December 4, 2015
A recent Panorama report, which claimed that Wi-Fi creates three times as much radiation as mobile phone masts, has been found to be misleading by the BBC’s editorial complaints unit (ECU).
The ECU found that the programme gave a “misleading impression of the state of scientific opinion”.
Following the programme, two viewers complained to the BBC that Panorama had exaggerated the risk and that its suggestion that Wi-Fi was responsible for higher levels of radiation than phone masts was wrong.
It was also alleged that the programme’s presentation of an experiment to test whether certain people were hypersensitive to radiation from Wi-Fi, was misleading.
One of the contributors to the programme, Professor Michael Repacholi, complained that his view had been represented unfairly, and that the scientific issues were not presented with due consideration to both sides of the argument.
The ECU ruled that Panorama legitimately focused on public health issues raised by Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, and that an experiment on electro-sensitivity was correctly presented as being inconclusive.
However, the ECU also noted that the programme included only one contributor who disagreed with Sir William Stewart’s point of view, while three scientist and several others supported his concerns. It said that this gave a misleading impression of scientific opinion on the issue.
In the programme, Sir William Stewart said there was evidence that low-level radiation from devices such as mobile phones and Wi-Fi could damage health, and called for a review. This claim was dismissed by several experts following the broadcast.
The BBC’s commissioning editor for TV and Current Affairs has discussed the ECU’s report with the Panorama team, and highlighted the importance of reflecting the weight of scientific opinion effectively.