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BBC investigates Richard Madeley's PC panic attack

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The BBC tells us it is to investigate how Richard Madeley told the nation that the Government was going to whisk away his computer last week.

The segment on Monday's Simon Mayo drive time heard Madeley, who is filling in for Mayo, say: "What a pain! I only got computer literate three years ago, just as I get wised up to it, they take it away."

We don't yet know how many car accidents were caused by the news of mass confiscations.

Madeley was following a segment of the show about the Digital Economy Bill (now Act). The sole 'expert' was Professor Lilian Edwards. Edwards was simply billed as "a Professor of Law" at Sheffield University.

Edwards made some curious statements about "disconnections" (not mentioned in the Act) and how libraries might have to put passwords on their PCs. Libraries already operate a pretty strict lock-down regime: requiring password authentication, firewalls, and prohibiting the installation of Third Party software. But she insisted: "Even if you do password protect it, policing it may get very expensive."

The impartial Lilian Edwards

Even this didn't raise any suspicions amongst the show's presenters. But then, why would it - Edwards was an unbiased expert.

Asked why some Twitterers were upset about the Bill, Edwards replied: "I've been thinking about this. It's a hard thing to say on a music station, but the House of Commons thinks most important thing here is the music industry - which is of course important - but these people think the most important thing is the future of the internet, and I tend to agree with them."

The problem for Radio 2 is that the show breached the Corporations' editorial guidelines. Edwards is a member of the Open Rights Group's Advisory Council, and she relentlessly blogs about the coming armageddon - not always accurately - here. As an ORG advisor her duties include to "Fundraise and/or make fundraising introductions" and "Be available for media contact if required".

By failing to declare Edwards' partisan affiliations, the show fell foul of the guideline, which states:

...we should not automatically assume that academics and journalists from other organisations are impartial and make it clear to our audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint

"We are aware of the issues you have raised with us and are currently looking into the matter," a spokesperson told us on Friday.

It's amazing what the title 'Professor' can do. If you can find the right production staff, you can get away with anything. ®

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