Tuesday 15 February 2011

A sincere apology to drinkers from the BBC

From the BBC:

In recent years, along with all other media, we at the BBC may have implied that an unstoppable tide of rising alcohol consumption posed a threat to the very fabric of British society. Headlines such as Rising alcohol addiction costs 'could cripple the NHS'Alcohol abuse 'becoming epidemic and Alcohol abuse 'epidemic' warning may have given some readers the impression that there was there was some sort of epidemic of alcohol use.

It is also possible that news stories such as 'Licensing Act to cause mayhem' '24 hour drinking - are you mad?' and 'Please Gordon, reverse this crazy law' may have given some licence-fee payers the impression that the country was going to hell in a handcart thanks to round-the-clock bingeing.

Having finally got round to checking the facts, we now recognise that heavy drinking is falling, abstinence is rising, and young people are leading the drive towards healthier drinking. Contrary to what you may have heard every day for several years, alcohol consumption has been falling since 2002, with drinking by young men falling most dramatically—from 26 units a week in 1999 to 15 units in 2009. Even changing the way consumption is measured can't disguise the fact that drinking has been on the decline for a decade.

Furthermore, what we have been laughably referring to as '24 hour drinking' has resulted in the average pub opening for an extra 24 minutes a day, hardly enough time to have a swift half. We also recognise that 'binge-drinking' is a scare-mongering and virtually meaningless phrase popularised by the tabloid media and is unworthy of the world's most respected news organisation.

We would like to distance ourselves from everything we have ever said and point out that we did not write any of these stories ourselves. They came from press releases from seemingly disinterested and trustworthy parties such as Alcohol Concern and the Alliance House Foundation. At the time, we had no idea that an organisation that used to be called the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in all Intoxicating Liquors could have any prohibitionist leanings.

We now acknowledge that these temperance types will say and do anything to further their goals. Why, only yesterday we presented wild guesstimates from Alcohol Concern about the supposedly escalating costs of treating drinkers as a legitimate news story. We now see that the only reason for this story's existence was to encourage more funding for Don Shenker and his colleagues. The person responsible for this has been dismissed and from now on we will only be asking representatives from the Portman Group to comments on our news stories.

Henceforth, instead of illustrating all drink-related articles with this picture of a fat lager-guzzling wreck...

...we will be using this:

We sincerely apologise for any confusion caused in the past and will work hard to regain your trust. Cheers!

Slightly adapted from this.


Mark Wadsworth said...

The original article was a small step forwards (overall consumption is falling) combined with a giant leap backwards - ramming home the Big Fat Lie that "alcohol related admissions" are increasing.

Going by AC's comments over the years, "alcohol related admissions" have been increasing at 15% compound per annum for the last fifteen years, which is clearly bullshit.

Nice pic by the way.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Now the BBC appear to be following Dick Puddlecote's blog, it will only be a matter of time before they notice that the admissions figures have been fiddled as well.

Anonymous said...

So BBC must follow the blogsites to find out the facts they should be investigating on their own all along? Maybe Guardian will follow their lead next.

Chris Oakley said...

Don’t hold out too much hope on admission figures Chris. Remember January 1 2010 when the RCP persuaded the BBC to tell the public that the cost of alcohol related illness had doubled in 10 years. I took their data (provided by the NHS) apart and demonstrated to the BBC beyond reasonable doubt exactly how the books had been cooked. Their response was to “time out” my complaint sometime around July.

Only 2 weeks ago Alcohol Concerns CEO demonstrated his incompetence in all its glory when claiming that this year’s fall in alcohol consumption was a response to this year’s recession despite the fact that the ONS report he was supposed to be commenting on identified it as a ten year trend.

The BBC health editorial team is hopelessly and terminally biased and should be removed immediately before they do irreparable harm to the BBC and we end up with US style TV. Personally I think it worth it as I no longer watch too much TV on the grounds that the editorial content of British TV is governed by Japanese and Mexican pressure groups.

The BBC seems quite happy to apologise to 3 Japanese complainants but totally incapable of apologising to the tens of thousands of British science graduates that it insults week in week out with its pathetic coverage of public health. I have tried to be nice to them but they really are unworthy.

ftumch said...

"Nice pic by the way."

Thanks Mark :P

Anonymous said...

From Dave Atherton

It is a nice pic. I always enjoy a pint on a warm sunny day outside when the sun shines. :)

Fredrik Eich said...

On womans hour the other day the discussion on the rise in female breast cancer centred on HRT, a 20% increased risk from alcohol consumption and "that we all know women are drinking more". Only at the last moment was it admitted that the majority of breast cancer is caused by a "mixture of genes and bad luck". Which all translates as , actually we don't really know why female breast cancer is on the rise. This was almost as good as when recently womans hour blamed the steady rise in female lung cancer on the fact that men have historically given up smoking in greater numbers than women!?! One shudders to think how high the female lung cancer rate would be if millions more women were still passive smoking in the home.

Dominic Allkins said...

Bloody hell, I'm pleased I was sitting down when I read the linked BBC article.

Clearly the journo who wrote that will need 're-training' or sending to the Gulag.

Chris Oakley said...

I sincerely doubt that the BBC will retrain someone for toeing the party line on drinking /smoking obesity Dominic.

I am pretty sure that the BBC will continue to quote Don Shenker ad nauseum presumably on the grounds that he is an “expert” in alcohol statistics by virtue of his degree in Communications Studies.

Christopher Snowdon said...


Did you put your critique of the drinking/hospital admissions online? If not, can you send me it?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how long it will be before some government or health official tries to link this “dropping” trend to their oh-so-wise policy of ever-increasing levels of tax and duty on alcohol ……..

Chris Oakley said...

Profuse apologies to Dominic for mistakenly attributing his comment to the wrong link and therefore missing his point. I have not had an irony bypass honest. I just had too many windows open at the same time.

Anonymous said...

The BBC article includes the graph of actual pure alcohol consumption per head, which will be more reliable than the ONS surveys of reported consumption. Their main use is to try and determine the consumption among genders, age groups etc. It looks as if we might hit 1980 levels soon. As women overall drink far more these days, it follows that men are drinking far less, which I think agrees with most people's experience. My students don't look as wrecked as my friends and I did in some morning lectures and people who work in universities never now drink at lunch time.

Chris Oakley said...

I think a breakdown by gender might prove useful but suspect that we won’t have any data for the really interesting part of the overall alcohol consumption graph which is the period from approximately 1960 to 1980. Prior to this period, social drinking was very much a male activity. Even during the 50s there was a perception that “nice girls” did not go to pubs and they definitely didn’t go out clubbing together. I am not saying that women did not drink pre 1960 or that the gender factor is the only explanation for the rise but the increasing acceptability of 50% of the population engaging in social drinking may be partly responsible for some of the increase in alcohol consumption from the 1940s.

Just a thought as I have no data. Does anyone else? So far I have managed to find this so perhaps my thinking is not entirely eccentric on this subject and Don Shenker’s huge rise in individual consumption since 1940 may not be quite what he would have us believe it is.


Anonymous said...

Anon 16.19
Chris, I agree, but don't have any data. Most of the increase is due to women. Back in the seventies, apart from maybe one night a week, women stayed in and didn't drink. Men tended to drink in pubs, including at lunchtime. Now both stay in and drink. It would be interesting to look at the history of liver disease for men and women separately.
I can't get very interested in all this as I'm quite looking forward to making my own wine again.