The long-running BBC Crimewatch show has been accused of bias after airing a segment on cycle helmet compulsion on September 21. After an outside broadcast piece about the increase in bicycle theft during the pandemic’s ‘bike boom,’ there was an unrelated studio discussion with two guests in favor of helmet compulsion for cyclists.
There was no guest to give a counterpoint, which is against BBC guidelines on impartiality.
After the CEO of a head injury charity urged helmet compulsion for cyclists, the BBC presenter editorialized, “Very very well said.”
Earlier, Rav Wilding, presenter of Crimewatch Roadshow since 2009, said a pro-helmet poster was a “really really powerful image and a great campaign.”
Crimewatch is the BBC’s flagship crime show, first broadcast in 1984. The daytime spin-off series Crimewatch Roadshow is the current iteration of the program.
For today’s episode, a retired police officer was interviewed in the studio about a head injury he suffered when knocked from his bicycle by a van driver. The crime was the cyclist being knocked from a bicycle, but the program instead focused on the story’s non-crime element: the injured cyclist.
David Baker, a former detective constable, claimed the wearing of a bicycle helmet had saved his life. As a final project for a college photography course, Baker produced a graphic poster showing a bloodied smashed melon and an intact melon protected by a cycle helmet. The image was produced for the head injury charity Headway.
“It’s very very simple,” said Wilding, “but very very clear what you are getting across there the fact that if you put this helmet on, you will protect your own melon.”
Wilding editorialized again: “[It’s] a really really powerful image and a great campaign.”
Walking over to a socially distanced Headway CEO Peter McCabe, Wilding put it to him that “there’s gonna be the other side of the argument there’s going to be some people that say helmets don’t really help and they say motorists need to take more care: what would you say to that?”
McCabe agreed that motorists needed to take more care, adding “but Rule 59 of the Highway Code says that cyclists should wear helmets and we know that research right around the world demonstrates that by wearing a helmet you reduce the risk of death and serious injury.”
McCabe continued: “When you think about it you take your laptop out in a case with padding to protect it [yet] the most precious computer you will ever own is the one between your ears so why wouldn’t you take the same precautions with your own brain or indeed that of your children?”
Wilding editorialized once more: “Very very well said, Peter,” he concluded, moving on to reports of crimes around the country.
Headway advocates for helmet compulsion for cyclists but not elderly pedestrians, tree-climbing children, or motorists.
Cycle advocate Shane Foran claimed that the BBC had given Headway a “platform for their political cycle helmet campaign [which] appears to be in conflict with BBC guidelines.”
The BBC’s impartiality guidelines state that the national broadcaster ‘must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.”
I have put this to the BBC, which may argue that Wilding aired an opposing point of view, but there were two guests in favor of cycle helmets, and none against.
“Where our content highlights issues on which others campaign, we must take care not to endorse those campaigns,” continues the BBC guidelines, and which Wilding appeared to breach.