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Let’s take a principled stand against the BBC’s euthanasia propaganda

The Corporation has betrayed its charter and is no longer worthy of receiving our licence fee

By on Thursday, 16 June 2011

BBC's Television Centre in London (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

BBC's Television Centre in London (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Since I wrote my last blog about the BBC bias evident in Sir Terry Pratchett’s programme about assisted suicide on BBC Two on Monday night, I have received Phyllis Bowman’s Right to Life newsletter in the post this morning. Bearing in mind that it was written before the BBC Two programme on Monday, this is what she writes, under the subheading “The Biggest UK Pro-Euthanasia Lobby – The BBC”:

The BBC campaign has become more and more outrageous. When the news broke (Sunday 15. 5. 11) regarding the Swiss suicide referendum, the coverage – as always – supported assisted suicide. The story first broke on the 6pm news. There were three interviews, all backing death. Four radio clips backed death with only one against. Four local radio items all favoured death; two listeners’ comments backed death, with one Swiss comment favouring life. The campaigners who were heard were Margo MacDonald MSP (pro assisted suicide), Dr Peter Saunders (pro-life), three from Dignity in Dying, one from EXIT, one from the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide. All three organisations are quite blatantly pro-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. All this came hard on the heels of BBC’s announcement that they were making a film about Terry Pratchett…

Phyllis Bowman reminds readers of her newsletter to protest to the BBC complaints, PO Box 1922, Glasgow G2 3WT or to write to the new Chairman of the Board of Governors, the Right Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, Chairman, BBC Trust, Room 14, London Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1 1AA. Both he and the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, are Catholics, incidentally.

Phyllis also draws attention to a survey conducted by SCOPE, the leading disability charity which found that 70 per cent of disabled people feared that a reform of the law on assisted suicide would create pressure on vulnerable patients to “end their lives prematurely”. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of SCOPE, is quoted as saying: “While high-profile lawyers, doctors and celebrities such as Terry Pratchett and Patrick Stewart grab the headlines, the views of the thousands of ordinary disabled people who could be affected by this issue are rarely listened to.”

To me, it seems as if the BBC is and will remain impervious to complaints on this issue. I cannot see that writing letters will make it do more than give token coverage to the voices opposed to euthanasia, perhaps throwing in an urbane “explanation” of its enlightened policy as a sop to religious “bigots”. But suppose Catholics and other Christians, indeed anyone concerned about the demonstrable partiality of our “impartial” broadcasting service, were to decide to withhold their licence fee? Money speaks louder than words. If thousands were prepared to do it, they simply could not all be taken to court.

Journalist and biographer Charles Moore took just such a principled stand over the BBC’s refusal to sack Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for the obscene and insulting messages they left on the answer phone of actor Andrew Sachs and which were broadcast in a nine-minute sequence on Radio 2 in October 2008. Overall the BBC received 25,000 complaints about this incident. The result? Charles Moore was taken to court and fined £262 plus costs, while Ross was suspended for a mere three months. Brand chose to resign from his own show.

Important though Moore’s stand was, this is a much more serious, indeed life-threatening matter than making a protest over nasty jokes. It has never happened before that a huge number of people have said to the BBC in effect: “You have betrayed your Charter long enough. We won’t pay the licence fee again until you agree to impartial broadcasting of moral and ethical issues.”

  • Ken Purdie

    The BBC has indeed betrayed their charter, and indeed the people of this country for a long time now. A TV is completely suplus to requirements!

  • Workshed

    Your stance is pathetic, medieval, without reason or intelligence; just the typical Catholic dogma spouted for the last 1000 years. Come into the real world. Hubble’s eye. Evolution. Stem-cell research. Abortion. Birth control. Should I continue..? DO you people still really believe the human race is 5000 years old..? Really..? Terry Pratchett’s documentary was a reasoned telling of a man’s quest for true enlightenment whilst confronting his own mortality. I hoped this educated some of you as to how intelligent people can take control of their destiny. This is the kind of TV I pay my licence fee for. Well done BBC!

  • Adam Thomson

      – in contrast with your admirable and carefully reasoned intellectual presentation?

      – ah yes, it stands to reason that if people have believed something for a thousand years (why only a thousand?) it can’t possibly be true!

      – Well, you could. How about nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, genocide, single parenthood, drug abuse, massive discipline problems in schools … ?

      – Actually, even the most ardent Young Earth Creationist believes it’s at least 6000 years old. And I don’t think the above article expresses any opinion on the matter, does it?

  • Adam Thomson

    Oops, I don’t know why that happened. I’ll try again.

    - in contrast with your admirable and carefully reasoned intellectual presentation, presumably?

    - ah yes, it stands to reason that if people have believed something for a thousand years (why only a thousand?) it can’t possibly be true!

    - Well, you could. How about nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, genocide, single parenthood, drug abuse, massive discipline problems in schools … ?

    - Actually, even the most ardent Young Earth Creationist believes it’s at least 6000 years old. And I don’t think the above article expresses any opinion on the matter, does it?

  • Tim Tindal-Robertson

    Excellent practical suggestion, Francis, which does not involve time-consuming letters which receive a sterotyped answer. 25,000 times the current fee of £145.50 is £3.6m or the equivalent of several of top BBC managers grossly inflated salaries. Will someone pleazse step forward to organise it. Tim Robertson

  • Anonymous

    An individual’s decision to end their life is not any of your fucking business. Why dont you go and ask your God to stop giving people such horrendous diseases.

  • Jeannine

    “…Catholics and other Christians, indeed anyone concerned about the demonstrable partiality of our “impartial” broadcasting service, were to decide to withhold their licence fee…”
    That’s not going to happen! Why, because you do not have the Catholic intelligentsia & the clergy preaching loudly all the time against euthanasia & stating factual alternatives. The ordinary Catholic mindset will not change immediately. It probably will take a generation to get rid of the timid, tolerant  clergy & like-minded laity. The younger generation who is taught about about the alternatives will grow up & voice their opinions. 

    It’s starting to work in the USA. IMO the turning point occurred around the events surrounding Terry Shiavo. 

  • jng

    Virtually any programme which touches on religion or morals in the hands of TV producers becomes anti Catholic propaganda.  It is, often, not just bias but lies.  None of them bother to explain, for example, why, the Pius XII they protray, at best indifferent to the plight of the Jews in occupied Europe, was so admired by Golda Meir, an extremely jewish prime minister of Israel, and what two million Christians, mainly Catholics, were doing in concentration camps.
    In this instance, even the main secular issue seems to have ignored in the rush to push a programme maker’s views.
    That is, whether or not it is damaging to society to allow someone to delegate someone to kill him when he so chooses.  Ignored, but it relates to all of the rights we assume for ourselves, as none of them can be justified unless respect for human life is given an overriding value.  Even something as apparently basic as a right to one’s possessions cannot be logically justified unless one assumes that the status of the owner as an individual, and, therefore, his life, is more important than his status as an owner.
    Making it legal in civil law for one person to kill another, with or without consent, attacks the principle of an overidding value given to human life at its most basic level.  The only justification for euthanasia which I have heard has been based on a very limited pleasure pain logic where the wishes of an individual are paramount. 
    This is, clearly, a way of thinking which can justify anything, and is socially destructive.  It is, also, one which has opposed traditional Christian teaching particularly through its adherents in the media.
    To expect Catholics to pay for this or be legally deprived of access to this form of communication does have a totalitarian feel about it and Francis Phillips has quite a strong case.

  • An ordinary working class man

    To all,
    I have known and seen far too many people close to me die from cancer, and the last few weeks are always extremely painful for ALL concerned. Even with modern drugs and the best of care people near the end are a pitiful site and they know it. So I was very interested in the program and how things were done ect.
    I thought the content of the program was delt with very well indeed, and for the vast majority of normal people easy to understand and though very moving and uncomfortable at the end. I could not fault it.
    Peter Smedley I thought had more dignity in his little toe than most people.
    What a very brave man indeed!
    Watching the process of him dieing stripped any romance if that’s the right word to use away from this subject, and for me brought me back to earth with a bump.
    I still feel though that with all the proper safe guards in place which there was. This is defiantly the way we should be thinking of going for the poor people who there is no end for apart form pain and no dignity.
    I have a mate who has fought cancer twice and suffered terribly in doing so. He has it again and just cannot go through all the treatment again. So he has decided to refuse treatment for the third time, and enjoy the last few months he has without pain. These are the people we should be asking there opinions. Not us lucky ones who have never suffered. Yet !
    A message to Terry, all the people i know who watched the program, and there was alot . we say thanks for brining this subject back into the public eye. There are so many ordinary people who agree. We had a big discussion the other day in the pub and the overwhelming majority agread. That this should be on offer to us. No one ever bothers to ask the working class, have you seen the poor treatment the elderly and inferm get in the hospitals these days . Its terrible! When you hit your middle 40′s we all have elderly parents that have to go into hospital, so we all know whats going on. Most of us dont want to go there to die, when that time comes. I leave out the hospic as i know they do good work. Do what is right for you mate, if thats the way you choose.

  • David Armitage

    I am saddened by the distortionate view your columns purvey of so-called euthanasia. There are two organisations in my country, Switzerland, Exit and Dignitas.  Exit is an organisation composed of its members.  We carry a credit card which says (my translation): after mature reflexion, and in complete possession of my faculties I ask that the following be considered to be the expression of my will. That one abstain from from any measure of reanimation if my case should be hopeless or incurable or if I become severely mentally or physically handicapped. Further that an analgesic should be administered to alleviate my  suffering , even if  this should have the effect of bringing about my death. Even thirty five years ago student priests were taught the principle of double effect. Catholics in Switzerland see this as a matter for the individual conscience. Dignitas is a complete different kettle of fish.  It may or not be assisted suicide. I, and many Swiss have deep reservations about it. Most hospitals, carehomes and home care services have no difficulty with Exit.  I’m deeply concerned about the suicide  tourism Terry Pratchett  portrays so sympathetically. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to have portrayed the work of Exit. Typically many people live alone, with incurable illnesses.  They take the sensible precaution of making sure that they are not put through resuscitation to which they have not given their consent: they forbid it. I worry about attacks on the BBC because it tries to present the issues objectively.

  • Anonymous

    Terry Shiavo had literally no brain when the machine was switched off. A great chasm inside her skull had literally turned to mulch. She had zero percent change of any survival, or life in terms of any consciousness.

    The case certainly could not be considered an issue of euthanasia, not even by a colossal stretch of the imagination. Compassion for the family was forgotten in a bid to make futile, and at this stage entirely illogical political and religious points.

  • Anonymous

    If you are going to be a troll at least educate yourself.

     If the Pope himself has talked about the age of the earth in terms of Billions of years, then obviously only Catholics on the very fringe are going to believe otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    The media and the BBC may be covering the issue, but they are failing on the nuances of the issue.
    Suicide; euthanasia; assisted-dying and asking not to be ‘reanimated’ such as yourself in the case of major brain or physical injury – all are connected, but SEPARATE issues.

    You a supporter and a member of EXIT have quarms with Dignitas, whilst I support the idea of a very limited provision for assisted dying at the end of a terminal illness. I also worry about Dignitas and euthanasia of those who are not terminally dying.

    I believe positions such as ours, which are held by a great deal of others – are being poorly represented.

  • Mazzalfa

    Once again the BBC has made a pro-culture of death programme with a documentary on assisted suicide. Sir Terry Pratchett’s Choosing to Die was designed to put pressure on legislators by changing people’s views. Who would in turn put pressure on MP’s to change the law and allow euthanasia and assisted suicide in Britain. If one were to believe the general reaction it has worked with the majority of people being in favour of this programme. So once again the culture of death advances.  At CUT (Catholics Unplug your Televisions we believe that this will continue until the TV stations change their views towards Life. This will only happen if people give up the TV stop paying the TV license fee and tell the BBC why. We are Writing to as many pro-Life societies in Britain to suggest that they call upon their members to give up the TV and stop paying the license fee. Pro-life organization have written letters of complaint to the BBC, emailed them, telephoned them but to no avail. The only thing they will listen to is money and all they want is influence. Deprive them of these two fundamental things and I am sure they will change their tune. For further info on our campaigns go to our website
    Edward for CUT