hard heads soft hearts
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
another excerpt from "The Complete Yes Minister" by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. The following piece is about how dramatically news coverage can be slanted either direction while still keeping the form of "balanced coverage" The premise is that the British Chemical Company (BCC) has just won a contract to manufacture a perfectly safe chemical, `Propanol', but because of sensational media coverage and political cowardice is eventually blocked from doing so
" BBC transcript:
NEWSREADER: Apparently Propanol contains metadioxin, which the BCC claims is completely harmless. It is, however, a compound of dioxin, which was the chemical released
CUE NEWS FILM OF SEVESO INCIDENT
after a factory explosion at Seveso in Northern Italy in July 1976, spreading a cloud of poisonous dust over a four mile radius. Because dioxin can cause irreversible damage to the human foetus as well as other serious diseases the entire village was evacuated and the villagers were not allowed to return home for nearly a year.
CUE FILM OF MERSEYSIDE PROTEST. Group of women with placards:
"NO TO THE POISON FACTORY", "BABYKILLERS KEEP OUT", "LIVES BEFORE PROFITS".
Today a Merseyside group of protesters voiced their opposition to the BCC scheme outside the factory gates.
LIVERPOOL WOMAN: I'll tell you what we're going to do. As far as I'm concerned, Sir Wally can take his poisonous chemicals somewhere else. My daughter's expecting a baby in three months and I'm not having my grandchildren deformed for the sake of the bloody Eyties [Italians] I can tell you that
REPORTER: But they say metadioxin is harmless.
LIVERPOOL WOMAN: Oh yes. They said Thalidomide was harmless too, didn't they? Well if it's all that harmless, why aren't they Eyties making it in Italy, eh? Tell me that! If we had a government that cared about ordinary people, they'd never allow it.
END OF FILM
NEWSREADER: The BCC said tonight that a Government Report on the safety of Propanol was due to be published shortly by the Department of Administrative Affairs.
[We asked an old BBC current affairs man how the News would have treated the item if they had been in favor of the scheme, and we reproduce his `favorable' version to compare with the actual one- Ed]
NEWSREADER: Propanol contains metadioxin, a compound of the chemical dioxin which was released in the Seveso explosion in Italy in 1976. It is however an inert compound and chemical analysis has shown it to be completely harmless.
CUE TO FILM OF FACTORY SHOWING PLANT AND OFFICES
The news was welcomed today at the factory where Propanol will be manufactured. It had been scheduled for closure at the end of the year, but now it will be taking on more staff. The contract is for a minimum of five years.
CUE FILM OF FACTORY WORKER
FACTORY WORKER: This is great news. At last we've got some work we can get our teeth into. It's really put heart in the lads.
CUT TO SIR WALLY
SIR WALLY: Everyone's worked like mad for this contract. It will mean a lot of exports as well as jobs. We were against the Germans and Americans, so its a real vote of confidence in the British Chemical industry.
REPORTER: Isn't metadioxin potentially dangerous?
SIR WALLY: No, that's dioxin; metadioxin is about as dangerous as self-raising flour.
END OF FILM
NEWREADER: A government report is to be published shortly which, it is understood, will confirm an earlier American enquiry which gives metadioxin a clean bill of health.