Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Biggest Euthanasia Lobby in Britain – The BBC

When the news broke on Sunday (15.5.11) regarding the Swiss suicide referendum, nobody should have been surprised by the BBC response. As always, it supported assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. 

The story broke on the 6:00pm news – there were three interviews all backing death, 4 radio clips backing death, one against, 4 local radio items all favouring death, two listener comments backing death, one Swiss comment favouring life.

The Campaigners heard so far were Margo Macdonald (pro-assisted suicide), Peter Saunders (pro-life), 3 from Dignity in Dying, 1 from EXIT, 1 from the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide. All three organisations are pro-assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia.

Any suggestion the BBC is running a campaign… is of course without merit and a wicked invention by pro-lifers... or so we have been told for years and years!  Recently, however, we had thought we were at last making some impact.

Thanks to members and supporters of RTL bombarding the BBC with letters and complaints, regarding the propaganda film of Terry Pratchett accompanying a 71-year-old Motor Neurone Disease patient to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, and showing him committing suicide, the broadcasters actually have included an editorial on their website “explaining” their decisions.

Suffering from Amnesia...?
The item is written by BBC Programmes Editor, Charlotte Moore (see right), who shows a picture of Mr Pratchett (looking so smug that he could almost float away on the brim of his hat) and tells us:

“… it's not something that we'd ever take the decision to show lightly. Not only did we have to work closely with all of our contributors' families to make sure that the issue was handled as sensitively as possible, but we worked closely with our editorial policy team to make sure that all aspects of the documentary were in line with BBC Editorial Policy guidelines”.

Either Ms Moore suffers from amnesia or else she has presumed that the rest of us do. Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the CMF, has drawn everybody’s attention to the bias of the BBC, with the following: “… This programme will be the fifth produced by the BBC in just three years, presented by a pro-euthanasia campaigner or sympathiser, which has been specifically designed to portray taking one’s own life in a positive light.”

The other programmes included a BBC Panorama documentary, ‘I’ll Die When I Choose’ in which Margo Macdonald MSP (see left) was given the floor to explain and promote her “End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill” just before it was first tabled. It was shown no less than four times between December 8 - 14, 2008. Despite the BBC continuing its campaign for the next two years, Scottish MPs, thankfully, did their homework and Ms Macdonald suffered a huge defeat when her Bill was thrown out by a vote of 85 to 16. That, however, did not stop the BBC. On the day it happened (November 2010) I was listening to BBC Five Live when an almost hysterical woman interviewer pleaded: “Margo, whatever happened?”

Miss Macdonald had the nerve to complain that the MSPs had voted against her because they were worried about the next election – which took place only on May 5th… six months later.

However, long before 2008, the BBC fed the public a constant diet of pro-euthanasia programmes and news items covering the deaths of Reg Crew, Diane Pretty, John Close and others whose cases were used to promote assisted suicide. At the time of the Diane Pretty case in 2003, I telephoned the BBC to ask if they would interview Mrs Pam Vack (see right), an RTL member who (like Diane Pretty) had Motor Neurone Disease and was willing to speak on a programme. The immediate response of the BBC researcher was to snap at me:  
             “Is she a Catholic?”
             “She is not”, I said. “But what has that to do with it?”

Apart from taking our telephone numbers – neither Pam nor RTL heard another word.

The next BBC propaganda essay (after the Margo Macdonald programme) was ‘A Short Stay in Switzerland (January 2009). This was a 90 minute docudrama starring Julie Walters for whom the BBC publicity department carried out a huge campaign promoting her views on the benefits of euthanasia. The programme told the story of Bath GP Anne Turner who went with her children to commit suicide at Dignitas in January 2006. It was screened seven times between the 25th January 2009 and 27th January 2010. BBC health correspondent Fergus Walsh, who accompanied Dr Turner on her final journey, actually played himself in the film. How impartial was that!

Moreover, it was not the first programme about Dr Turner. When she originally went to Switzerland in January 2006 to commit suicide, she was accompanied by Fergus Walsh and a full BBC crew who filmed the whole event, including sipping champagne with her three children before she drank her cocktail of barbiturates. It was evidently intended to appear sophisticated and care free. However, Mick Hume (by no means a pro-life supporter) described it in the Times as “A grisly theatre of death” (27.01.2006).

Both David and Jonathan Dimbleby are well known for their anti-life views, so it came as no surprise that the BBC selected Terry Pratchett to give the 34th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, “Shaking Hands With Death”, when he claimed the right to be provided with assisted suicide because he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

It was all great fun… as he envisaged sipping poisoned champagne at his home in the garden. However, it was not very original – rather more a “take” from the Dr Turner programme. Peter Saunders tells us that, nonetheless, “a hand-picked audience in London signalled their approval as he spoke…”

Another example of BBC pro-euthanasia bias occurred when Jonathan Dimbleby had Deborah Annett as a member of the panel on the radio programme, Any Questions (17.3.06). At the time Ms Annetts was CEO of what was then the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now Dignity In Dying’). On the programme, she regaled the audience with a lurid description of Diane Pretty’s death:

“I'm thinking now of Diane Pretty, who I knew very, very well – she had a horrendous life and horrendous death at the end, and she received really good quality hospice care. The last week that she was in hospice she screamed in pain and agony every day, they could do nothing for her... in the end the only option was to sedate her…”

There was nobody on the programme to challenge Ms Annetts.

Yet, in total contrast, the Medical Director of the Hospice where Mrs Pretty died had described her death as “peaceful and painless”.

In addition, the Motor Neurone Disease Association issued a statement also describing her death as “peaceful and painless” – adding that pain was “not an issue” with the vast majority of MND patients.

When pro-life groups protested to the BBC, we were assured by the producers of “Any Questions” that they had no intention of promoting euthanasia; they had every intention of inviting an officer of equal standing from one of the pro-life groups.

Five years later… we are all still waiting.

February 15th, 2010 saw yet another propaganda assault. On the Inside Out Programme on East Midlands, BBC producer, Ray Gosling (see left), “confessed” to smothering, some years before, a gay lover with AIDS. “… [A]fter an exhaustive police investigation into the claim, it turned out to be pure fantasy, but not until after the BBC publicity machinery had blown it up into a massive international news story just prior to the Director of Public Prosecutions reporting on his assisted suicide prosecution criteria.”

In comparison with the five major pro-euthanasia programmes within the last three years, the BBC has made not even one giving the alternative view of end of life treatment. MPs have persistently complained about the BBC bias on any number of issues, particularly those relating to human life and the traditional family. A number of Early Day Motions have referred to specific euthanasia programmes. On one occasion, Greg Dyke, the former BBC Chairman, had the nerve to make bland statements regarding the entire BBC network and calling on us to justify our claims.  This could only have been achieved by monitoring every single programme on every BBC network!  However, the fact remains that if there were a multitude of pro-life programmes amazingly few people from the pro-life network were ever called to speak on them.

The Terry Pratchett programme was obviously planned to coincide with, and promote the publication of, the Report from the so-called Commission on Assisted Dying which Mr Pratchett helped to set up and fund.  The “Commission” which has striven to appear as though it were some kind of official body has already been thoroughly discredited. It is chaired by Lord Falconer who failed in his attempt to get a Bill legalising assisted suicide through the House of Lords.  Quite obviously he is fixedly in favour of the legalisation of assisted death – like every other member of the “Commission”. Yet, despite the known bias, they have striven to present their considerations as “unbiased”. In this they have been unsuccessful, I am thankful to say.

Nonetheless, we can be confident that the BBC euthanasia lobby will do all it can to promote their findings as the work of a learned body rather than the witless twitterings of members and supporters of Dignity in Dying (as I have said previously, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) of which Mr Pratchett is one of its most redoubtable Patrons.

However, it is not too late to complain to the BBC. You can call them to complain on 03700 100 222.  But, be warned:  it
is a recording service and you are given very little time to give your name, address and message of protest. You can also
write to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Glasgow G2 3WT. You can also go to

In addition, you can write to the new Chairman of the Board of BBC Governors, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes (see right). He is very straightforward, and I am confident that he will consider the issues fairly. His address is:
Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, Chairman, BBC Trust, Room 14, London Broadcasting House, Portland Place, W1A 1AA.

If nothing else, please make it clear that five programmes in three years blatantly promoting assisted suicide to nought against – is just not on… especially from a publicly funded network which is supposed to be neutral. And that excludes all the other programmes we have listed.