Friday, 16 February 2018

Gardeners' Question Time on ragwort breaking the BBC's Editorial Guidance.

A recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme Gardeners' Question Time contained a clear falsehood on ragwort.  It is most frustrating when journalists don't check their facts,
It is a clear breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidance which insists on accuracy,

It was falsely stated,
 “according to the Weeds Act of 1959 landowners are required to prevent the  weed from spreading."
It is just not the case. There is no automatic requirement to prevent this plant from spreading. You may be ordered to control it but otherwise there is no requirement to act.

The Act states:
 “Where the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (in this Act referred to as “the Minister”) is satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Act applies growing upon any land he may serve upon the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him, within the time specified in the notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading.”
It is no different from many pieces of legislation where you may be ordered to deal with something if, and only if,  it is considered a problem.

I have made complaints about similar claims to the Advertising Standards Authority. The adverts were stopped. I have also complained to  the Press Complaints Commission about an article in a magazine on the same issue. A correction was forced.
If anyone repeats the  information commercially there would be a criminal breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which prohibit actions which mislead customers.

If this kind of statement cannot appear in advertisements, in the press, or in the course of commerce, then it should not be broadcast on BBC Radio.

I have complained of course and we shall see what action they take.

At the bottom of this of course is the campaign of falsehoods, which I usually blog about. Rigged surveys with false questions etc etc. Articles misleading people . And crazy claims like telling people the cinnabar moth, which eats this plant as its natural food. is being poisoned by it! Or that the plant is running amok in South Africa which actually has no record of it at all growing there.

As I and the conservation organisations who work on this keep saying. People have been misled.

To quote Friends of the Earth
Common ragwort has been subjected to a campaign of “awareness raising” often involving distribution of a whole set of misunderstandings and falsehoods in which:
Ragwort has been blamed for animal deaths which were unproven or obviously not ragwort related;
Bad or irrelevant statistics and poor and biased surveys have been used to spread scare stories; and,
Ragwort has been falsely branded a threat to human health or to the countryside.
Companies repeating these claims in marketing statements
could be breaking consumer legislationand despite action by the Advertising Standards Authority to stop anti-ragwort adverts such ill-informed and false claims have been repeated and adopted by councils, politicians and governments resulting in:
Unnecessary, draconian measures to control or eradicate ragwort, often causing ecological damage to nature reserves and
wild areas like the New Forest;

Miles of roadside verges being subject to unnecessary ‘tidiness’ measures;
Other valuable species of plant being targeted as a result of outdated, archaic and anachronistic legislative measures originally aimed at raising agriculture production during and after World War I;
An entirely unnecessary air of panic leading to proposals for more poor legislation based on misunderstandings of nature, such as proposed measures that started as ragwort control in Scotland
being modified into proposed control measures for all potentially toxic plants. These would have affected everything from bluebells to oak trees.
Is it any wonder that the programme said they had received lots of anti-ragwort messages!

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