Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Here we go again, Aunty

Summer must be a-coming in. The season of media-created news. Last night I saw a trailer for the BBC's latest salvo in their campaign for the legalisation of euthanasia, fronted by millionaire author Terry Pratchett, about people wanting to decide when to die. We've already been told that it will include a scene in which a man with Motor Neurone Disease is assisted in committing suicide at - yes, you've guessed it - the European euthanasia capital, Zurich's Dignitas facility. This is appears in direct contravention of the World Health Organisation's guidelines about media portrayal of suicide: "Don’t publish photographs or suicide notes. Don’t report specific details of the method used. Don’t give simplistic reasons. Don’t glorify or sensationalize suicide."   

There's an excellent comment in the Christian Medical Comment on the subject, which I do urge you to read. Peter Saunders asks questions which really do need answering, about the impartiality of the BBC on this issue. To balance the repeated programmes advocating and sympathetic to assisted suicide, where are the equivalent about hospice and palliative care? Where are the programmes about the people with terminal conditions who have chosen to live rather than take their lives? Where are the programmes about Matt Hampson, Alison Davies, Kate Allatt, Katherine Araniello? Where are the programmes about disabled people's fears about the consequences of legalisation? Where was the feature about Scope's survey - see my post - ?  

What do we do about the broadcasting medium which we fund through the licence fee - when it doesn't follow even its own guidelines? What does "public interest" mean? Does it mean titillating the public's interest-buds as the tabloids argue? Or does it mean acting in the public's best interests?

However, let me acknowledge a good public interest programme on Radio 5 Live last night: Depression in cricket. It includes Marcus Trescothick talking about his depression, and Matthew Hoggard - and Kevin Saxelby talking about his brother, Mark, who committed suicide. A thoughtful programme.

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