeat my initial and most important complaint: that the documentary was built entirely on a falsehood. I would like to know why this key complaint has been ignored by the BBC throughout the complaints process. I hope that it is now obvious that accuracy is the key question and must be addressed… The major purpose of this appeal is for the BBC to acknowledge that EMP’s complaint regarding accuracy is valid and to uphold it.’
For a whole year, the ESC has ignored our key complaint, with the result that their finding does not address the subject of our appeal.
The ESC gives the following justification for other inaccuracies in the programme: ‘The Committee also found that the contributors who had featured on the programme were entitled to their view. As such, their comments were duly accurate.’
This is analagous to saying that it would be ‘duly accurate’ to present, in a factual documentary, scientists claiming that the earth is flat, since they are scientists and are entitled to their view.
It is even worse than that to present, as fact, that the benefit of deep brain stimulation for movement disorders was discovered through experiments in monkeys (whether by Professor Aziz or anyone else), when the fact is that Professor Benabid made the discovery while operating on a patient.
This is a clear breach of BBC guidelines on accuracy, which state: ‘We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact, or knowingly do anything to mislead audiences.’
Once again, I ask the ESC to address this key complaint regarding accuracy: namely that the programme was built entirely on one specific falsehood, i.e. that deep brain stimulation as a treatment for movement disorders was discovered through experiments in monkeys.
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