Chi calls on broadcasters to follow the Olympic spirit in science coverage

Tuesday, 4th September 2012

Chi used a parliamentary  debate today to call on the Government and public service broadcasters to integrate more scientific content into their mainstream broadcasting.

Whilst recognising that some public service broadcasters, notably the BBC and Channel 4, produce high quality science programming, Chi highlighted growing concern that it is increasingly being sectioned off into science content ghettos.

Speaking during the debate, Chi, an engineer for 23 years before entering parliament in 2010,  praised the high quality of much science programming, but said:

“Science programming is heavily signposted and ensures that those who do not already have an interest in science and engineering can easily avoid it. What they have not done, and what the Olympics and Paralympics did so successfully, is to integrate science and engineering in generalist programming which can be enjoyed by all.

 “What I am afraid the public service broadcasters have succeeded in doing is creating high quality, well resourced science ghettos.

 “Non-specialist programming all too often displays a depressing lack of scientific literacy.”

Chi highlighted the importance of science and engineering and it’s many contributions to British culture and history and noted the high regard in many regions, particularly the North East.

Ofcom’s most recent survey published in June, did not reflect general satisfaction with science in PSB. 65% of respondents thought that showing interesting programmes about history, sciences or the arts was important but only 46% thought the public service broadcasting channels were doing that.  The level of satisfaction varied highly from 71% for BBC2 to 26%.

Since the debate was announced, several scientists and other people have put forward suggestions for encouraging more mainstream integration of science content. They include:

– New guidelines for the reporting of science – to  be drawn up by science journalists and used primarily by news editors and general reporters. 

– Media organisations to take on science journalists and journalists with a scientific training.

– Access courses so that scientists and engineers can convert into journalists – perhaps learned institutions such as the Institution of Engineering Technology could sponsor scholarships. 

  A transcript of the debate can be found here.

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