BBC Staff ‘Clueless About Science’
THE BBC is “dumbing down” science programmes because it is staffed with humanities graduates who are ignorant about the subject, a leading academic and presenter has claimed.
Prof Lisa Jardine, who presents BBC Radio Four’s ‘Seven Ages of Science’ series, said producers assume that their audience is as clueless about science as they are.
As a result, presenters are told to avoid using technical terms for fear of alienating people, while arts presenters can reference obscure cultural figures without,any further explanation, she said.
Prof Jardine is a professor of Renaissance Studies at University College London and is also chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and president of the British Science Association.
Speaking before the British Science Festival which takes place in Newcastle next week, she claimed the idea that presenters must “mash up the difficult stuff, and particularly science, because people are not able to understand, is a complete fallacy”.
The myth arose because “everybody in the BBC is trained in the humanities”, she said, and although BBC Radio 4 is now introducing more scientific content, its science department is still dwarfed by the arts unit.
“Anyone who has done broadcasting on science for the BBC will know that whereas you are never asked to explain who (actor) John Carlisle is, if I say ‘mitochondria’ (energy-producing components of cells), they say, ‘Can’t you say it in ordinary language because people won’t understand’.
“They always say, ‘Because my mother won’t understand’. Many mothers now have PhDs, so let’s leave out the mothers. In the rising age groups, 45 per cent of that cohort went to University for goodness’ sake.”
A spokesman for the BBC said: “The BBC’s mission is to stimulate the audience’s curiosity and interest in science, across television, radio and online.
“We serve a very broad audience from those with no pre-existing interest in science through to those who already have an appetite for or knowledge of science; our content goes out at prime time and is presented by experts in their fields.”