Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bringing up Baby - Ofcom whitewash

Returning to the topic of Channel 4's Bringing up Baby series (see Bringing Up Baby - theatre or bad science? and Bringing Up Baby - update), the Ofcom judgement on complaints about has just come out. Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 98 - 03|12|07 concludes "Not in Breach".
      I think it's a complete whitewash. Others will no doubt find further specifics, but I noticed two points immediately. Firstly, the issue of mentor Claire Verity's qualifications (since shown to be questionable) is dismissed on a technicality: that since the programme made no reference to professional qualifications, audiences were not misled. Never mind the strong implication and not unreasonable assumption that if someone turns up on TV as a babycare "mentor" and "maternity nurse", they would have qualifications for that role.
      Secondly, Ofcom closes ranks with the still unnamed experts who advised the programme - "a senior psychologist", "a neurologist", "a GP" and a "senior consultant paediatrician" - and appears not to have taken wider advice, or any notice of the many criticisms from professional childcare organisations, on the current consensus about developmental psychology: that Truby King's tenets such as minimal cuddling and making no eye contact are not merely outdated, but wildly wrong.
      The Ofcom ruling furthermore upholds Truby King's methods on grounds of mere established historical authority, because of being "previously published and well-known books and theories ... in the public domain and legal". Ofcom describes its starting point as "that a programme which explores and discusses these approaches cannot in itself be problematic, so long as the broadcaster ensures that the material is put in context and that the audience is fully informed ... The methods were put in an historical perspective". This is not true. We never saw the full background of the Truby King's colonial-era nationalist eugenic control-freakery that viewed maternal affection as "a dangerous indulgence".

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