Last night, the ITV ‘investigative’ show Tonight broadcast a 30 minute probe into vaping which can generously be described as poor.
One wonders what the terms of commissioning were that resulted in a complete absence of balance and no information whatsoever being conveyed to UK viewers about harms in the US being exclusively caused by illegal black-market products involving contaminated liquids sold by criminals.
You would think that a responsible broadcaster would want to make that kind of vital and life-saving information available to viewers, but they didn’t. As ‘investigative journalists’, they could surely not have been unaware of this fact – as stated publicly by the US CDC - so we have to wonder at their motivation for producing something so slanted and irrelevant to the UK viewers they were broadcasting to.
Scant, and almost dismissive, attention was given to prominent UK voices such as Public Health England and ASH, while financially conflicted outliers from America were handed prominence without even a cursory examination of their pronouncements. An MP in the UK, however, was grilled extensively about non-existent conflicts which only proved that the presenters were catastrophically ill-informed about how parliament works.
Jonathan Maitland is a good broadcaster who has produced interesting shows in the past but came across in this programme as a gullible and incompetent researcher dancing to the tune of those above him who played him like a patsy.
Fortunately, social media has been harsh on the show, so whoever it was that decided on the gutter hit-piece that they delivered may hopefully realise they have misjudged the public mood in this country.
But more important is the fact that public perception of the relative safety of e-cigarettes has been nose-diving for years, precisely because of scientifically ignorant scaremongering such as the ITV broadcast last night. Public health officials in the UK are exasperated that the positive messages they give are drowned out by chancers out to make a buck on misleading information, click-bait and short-term notoriety.
ITV produced a show that was ignorant, lacked balance and that will harm many people’s lives, not just now but in the future. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Professional journalists have long bemoaned the impact on news reporting that bloggers and social media have created. They criticise those channels for not having standards and lacking in objectivity when scrutinising important issues, yet their programme last night was so lacking in research and basic fact-checking that they have helped the country to realise that broadcast media is on the decline. They had a chance to prove that responsible investigative journalism wasn’t dead, but instead decided to jump in the coffin and nail it shut themselves with their own partial alarmism.
With their show, Jonathan Maitland and ITV have misled millions of people with the message that they should just carry on smoking, and that public health officials and politicians in this country should be ignored.
The British public deserves better than their shamefully bottom-of-the-barrel partisan propaganda.