Tuesday 6 May 2014

Two hours of plain pack promotion on the BBC

When I attended the press conference for Cyril Chantler's plain packaging report, one of the journalists who asked a question seemed positively gleeful that Chantler was supporting the proposal. He congratulated Sir Cyril on "demolishing" the arguments against plain packs and expressed his hope that there would be no further delay in bringing the policy in. The journalist was Peter Taylor from the BBC and he mentioned that he was making a documentary about the tobacco industry.

Although I didn't realise it at the time, Peter Taylor has presented such documentaries before. His 1976 British documentary Death in the West is mentioned in many books about smoking (I quoted from it in Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (p. 183)) because it was never legally shown in the USA as a result of a lawsuit from Philip Morris. This, of course, was at a time when the industry did not publicly accept that cigarettes were dangerous or addictive. The lawsuit gave the programme a measure of notoriety and it was subsequently imported into the US on VHS and used by anti-smoking groups. Other Taylor documentaries about tobacco include Dying for a Fag and License to Kill.

The new documentary is two hours long and, according to the BBC, will be broadcast in two parts at some point this month. It appears to be entirely dedicated to the plain packaging agenda, of which Taylor is clearly a keen supporter. Moreover, it is being made with the active support of state-funded plain packaging campaigners...

Students Star in BBC Anti-Smoking Documentary

Media students from Salford City College’s Walkden Sixth Form Centre will make their small-screen debut in May as part of a BBC2 documentary focused on exposing the UK's tobacco industry.

...The opportunity was organised in conjunction with Tobacco Free Futures, who are working alongside the BBC in creating the documentary.

Even by the standards of partisan broadcasting, this is pretty blatant stuff. How can the BBC possibly square this its duty to "not campaign, or allow ourselves to be used to campaign'?

The timing is particularly suspect since the government is expected to launch a final consultation any day now. There is also the question of the EU elections, in which UKIP is the only significant party to be firmly against plain packaging. It is very likely that these programmes will go out just as both the plain packaging consultation and the EU election campaign are coming to a head.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Snowdon

Perhaps those awfully nice people at the BBC who live off TV licence fees are secretly trying to help UKIP win an even bigger share of the EU 'parliament' vote.