Response from editor, You and Yours: ME: 30 July 2007

Today’s edition of Radio 4’s You and Yours featured a brief follow up to Monday’s broadcast about ME – an item which had been billed as “ME latest knowledge” and itself, a follow up to the programme “Leo, Rusty and ME” [Friday, 27 July]. The production team had received a large response to Monday’s programme with complaints that too much time had been given over to Lightning Process. A couple of emails were read out – one claiming Lightning Process as a “cure”, another critical of therapies, the basis for which no underlying science could be provided.  A return to the subject of ME (no details given) is being planned by You and Yours for the Autumn.

Following the Your and Yours broadcast on Monday, I raised the following points by telephone and email with the production team:

1] At the start of today’s You and Yours strand on ME, presenter Peter White introduced the illness as “Myalgic encephalitis” (which is Phil Parker’s preferred term) and not as “Myalgic encephalomyelitis” which is the term more commonly used and the term under which ME is indexed in WHO ICD-10: G93.3. Why did You and Yours researchers elect not to use the term “Myalgic encephalomyelitis”?

2] Professor Findley referred to a pilot study into the “Lightning Process” but omitted to mention that he is currently undertaking a clinical study into the Lightning Process with colleague, Gerri de Vries, the LP practitioner and occupational therapist who also contributed to the programme. Professor Findley and Ms de Vries’ professional interest and personal involvement in this LP pilot study should have been disclosed.

3] This follow up item to Friday’s broadcast “Leo, Rusty and ME” was listed as “ME latest knowledge”. Why was no-one invited onto the programme to talk specifically about biomedical research into ME and recent UK and international developments or explore the controversy over the dearth of MRC funded biomedical research into this illness? This was disappointing coverage; rather than present a balanced overview of “latest knowledge” this follow up came across as little more than a promotion for NLP and Lightning Therapy – with Ms de Vries even getting in a plug for Phil Parker’s new book.

The following response has been received, today, from You and Yours editor, Andrew Smith:

I did acknowledge on today’s programme that Monday’s discussion was unsatisfactory. I thought we did a good job in exploring the Lightning Process – which has received a fair degree of media attention in recent months and I think that focus was justified. However in dealing with the wider issues of the various treatments for the condition we palpably failed – though only due to lack of airtime. We will be returning to the subject of ME in the autumn and one of our producers may contact you during the research process. I hope you will feel that you want to help.

On your first point regarding the term we used for ME. I did ask a few minutes before transmission that we use the full title for the condition. This was inevitably hastily researched by someone who hadn’t worked on researching the original item and who didn’t realise the existence of more than one full term for ME. While we didn’t use the more commonly used term, what we broadcast was not incorrect and I think unliklely to mislead a lay audience in any material way.

On your second point, we are satisfied that Professor Findley is an objective authority on all aspects of ME. If you have evidence to the contrary we will investigate. As I understand it the research he is undertaking on the LP attracts no extra funding and is not an endorsement of LP but simply illustrates a curiosity about it. He works on various approaches to treating ME. Gerri de Vries was cast as an advocate of LP, we made this clear to listeners and they were in a position to judge accordingly.

Andrew Smith
You and Yours
BBC Radio 4

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