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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 13:07 GMT
What the Papers say - autumn/winter 2004

Click on the links below to see press coverage of the following programmes in the autumn and winter of 2004.

If you want to see press coverage from the first half of 2004, then click on the link on the right hand side of the page.

Winner takes all Britain
The chosen one
Your child's been stabbed
Taken on trust
Miracle baby grows up


The top one per cent of earners are doing spectacularly well. Steve Bradshaw investigates whether Britain is becoming a Winner Takes All Society.

Sunday Times - November 7
"When an estate agent can refer to a 2.5m property as a "starter home", you get the impression there is a lot of money about. Examining the super-rich in Britain, we find the top one per cent now pocket about twice as much of the national cake as they did 20 years ago. Panorama identifies the big earners and asks if they represent a credit or a debit for the nation as a whole."

The Times - November 6
"It is often difficult to conduct a reasonable debate about the amount footballers earn because inevitably there are players we so much adore we do not care how rich they have become. So it is over to Panorama to take a dispassionate look at the top one per cent of wage-earners in Britain and decide whether they earn it or not. But the programme will surely conclude that Frank Lampard spreads more happiness than a rich City banker does, won't it?"


Panorama chronicles an increasingly nail-biting billion dollar race for the White House from within the critical and controversial battleground of Florida..

Observer - October 31
"It would be nice just to be able to mentally switch off where America was concerned, but unfortunately global politics dictate otherwise. So here we are in a country prone to its own voter apathy, nervously waiting for what US citizens decide at the ballot box. Panorama is just one of this week's many election programmes, and takes an in-depth ook at the billion dollar race for the White House from within the critical battleground of Florida. Radical film-maker and all-round big mouth Michael Moore is on hand to add his own controversial viewpoint. If you've seen his Fahrenheit 9/11 you'll know he's almost as one-sided as the people he criticizes, but at least he's thought-provoking and entertaining, unlike a certain Mr Bush."

Sunday Times - October 31
"Motorists on Florida's Interstate 4 highway are able to take in a remarkable sight as they barrel past the Holy Land Experience theme park, for every day at 10.45am, Jesus is crucified all over again. In exploring the battleground of the American presidential election, with particular focus on this large marginal state, the reporter Andy Davies could not pass up the opportunity to corner the "messiah" in his dressing room and ask how he intended to vote. The actor playing Jesus is going to put his cross next to the name of George W.

Davies discovers that Bush has disciples aplenty in the state that delivered his narrow victory four years ago amid accusations of chicanery so persuasive that the Democrat congresswoman Corrine Brown now calls the outcome "a coup d'etat".

And Michael Moore, who also talks to the programme, claims: "This is the scene of the crime ... this is where they stole the election." Once again, it is almost certain that whoever wins Florida - where John Kerry can expect broad support from gay and black communities - will win the White House, and this vivid and illuminating documentary reveals the extraordinary nature of the political terrain and the bare-knuckle tactics of the campaign commanders. The terrific Brown, for example, pulls no punches expressing support for Kerry. "He's an officer and a gentleman," she says. "But he's got to understand he is in a war with a bunch of thugs."

Rageh Omaar takes to the streets of Britain to investigate the unstoppable rise of the knife and finds there is far more of it about than parents might realise.

Independent on Sunday - October 24
"I was predisposed to loathe Panorama: Your Child's Been Stabbed after seeing the awful trailers in which an actor mum pretended to bewail the stabbing of her actor son. Rageh Omaar's commentary was suitably menacing: "Something is going on in our children's world that we are not facing up to - but which sooner or later we're going to have to." So, donning a stab vest instead of his more familiar flak jacket, Omaar set out to investigate why-oh-why our schoolkids are threatened by colleagues with machetes. The raw statistics on knife crime were unimpressive, so Rageh ramped up a hidden, unreported danger: like red mercury. The film was certainly creepy, but it was depressing too."

Sunday Express - October 17
"A Panorama documentary tonight reveals the knife culture in schools is a ticking timebomb which teachers, the police and politicians are not tackling. One year after Luke's death, at least 26 other teenagers have died as a result of knife attacks. The programme includes interviews with Luke's parents Jayne and Paul, who are campaigning for tougher laws and licensing of knives."

Sunday Times - October 17
"Rageh Omaar may have felt his frontline days were over when he got back from Iraq, but this report finds him in another kind of war zone. He learns that the knives are out among the young people of Britain to a greater extent than official figures would allow. According to a recent survey, one in four 16-year-olds have carried a knife at some time, and one headmaster -speaking anonymously -claims if he was to disclose the truth about the armoury confiscated by his staff, he would lose his job and the school would be closed."

News of the World - October 17
"Britain's growing knife culture is brought into stark reality in tonight's Panorama on BBC1. The programme reveals children as young as SEVEN are roaming the streets with blades, the menace blights nearly EVERY school and two-thirds of stab victims NEVER report attacks to police...

"Panorama investigators wanted to interview school heads about the crisis which claimed the life last year of Luke Walmsley, 14, who was stabbed to death outside class. Only ONE would agree. And even then it was only on condition his identity was masked. But his damning testimony included the fact that he had found one 14-year-old boy armed with a meat cleaver...A girl on a London estate brags on the show: "Knives are good for mugging people."

Edinburgh Evening News - October 16
"A Senior Lothian and Borders Police officer has called for a Scotland's knife laws to be overhauled. Superintendent Stephen Grieve said the five existing knife laws, dating back to 1953, were too complicated and needed to be streamlined and brought into the 21st century. He is to repeat the call on a BBC Panorama report tomorrow night.

He said: "The first bit of legislation pertaining to knives dates back to 1953 so knife crime is not a recent phenomenon. What is, though, is the recent involvement of young people carrying knives. The laws could do with being tightened up and amalgamated into a single knife law because as it stands the knife system is quite complex."

The Scotsman - October 16
"Superintendent Stephen Grieve of Lothian and Borders Police believes the five current knife laws, going back to 1953, are outdated and need revising to bring them into the 21st century. Although police make regular spot checks for blades and other sharp weapons, Mr Grieve said it was doing little to counter the problematic "knife culture" in Scotland. A recent stop-and-search operation of 2,000 people in Edinburgh recovered just 75 offensive weapons. Mr Grieve is also to be seen making the call in a Panorama report being aired tomorrow night where he highlights the need for parents, schools and other agencies to join with the police to help educate against the carrying of knives."

An investigation into medicines regulation in the UK has led to influential names in medicine asking if we're being told the truth about the drugs we take.

The Times - October 5
The agency that is responsible for monitoring the safety of medicines has been accused of failing to protect patients. An investigation by the BBC's Panorama claimed that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority had failed to spot that the antidepressant Seroxat causes suicidal feelings and can be addictive. The MHRA has rejected the criticisms.

Daily Mail - October 4
"Britain's medicines watchdog was yesterday accused of an 'unforgivable' failure to warn patients of the potential dangers of the antidepressant Seroxat. Lives may have been lost because the regulator 'sat on' data indicating that the drug can increase the risk of suicide, it is claimed. As a result, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was accused of falling short of its duty to protect public health and of being guilty of either negligence or a cover-up... The claims which are strongly denied by the MHRA were made in a BBC Panorama documentary last night and come just months after the drug's makers, Glaxo-SmithKline, caved in to calls to publish research showing that it can cause children to try suicide."

Daily Mail - October 4
"Drug giant Glaxo Smith Kline yesterday vigorously denied once again that it tried to hide results or mislead regulators or the medical community over paediatric clinical trial data for its antidepressant Seroxat. Glaxo repeated that it is co- operating fully with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority's ongoing investigation which started this year. The BBC's Panorama programme last night claimed that vital information on the side effects of the drug have been lying dormant in the MHRA's files for at least 13 years."

The Scotsman - October 4
"The UK medicines watchdog faces criticism for allegedly failing to protect patients using the anti-depressant drug Seroxat, following a BBC investigation screened last night. According to the Panorama programme, the results of past trials with the drug contain evidence it may increase the risk of suicide in young adults and lead to addiction in a quarter of cases. And Panorama alleged that some of the findings could have been spotted earlier by the body responsible for monitoring medicines, the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA)."

Birmingham Post - October 3
"A scandal described as the worst in British medical history since the Thalidomide cover-up of the 1970s is exposed in a special investigation tonight. Stress-busting wonderdrug Seroxat has been riddled with controversy after allegations that it can lead to addiction - and even suicide. A BBC Panorama team probing the role of the medicines regulator has uncovered shocking evidence of failure from a body set up to protect patients. Their key source is Richard Brook, a former advisor to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and now chief executive of mental health charity MIND."

Sunday Times, critics choice - October 3
"Since The Sunday Times exposed the Thalidomide scandal 40 years ago, the establishment of an official medicines regulator has served to reassure the public that their drugs are safe and effective. This investigation claims to expose dangerous failings in the system."

Sunday Telegraph, critics choice - October 3
"In a programme to be broadcast this evening GSK is accused of withholding negative information about the use of Seroxat in children for nearly two years before passing it on to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK regulator.

The data showed that Seroxat could cause an increased risk of suicide if prescribed to depressed teenagers. Just two weeks after receiving this information the MHRA issued a ban on giving Seroxat to children under 18 - the first regulator to take such a step.

Meanwhile, the MHRA is accused of letting down patients by "sitting on" vital information about Seroxat's risk profile. According to BBC1's Panorama programme, crucial information about the side effects of Seroxat - notably that it can cause addiction, aggression and even suicide - has been sitting in the files of the MHRA for more than a decade." Sunday Telegraph, critics choice - October 1
"GlaxoSmithKline is facing more flak over its controversial antidepressant Seroxat. The company is getting it in the neck over a leaked memo urging sales staff to withhold sensitive information on the drug from doctors in the US. And a Panorama investigation for the BBC will reveal that regulators have known for 13 years of the treatment's link with suicide."


With exclusive access to a national study, Panorama looks at the phenomenon of the 'miracle baby' and speaks to the families of children who were born before 26 weeks. Guardian - October 4
"If the law seems clear, then public thinking on life and death gets murkier. Last month's Panorama programme, based on a tracking study, showed disturbing outcomes for babies born before 26 weeks. Of the 1,200 infants delivered alive in the UK and Ireland between March and December 1995, 314 survived to go home. Of those, 40 per cent had moderate to severe problems with cognitive development at six years of age.

"That leaves out of account the 60 per cent of survivors who are effectively perfect, and the parents who would have made no other choice, however disabled their child. But it also crushes the myth of marvels. Modern medicine can keep babies alive at increasingly young ages, but it cannot guarantee their health. This imbalance has been glossed over for too long by a society primed to think that death is always the worst result."

Minette Marrin, Sunday Times - October 3
"Two weeks ago, by coincidence, Panorama broadcast a sobering programme about extremely premature babies. It discussed the biggest study ever conducted worldwide, which followed babies born in Britain in 1995 at less than 26 weeks' gestation -three months prematurely, like Charlotte.

I could not help crying when I saw the tape. The rate of disability is horrifying. Of the 811 babies given intensive neonatal care in the study, only 300 went home; of those, only three children were without any disability at all. One per cent.

...This programme confirmed all my worst suspicions about what was done to these "miracle" babies. It is experimentation; a doctor in the film admitted that in 1995 they really did not have a clue about disability rates at all. Yet they proceeded with these horrifying, intrusive, painful treatments with their unknown but terrible outcomes. It was only recently that they agreed that these babies feel pain."

Western Mail - September 25
"A leading Welsh consultant who has cared for thousands of premature babies wants society to debate the ethical life and death decisions posed by miracle babies. Dr Mark Drayton, a neonatologist at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, says there needs to be more guidance for consultants caring for babies born so early that there is a 60% chance they will survive without any major health problems or a 40% chance they will suffer either moderate or major learning difficulties.

...Until relatively recently, most of these children would have died soon after birth, but advances in neonatal care over the past 20 years mean that more are surviving and he hoped this week's BBC Panorama programme would spark further debate on the issue."

Richard and Judy, The Express - September 25
"This week's Panorama programme looked into unique research about the truth behind "Miracle Babies" - so called by newspapers after they have survived very premature birth.

It revealed, frighteningly, that of the few who survive birth at under 26 weeks, 40 per cent later go on to have moderate to severe learning difficulties, while a quarter have serious disabilities. That means that only 35 per cent of the 300 or so babies who survive birth and intensive care (less than half of the very early babies who are born alive) are without handicap.

...So ingrained in us is the "miracle baby" syndrome that I suspect every pregnant woman breathes a sigh of relief as she reaches the 24-week goalpost at which a baby becomes officially "viable". I know I did. When I was carrying twins, I was warned that many children who have serious handicaps are the second twin to be born. This is due not just to premature birth but also lack of oxygen during the delivery itself. I was scared stiff.

Perhaps it is time that we all reacquainted ourselves with the fact that very early birth is fraught with hazard. That way we can then look at and deal with the facts, instead of being bathed in a rosy glow of sentimentality about a "miracle baby". By the end of the programme I was thanking God for my good fortune in having four healthy children. And I am now more certain than ever that there is more to life and happiness than getting A grades at A level and going to university."

Times - September 23
"Sarah Barclay's powerful, moving film, Miracle Baby Grows Up: A Panorama Special (BBC One), traced the work of neonatologists who not only bend over backwards to save the lives of babies born sometimes as young as 23 or 24 weeks gestation, but who do so while itchy with doubts. They worry if they are even doing the right thing by rescuing the life of someone who (if they survive at all) is likely to end up with severe disabilities: cerebral palsy, perhaps, or arrested development. It's as close as medicine gets to a modern-day judgment of Solomon."

The Sun, what to watch - September 22
"Panorama -Miracle Baby Grows Up. This documentary touches on the tragic subject of extremely premature babies and asks whether their lives should be saved when their chances of survival are slim. A tricky subject that makes for interesting viewing." Guardian - September 22
"Millions of pounds are spent every year trying to save the lives of premature babies born just over the half- way point of pregnancy. But, until recently, little has been documented on the children's lives once they leave hospital. Panorama has been tracking extremely premature babies born in 1995 to see how they are growing up, and the results are both distressing and thought-provoking. The chances of a child having physical and/or learning difficulties are depressingly high, and although one girl born at only 23 weeks turned out not to have any problems, statistics show that she is the exception."

The Times - September 22
"The headlines talk of "miracle babies" born at a gestation age of between 22 and 25 weeks. But what happens to these babies when they leave intensive care? An extensive study was carried out in the UK that followed up on every premature baby born in 1995 at less than 26 weeks. The statistics are not cheering. Of the 131 babies born at 23 weeks, only 25 are still alive and 14 of those are disabled. This agonising Panorama examines whether it is right -for both the baby and the family -to provide intensive care as a matter of course."

Daily Mail - September 22
"Premature babies are often considered the true miracles of modern science. But a new report has revealed that a disturbingly high number of these babies have developmental problems which may not show up immediately. Forty per cent of very premature babies have significant learning difficulties, half have some physical disability at the age of two and ten per cent will have cerebral palsy, according to the major new research.

The Epicure study of 1,200 babies who were born at under 26 weeks in Britain and Ireland in 1995 is sending shockwaves around the medical community as it begs the question of whether it is worth continuing to help such young babies to survive. Some experts believe that taking home a baby with severe disabilities is an ' outcome worse than death' while others argue that there are 'some absolutely wonderful outcomes'. So what is it like to cope with a premature baby - and is the struggle worthwhile?"

The Herald- September 22
"Every journalist, at some point or other in their career, has been sent out to do a sugar-bag-baby story. These were, as we wrote them, invariably up-beat tales of life triumphing against the odds. When the parents of premature babies brought their precious, tiny child home from hospital, after months spent on guard over an incubator, they were proud, relieved, scared, emotionally exhausted: drained by the effort of willing life into that beloved, wizened scrap inside the giant Babygro.

How could we, as writers, do anything other than tell these moving stories as happy-ever-after? The under-weight baby, still small enough to fit on the palm of a hand, had come home; they had defeated the odds; God was in his heaven; everything would be all right. Courage would conquer all.

Except it couldn't. Except that the stories didn't stop there, and they weren't always happy-ever-after. The miracle babies were not always miracles; they were sometimes only partial miracles. Sometimes they were very cruel miracles. Rarely did any journalist follow the lives of these desperately premature children as they became toddlers and then headed for primary school; never did we record the years of worry and strain their parents endured, nor the lasting damage some of the babies were left with.

A new study, to be revealed on BBC1's Panorama tomorrow night, shows the downside of life for babies born when their mothers were less than 26 weeks pregnant. The figures are agonising: statistics from an ethical front line."

What the Papers say 2003
25 Feb 03  |  Panorama
What The Papers Say: 2001
27 Apr 01  |  Press Reviews
What the Papers say: 2002
27 Mar 02  |  Press Reviews


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