Surprise, Surprise: WiFi Scaremongering Marred By Shoddy Reporting, Bad Science And Conflicts Of Interest

from the hatchet-job dept

There’s been a lot of noise being made in the UK about the supposed dangers WiFi presents. It’s been clear for some time that these stories are little more than scaremongering, but Glenn Fleishman points out just how bad the reporting was on this latest BBC show about the dangers of WiFi. As he notes, the work by the show’s producers and reporters was pretty shoddy: the show was largely based on the claims of the head of a group that extols the harm of electromagnetic radiation, though it never pointed out the guy’s clear profit motive, as a seller of protective headgear, anti-radiation paint, and other tinfoil beanie-esque products. A columnist for The Guardian goes into further detail about the bad science the program used, noting that even the elementary schoolers the show wanted to film could see problems with it. What makes the whole thing slightly more amusing is that other people from the BBC have been trashing the show’s report, and it’s pretty clear that somebody there realized that it was going to cause some problems, since the form letter sent as a response to claims about it was written before the show even aired. As Ben Goldacre, The Guardian’s Bad Science columnist points out, the show’s shoddy reporting has ensured that the debate is focused on the show itself and its correspondents’ poor work, rather than the actual issues at hand. But does the BBC, or any other media outlet running these scare stories really care, as long as people are talking?

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Comments on “Surprise, Surprise: WiFi Scaremongering Marred By Shoddy Reporting, Bad Science And Conflicts Of Interest”

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Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Scientific evidence

What do the following things have in common:

  • ESP
  • Cold fusion
  • Health effects from non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation

Answer: they have all been studied for close to twenty years (or in the case of ESP, even longer). Every now and then somebody comes up a with a result that seems to indicate that the effect is real. But then nobody else is able to replicate that result.

In other words, you get this ongoing, low-level intermittent background of spurious positives. Which is exactly what you would expect if the effects do not exist, but a whole lot of people are continuing to dig in the belief that they do.

clive (user link) says:

That BBC program

I couldn’t actually watch the whole program all the way through. It was obvious that the reporter had made his mind up at the outset and everything flowed from that.

Hopefully producers will think twice about taking him on again, or at the very least scrutinise his work and get greater substantiation.

But then shouldn’t ehy have been doing this from the outset?

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