BBC Scotland on obesity: My complaint, their tiny grudging acceptance


On 20th of June 2018, I wrote:

‘New research suggests that more than 1 in 3 women in Scotland will be morbidly obese, that’s at least 100 pounds above their ideal weight, by 2035. The research presented today in Vienna at the European Congress on Obesity indicates that women who have been to university are likely to be more adversely affected than those who didn’t.’

From a report in Medical Express: ‘rates of morbid obesity in adults will reach 5% in Scotland (compared to 4% in 2015), 8% in England (2.9% in 2016), and 11% in Wales (3% in 2015) by 2035.’ So, 1 in 20 Scots are expected to be morbidly obese by 2035. Even if the percentage for Scottish women is higher than for men, 1 in 3 is highly improbable. There are three serious problems with this report. First, the error confusing obesity with morbid obesity thus failing to inform viewers in a manner promised in the BBC’s charter. Second, the failure to report on the key finding that morbid obesity, in Scotland, is expected to plateau at 5% while soaring past that figure elsewhere in the UK. Third, the failure to report on the explanation for the above trend. The researchers offered a clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in obesity in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation. For example: ‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’ The effectiveness of the above initiatives can be seen in this: ‘almost no 15-to-24-year-old males in Scotland are expected to fall within this category, compared to 6% of the same group in England.’

CAS-4940361-J4C08P: Good Morning Scotland

In the report on obesity, at 09:00, we heard nine, long, compound sentences yet no reference was made to key role played by Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation as stated clearly by the university researchers. In the Independent newspaper report, for example, we were able to read that the researchers offered a clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in obesity in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation. For example: ‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’ Why was this omitted?

Today, I received a paper response from Fraser Steel of the Executive Complaints Unit.

He has accepted that on the mistaken use of the word ‘morbid’, there ‘was a failure to observe the BBC’s standards of due accuracy’ and he is ‘upholding this aspect of your complaint’ with publication on the complaints pages of but no corrected broadcast.

As for the matter of attributing credit to the Scottish Government’s initiatives, their (BBC) source was, it seems, only the abstract of the paper and this did not mention it. That relying only on an abstract might be a bit shoddy does not seem to occur. Also, he argues that Reevel Alderson saying that ‘Scotland was expected to far better’ was adequate to ‘reflect the relevant findings.’

I’ve run out of steam and will probably let it go now.



8 thoughts on “BBC Scotland on obesity: My complaint, their tiny grudging acceptance

  1. mogabee July 20, 2018 / 2:42 pm

    This is why people don’t complain or give up at the first hurdle. BBC now synonymous with that old shop you used to go to but then you found the t’internet!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John July 20, 2018 / 4:04 pm

    Well done anyway John , at least you got something out of it this time , it’s another step in the right direction of calling them out on their biased reporting . That is the thing about BBC Scotland , if it suits their agenda they only tell half of the story , on the other hand if it is an SNP baad story, it runs every minute for weeks .There is just no balance to their reporting , that is why we have to keep challenging them , no matter how demoralizing the procedure is ! .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian McGowan July 20, 2018 / 4:39 pm

    Congratulations on getting to this point. Even in their acceptance, a condescending attitude runs through the reply to you. They are looking down on you as they grudgingly accept one small piece (relatively speaking) of criticism.
    Just how long will the Scottish govt wait before they take the gloves off? Will they ever?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. gavin July 20, 2018 / 7:11 pm

    I complained a couple of years ago. It got nowhere and took an inordinate length of time to do so.
    I agree with Brian that it will take the Scottish govt (acting as the Scottish govt, and not the SNP govt) to complain about the low funding of the BBC in Scotland (in comparison with England 100%+, and Wales nearly 100% of licence fee); about the low standards of journalism( context, perspective, analysis, sourcing of evidence, bias in presentation etc etc ); about the low % of Scots actually working in the BBC in Scotland (easy enough for the BEEB to compare with other areas—and they do have in their charter a commitment to recruit and train locally); about the non commissioning of Scots to write scripts for Scottish production(at a time when Scottish noir is burgeoning); about the lack of sports being covered in Scotland; about the lack of arts being covered in Scotland; about the lack of social engagement in Scottish programming (G*d knows we have enough social problems to cover); about just everything a national broadcaster is supposed to do. For the same licence fee as England we should expect a great deal more than we get. England gets national and local TV. England gets national and local radio—-BBC 24 and all the “national” radio stations are entirely English oriented.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Contrary July 20, 2018 / 9:30 pm

    Oh well done for pursuing this to get an acknowledgement – a lot of effort for small reward indeed, so no wonder you need a rest John. They make it difficult so that people don’t think it worth their while, of course, which just makes their complaints process a sham. There are rules for retail selling you faulty goods, you can return them and get your money back, so why doesn’t this apply to faulty news reporting? ‘I’ll take my licence fee back, thank you, you are selling shoddy goods’. I don’t actually pay the licence fee, so am stuck with shoddy radio reporting, but it’s ‘free’ I guess.

    Anyway, further to my previous ramble, here is a link to an interesting book

    Click to access TheKillingOfWilliamBrowder_PrintLayout_6x9-1.pdf

    (Bill Browder, the historical asset-stripping of Russia, the media narrative)

    I am only half way through it, but finding it quite fascinating. I didn’t even know who Bill Browder was: he is a hedge fund manager, with lots of friends in high places including government, and has been convicted of tax fraud in Russia (in absentia). He wrote a book about how innocent he is, what a moral and upstanding citizen he is, and how his criminal ventures in Russia were done for the good of he Russian people, and the link is a critique of that book. It is a full size book, not an article, and gives a lot of context, including the recent history of what happened in Russia from the 80s under Yeltsin, as it destructs Bill Browder’s tall tales. It is an engaging read – something I would never have considered I would say about anything to do with hedge fund managers (the author is one himself!). Interesting aspects of the book are the clues it gives to just how corruption is fully endemic within western governments (along with the banks, of course) and how the western media have been complicit in peddling accepted narratives (and suppressing anything outwith that narrative) for a long time now. I have just read a chapter on how the author views Putin now (before he wrote the book, he was taken in by the media narrative), and where before I was hesitant to use the word ‘sincere’ to describe my impression of Putin in the interview I watched, it is possible that impression was correct (as much as any politician can be described as such).

    There are some remarkable figures in the book, of how social measures of happiness have improved, by a massive amount, under Putin’s governance – things like suicide rates and deaths from alcoholism – they really were dire in the 90s. So, it does matter how well your government is performing, and it does matter how much those leaders care about the people, and it does matter how much corruption there is, on how healthy and happy you are as a poulation. So all the bad news stories the BBC peddles about Scotland, like obesity, like the ‘problem with alcohol’ etc etc, we can firmly put the blame at the feet of the UK government and the ruling English elite. How many times has Scotland been asset-stripped over the centuries, only to recover a wee bit then get it done again, and how many times has the British nationalist media peddled the story that we should be grateful for the privilege? Hourly. We need as far away from Westminster governance as we can get, preferably cutting all ties with their shambolic, spiteful, greedy and corrupt excuse of a so-called democracy. And the media? John, you must have ideas on how it could be regulated to prevent only one narrative and that only benefiting the few elite?

    The SNP have proven themselves to be excellent administrators, and I believe they are the right group to set us up in a new / old state, but they will only act to make it happen on our say-so. We need to keep shouting loud that self-determination is the only option for Scotland. For folks of the hard of thinking that don’t make the effort to see through the British nationalist propaganda, they need to step up, use their brains, and start thinking about what is best for the country as whole instead of their own bloody mortgages. They’ll still have their material wealth after independence, so what they are really thinking about is hoping the corrupt elites in Westminster get to line their own pockets – they are just stubbornly being too dim to realise that is what they are really supporting.

    I really definitely think the Brexit thing has been planned to (a) allow Westminster to avoid new tax transparency rules in the EU (hard to launder money while being transparent) and (b) allow Westminster and fellow elites, e.g. T May’s hedge fund manager husband, to make a killing ,,, I meant in money terms there, but they are already killing disabled people, so I’m sure their asset stripping will result in much more of the same.

    Sorry! Nearly an essay here! I’ll go back to less thought-provoking reading soon and give ye’s peace.

    Liked by 4 people

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