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Analysis

Why was BBC silent when doctors called for people’s vote?

by Luke Lythgoe | 28.06.2018

The British Medical Association (BMA) is worried Brexit is bad for NHS. You might have thought that was a news story. Not if you’re the BBC.

When the BMA, which represents 160,000 doctors, called for a people’s vote yesterday, it was met with radio silence from the BBC. Not just radio silence, but televisual and online silence too. This cannot be seen as anything but our national broadcaster failing the public.

The BMA passed a motion to “support the idea of the public having a final say on the Brexit deal”. It also voted to oppose Brexit “as a whole”. The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives have already called for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

As William Sapwell, who proposed the BMA motion, put it: “Brexit is bad for Britain’s health. Let’s put that on the side of a big red bus and once we have made that clear, the public should vote on the deal.”

Brexit will be bad for the economy – and therefore bad for the public finances. That will mean less money for public services such as the NHS, not more.

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Meanwhile, around 10% of doctors are from the European Economic Area; and 40% of those are making plans to leave because of Brexit uncertainty. The NHS is already struggling. It can’t afford to lose more doctors.

On top of that, quitting the EU will make it harder to get hold of the medical isotopes needed to treat cancer. As if that’s not bad enough, losing access to the EU’s health services could threaten Brits with “crippling medical bills” abroad.

There was thorough coverage of the BMA vote from other mainstream media, for example two very different write-ups in the Guardian and Mail. But nothing from the BBC. The only coverage of the BMA conference we’ve been able to unearth is a regional online story about doctors leaving Northern Ireland – with no mention of Brexit.

The BBC still accounts for roughly half of all media consumption. Its silence when a key section of society raises the alarm helps Theresa May push her botched Brexit through unchallenged.

A duty to “inform” is at the heart of everything the BBC does. Brexit and the NHS crisis are arguably the two biggest stories in the UK right now, yet the national broadcaster shies away from linking them. If the public aren’t informed about Brexit’s dangers, they may not realise what is going on until it is too late.

InFacts asked the BBC why it was silent over doctors backing a people’s vote. As yet, the response has been silence.


After publication, a BBC spokesperson told InFacts: “The BBC continues to report Brexit impartially and features a wide range of different perspectives across our news coverage. Our journalists report independently and without fear or favour. It is one of the reasons why the public trusts the BBC more than any other source of news.”

Edited by Hugo Dixon

13 Responses to “Why was BBC silent when doctors called for people’s vote?”

  • Why do you not survey hospitals to ascertain how much migration actually cost the NHS. Because you don’t want to know the answer. Costs of interpreters for people turning up at A and E cost of Maternity services are just two examples.

  • The government seems to be losing the ability to control business from speaking out about Brexit. Presumably with threats of losing later contracts should they do so. The BBC seems to be staffed by Remainers who are constrained by those above. They fail to challenge the various distortions and lies put about by various ministers, thus adding to the confusion. Adam Boulton could give them all a lesson on how to encourage the truth with detail in interviews. The BBC seems still to be bound by government threats…..they are not doing their duty to the public and they failed to do it before prior to the referendum. If they had we might not be in this mess. Perhaps they will gain courage from the recent examples of Business and provide some needed facts.

  • I no longer trust the BBC as my main source of news. They cannot afford to broadcast anything that is not in the interests of current ruling party for fear of loss of funding or other government threats. I now find channel 4 has more balanced reporting.

  • Mr Winwood must be a politician, don’t like evidence in front of you, change the subject! by the way I agree with you about interpreters , immigrants should either learn English or bring an English speaking person with them.

  • Interpreters in court used to get 85 pounds for a three hour call out a few years back. Since the government appointed a provider, I believe they get even less now. British people in the EU always learn the local language before they go abroad, don’t they? NO Brit in Europe ever gets an interpreter, do they? Of course they ***** do. Why do British people think they carry the weight of the world? (Et combien de langues parlez-vous, monsieur?) Every European country pays interpretation costs and many fund learning multiple languages; I wish I could say as much for us.

  • We know why the BBC was silent; It’s frit. The Tories have been threatening it for years and it is frightened it will lose its license fee. Given its performance before the referendum and subsequently, I am quite ready for it to do just that. The only thing I really like on it anyway are the Nature specials and they could be done elsewhere; when Attenborough goes they won’t be the same anyway.

    Ignoring the views of half the population simply isn’t on – referendum or no referendum. They have overexposed the BNP and the English Defence League as Nigel Farage and even rebroadcast Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood speech.” What’s next, how Mein Kampf relates to current events??? They were even offering private medical insurance to staff as part of their contracts. Get that, a nationalised broadcaster in a country with nationalised health care offering employees private insurance, while they regularly rip the NHS to bits.

    Thanks but no thanks, I’ll take my chances on the open market. Bye bye BBC.

  • I have long suspected that the obvious pro-Brexit bias in the BBC is related to licence fee threats from the Tories.

    There may be other reasons – many senior positions in the BBC are held by Tories. They from time to time presumably arrange for someone to complain about left wing bias in the BBC to cover this up.

    A third reason may be that at some point in the past the Govt had a ‘quiet word’ that anti Brexit positions could damage our negotiating position with the EU. Laughable really, given that the EU knows very much more about the UK than the UK does about EU.

    Or maybe they are scared of the bullying right wing press.

  • Immigrants from the EU almost always speak English, in my experience. Half our immigration, roughly, is from elsewhere and they are less good at speaking English, surely? The immigrants from the EU came because there were jobs and opportunities for them and they have been a huge benefit to us. Now we have made them so unwelcome they will not be coming and they will be replaced by immigrants from elsewhere; people who are often culturally different.
    Keep in mind we are 10000 doctors short and 34000 nurses short.

  • Are you suggesting that non English speaking immigrants can only turn up to A&E with an interpreter. All the best to those being dragged in after a serious/life threatening accident.

  • The BBC has lost all credibility, and integrity over brexit reporting; Daily Politics, Sunday Politics, 100 Days, in addition to the news have given up any pretense at balanced reporting. When the next non-Tory govt sets up a commission of inquiry into the brexit fiasco the BBC should not be spared. In the meantime, look elsewhere for your news.

    Respect the vote of the 96%. The Tories are betraying Gibraltar. No to colonialism; no to Fat Boris!

  • The last Charter renewal confirmed in 2016 the licence fee will continue for at least 11 years, and will increase in line with inflation until 2021-22.

    I guess that’s another conspiracy theory busted.

    Lots of things happen every day, they don’t all get covered on the news. Not as if anyone can’t be aware of the opposition to Brexit.