Ben Goldacre legally threatened by LBC

1:35 am - February 8th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    

      Share on Tumblr

Writer of the popular Guardian ‘Bad Science’ column, Ben Goldacre, has been threatened with legal action by LBC radio. As Ben explains, the controversy arose when he took part in a debate on LBC radio around the MMR vaccine scare – a hoax that the media keep running with. He says the whole discussion was so bad, and the presenter Jeni Barnett’s behaviour on air so atrocious, that he posted the radio segment on his blog.

That invited legal threats by LBC radio, which in itself is outrageous. How is a radio segment (now on WikiLeaks) broadcast on air property of LBC? Furthermore, doesn’t it fall under the ‘fair usage’ criteria (or is that only applicable in the US?).
Ben says: “If you felt that this was an irresponsible piece of broadcasting, and an inappropriate use of the public bandwidth – which is licensed to companies such as Global Audio as a privilege by the nation – you may wish to complain about Jeni Barnett’s MMR show of 7th January 2009 to OFCOM.”

A complaint against Jeni Barnett is definitely in order, but what about LBC’s appalling behaviour in not allowing their output to be reproduced elsewhere?

Update: A Sunday Times investigation has now found Wakefield altered the MMR data. What will Melanie Phillips say now?

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  

About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by

Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Technology

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Reader comments

IANAL, but while “fair use” is indeed a US term, Goldacre does appear to be covered by the UK definition of fair dealing.

Aye, fair dealing would more than cover this, given what he linked to was a clipped piece of the original broadcast.

3. Alisdair Cameron

LBC’s lawyers haven’t pursued the wisest course of action in my view (says he being ultra-diplomatic): taking on such a prominent and highly-regarded blogger, taking an action which appears bullying, and contrary to the notions of free speech and information availability held by most of the blogosphere, and doing so in defence of an unsubstantiated, unscientific and dangerous to others viewpoint.
Of course it was going to go on wikilieaks, and get a huge backlash. I’m not sure they ‘get’ the net: bully a good guy, and Ben is one of the good guys, and, thank goodness, folk rally round.

Barnett is playing the victim & claiming, pathetically, to be a mother trying to do what is best for her children. I find it possible that she is just stupid & is the dupe of scaremongers, but that’s no excuse. If she doesn’t understand it, she shouldn’t have hectored us about it. I don’t go on TV telling people all about biochemistry or ancient Greek, so why should she have the right to make these statements & go unchallenged?

I have seen nothing even vaguely describale as evidence that MMR causes autism. You are harming children by not having them protected against preventable diseases. The likes of Mad Mel Philips & Peter Hitchens should hang their heads in shame, but won’t.

This blog is essential reading if you do not follow it already.

Leaving aside the issue of Barnett’s being a dangerous moron and Goldacre’s being wonderful, and the fact that as Alisdair Cameron points out this sort of thing is counterproductive, is it the contention of Goldacre and some of his supporters that Britain does not have copyright law, or that it doesn’t apply to him? The quote from Goldacre makes it sound as if radio companies don’t pay for the right to broadcast, or pay for the production of the programmes they transmit, and it’s questionable to say the least whether reproducing an entire segment of a programme falls within fair dealing. The LRB doesn’t get to reprint entire copyrighted books provided they append a brief review by Terry Eagleton at the end. There’s a great deal of wishful thinking in the area of copyright and the net, unfortunately.

Just out of interest, are you the same Andrew who was being an idiot (“if someone looks at the flowers in my garden, it HARMS me”) on the copyright thread?

A Sunday Times investigation has now found Wakefield altered the MMR data

I oppose the death penalty in general, but would cheerfully hang Wakefield.

No, I’m not. But I don’t think copyright is universally evil, and I don’t think pretending that LBC have no rights over the redistribution of their radio show is actually going to make them have no rights (whether it is sensible for them to try to enforce those rights is a different matter, of course). I remember the Laurence Godfrey cases very well, and many people haven’t progressed very far from the common belief back then that sticking your head in the sand and saying “the law doesn’t apply to the internet” is a sensible course of action. It didn’t do Phill Hallam-Baker much good.

In an ideal world, Jeni Barnett would be being pilloried by the national press, but unfortunately we’re living in a world where feelings are allowed to trump facts, and leaving rude messages on an answering machine is an evil crime whereas spreading lies which will lead to children dying is a matter of individual belief, which is sacrosanct.

Lee>Aye, fair dealing would more than cover this, given what he linked to was a clipped piece of the original broadcast.

I think he was on the edge for Fair Dealing as he (AIUI) posted the whole item about MMR. That doesn’t make the bullying any more acceptable, of course.

American schools are refusing to admit pupils who are not vaccinated, on the very reasonable grounds that they pose a health risk to other children, in real life rather than on the planet woo that Barnett inhabits.

Something which should be emulated in my humble opinion.

Can’t really be arsed to go on again about how Barnett, Mad Mel, clinically sane Peter Hitchens et al are putting youngsters’ lives at risk. But this is a concrete bit of business that should be enacted.

Definitely agree asquith.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jeni Barnett and the LBC Radio MMR Vaccine Segment: Updated with links of blog coverage « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

    […] Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy feels that it is outrageous that: Ben Goldacre legally threatened by LBC. […]

  2. Linkspam, aka first ‘real’ post, aka THIS IS THE NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWS. « Embololalia

    […] Ben Goldacre is being threatened with legal action for putting a radio clip on his website. Entirely not embarrassment at what HORRIBLE ANTI-SCIENTIFIC TOOLS they are. (This is as good a […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.