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2 Nov, 2020 11:41

‘Utterly negligent’: BBC under fire for ‘editing out’ the ‘most important point’ of SAGE expert interview on Covid-19

‘Utterly negligent’: BBC under fire for ‘editing out’ the ‘most important point’ of SAGE expert interview on Covid-19

The BBC has allegedly dropped an important part of its interview with a government scientific expert about Covid-19. Some believe it indicates that something fishy is going on at the broadcaster.

On Sunday, the BBC’s Andrew Marr spoke to Jeremy Farrar, a medical researcher and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). SAGE provides expert opinion on tackling the Covid-19 epidemic to the British government, and the interview focused on the ongoing lockdowns in the UK and what the public should expect when time comes to lift them in a few weeks.

Some viewers however noted that there was a gap in Farrar’s advice to wear masks and not to expect that life would return to normal anytime soon. While he apparently didn’t share his opinion on how important it was to have a well-functioning system for tracing coronavirus patients’ contacts and isolating potentially infected people.

The scientist responded to the question of why he said nothing about it by revealing that he actually did. But the BBC chose to edit it out, he said. The tweet has since been deleted by Farrar, but not before a screenshot was captured and posted by Independent SAGE - a group of scientists that was created six months ago and aspires to balance its government-linked namesake in informing the British public.

The alleged decision to keep the tracing part out of the interview sparked some puzzlement and anger online. Independent SAGE head, David King, who used to head the original SAGE under the Blair and Brown cabinets, called it “utterly negligent” and said the broadcaster should “do better”.

Some suggested that the BBC may have simply believed the audience would find talk about tracing and isolation boring.

Others see it in a more sinister light, saying it indicates that the broadcaster bends to pressure from Downing Street and censors its reporting accordingly. The Boris Johnson government stands accused of failing to deliver a scientifically sound response to Covid-19, including creating a functioning system of contact tracing.

Government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 are a highly contentious issue in the UK as well as in many other European countries. Mass protests against face masks, bans on public gatherings and other restrictions have been rocking the continent for weeks even as their leaders imposed new lockdowns.

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