My BBC Complaint

June 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Media) (, , , , )

Below is a reproduction of a complaint I have submitted to the BBC:

On 12th May, I followed up an email I had sent complaining about the BBC linking to JABS. I have yet to receive a response, so have copied and pasted my email below:

I am still concerned by the assumption that linking to JABS somehow provides ‘balance’. I was interested to note that you stated the BBC must link to JABS for balance – implying that you are somehow impelled to link to that site in order to make articles on vaccines fair and balanced.
Can I please ask the following questions:
Whose decision was it to link to JABS for balance?
How was that decision made?
Are there any sites other than JABS that the BBC could link to for ‘balance’?
Does the BBC link to alternative sites (a) for every story specifically in the health section of the BBC’s website and (b) for every story on the BBC’s website?
Would the BBC ever link to an alternative site other than JABS that gave reckless health advice?
Would the BBC consider a site propagating holocaust-denial appropriate to link to for articles about WWII?
Would the BBC consider a site propagating 9/11 conspiracy theories appropriate to link to for articles about 9/11?

In addition to providing you with the text of my email, I would like to draw your attention to examples of the nature of the site that the BBC is linking to. This post on JABS gives an indication of the quality of advice – – note the recommendations of the first respondent. First this poster advises someone to take their child off antibiotics that have been prescribed by a medical professional, they then advise Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics and Homeopathy as alternative treatments and, finally, they finish by advising that wireless devices – including baby monitors – be switched off or removed. Other posters: deny that HIV causes AIDS, advise homeopathy and quantum touch healing instead of conventional medicine and link to the website – which includes a whole page on HIV/AIDS denialism. Proof of JABS regulars linking to on HIV/AIDS denialism and a copy of the page itself are available.

Regardless of the disclaimer displayed on its website, I feel that the BBC should not be able to abrogate all responsibility for the content of external sites linked to from said BBC website. The BBC links to JABS, the BBC has been made aware of the nature of JABS by several people and the BBC has made the decision to continue to link to HIV-denialists who give dangerous medical information to vulnerable parents. It is time the BBC took some responsibility for their decision to link to this site – and it’s time they stopped providing links to JABS.

I’ve submitted some more information to the BBC to show what kind of site they are linking to. I’ve basically just posted a link to these HIV denialism posts: here and here. The first thread begins here: page 1.


  1. Ren said,

    Have you considered FOI-ing their policy on linking for ‘balance’? Say, via:


  2. jdc325 said,

    Ren – thank you for the link. I’d completely forgotten about the whatdotheyknow site. Cheers!

  3. jdc325 said,

    Ooh, I’ve been directed to the BBC’s Policy for Linking to External Sites:

    We would normally link to sites which are factually accurate and of high quality. However we may link to external sites which give particular views of a person or organisation significant to a current news story and in such cases we may not be able to guarantee their factual accuracy. But we should not support the message, information or promotions on third party sites.

    Factually accurate and high quality – are they taking the piss?


  4. jdc325 said,

    Part of the BBC’s role is to act as a Trusted Guide on the web. When producers are creating content on a BBC site, they should consider which external websites it may be editorially justifiable to link to.

    Under ‘disclaimers’ they include the following:

    It may be appropriate, even when there are only one or two links on a page, to add a disclaimer and more information if the links are to controversial material.

    I would have thought if any link required a disclaimer and more information it would be JABS. Presumably the BBC don’t consider JABS to be controversial.

    Under ‘links to external sites’ these bullet points appear, giving reasons to link to external sites:

    for further relevant information
    for further background information or other key source material
    for useful practical information
    for further informed comment

    Yep, they’re taking the piss. JABS does not fit any of the reasons to link, is controversial yet does not come with caveats, and is in no way high quality or factually accurate. I pay a license fee to enable the BBC to entertain and inform – not to allow them to link to sites that are dangerously wrong.

  5. Ren said,


    ‘However we may link to external sites which give particular views of a person or organisation significant to a current news story and in such cases we may not be able to guarantee their factual accuracy.’

    Is presumably their rationale/get-out clause for linking in the first place.

    And the reason they won’t consider JABS controversial enough to warrant a disclaimer is presumably because the potentially life-threatening medical advice is found in the forums, not in the main body of the website, and is not posted by JABS admin staff.

    Unless you can demonstrate JABS admin support for dangerous medical advice and/or suppression of/opposition to genuine medical advice OR find explicitly dangerous (and encouraging non-participation in vaccination won’t count) information on the main website, I think the BBC is acting within the stated guidelines and therefore won’t (possibly even can’t given their impartiality regulations) budge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: