In the small hours of the morning here in the UK, BBC News occasionally screens what was recently aired on ABC News America. Their Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr Richard Besser, has just interviewed a customs official at an airport and is now describing how the “powerful radiation detector” [sic] would detect any radiation from imported cargo. While he has confirmed the obvious result that there have been no incidents of harmful radiation detected, they have attempted to plant a seed of worry in their viewer’s minds – after all, if there is nothing to worry about then why have they reported on it.
There have been a few very minor and short lived radiological emissions in Japan. Yes, there have been precautions taken to protect the local population by means of an exclusion zone and distribution of Iodine tablets, however that is precautionary – putting on a seatbelt in a car does not automatically imply you are going to crash.
The BBC is now airing their own report. The exclusion zone was referred to as a “contamination zone” – which is factually incorrect – and the pictures they had broadcast earlier under the auspices of a report on the nuclear incident are in fact people in protective suits looking for bodies after the tsunami, which has nothing to do with radiological issues.
After a decade of selling fear, I would have thought the major media outlets would have realised the public are at saturation point. Further emotive reporting, I expect, will be met with apathy as many people at the current time have more than enough problems on their plate. Rational and factual reporting set in appropriate context is required, and there is a real appetite for a return to professionalism rather than sensationalism.