BBC cops more flak for Panorama Wi-Fi documentary

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The fallout is continuing over last week’s BBC Panorama programme about Wi-Fi radiation. Ben Goldacre, who writes the Guardian’s Bad Science column, laid into the Beeb this weekend over the way it measured Wi-Fi radiation in the show.

He says that the monitoring devices used in the show are actually designed and built by a chap called Alasdair Philips, who runs non-profit organisation Powerwatch. On its site, it claims to promote “policies for a safer environment”, while Goldacre claims it’s actually a pressure group “campaigning against mobile phones, Wi-Fi and ‘electrosmog'”.

Goldacre also quotes at length a teacher from one of the schools visited by Panorama during the research for the programme, with serious of criticisms of their methodology and honesty in setting up the experiment.

However, Alasdair Philips has already hit back on his own blog, in a post titled ‘Ben Goldacre’s own Bad Science’, in which he defends the measurements, and says it’s no secret that Powerwatch sells the monitoring devices. His view on Goldacre? “He seems more of a cynical comedian than someone whose writings should be taken seriously.”

You sense this argument could run and run. I have to say, though, the parts of Goldacre’s column about the Panorama team’s working methods raises serious questions about whether they’re being pushed to sensationalise their material in order to create a punchier half-hour documentary.

Worried about whether your home Wi-Fi connection is safe? Join the club. As consumers, I think we’re supposed to pick an expert who we think is least biased, and hope they turn out to be right in 30 years time.

Bad Science column on Panorama (also has a bunch of links to more criticism of the Panorama Wi-Fi show)
Alasdair Philips’ response on PowerWatch

TECH DIGEST COVERAGE OF PANORAMA WI-FI PROGRAMME
Is Wi-Fi safe? Why Panorama’s report will worry parents
“The industry should be taking the lead”
Academic experts dismiss fears
BT and others speak out

Stuart Dredge