Blackpool unhappy with BBC coronavirus report

Blackpool has responded to a recent report by the BBC suggesting the resort had a high number of coronavirus deaths, which the council says is 'misleading'.

The council says that the BBC's coverage paints the town as having one of the highest death rates in the country, but argues that its 'standardised' rates - those which take into account factors such as age - are actually quite low.

Coun Lynn Williams said: "We are dismayed by the BBC’s coverage. It was very apparent from the get-go that they had a particular narrative in mind and did not want to engage with anyone who might cast doubt on that narrative. We offered to put forward our director of public health to give the programme team the right context but again they chose not to accept.

"The end result was a wholly misleading report, without any real purpose and was an affront to all of those people who are working so hard to protect vulnerable people in Blackpool from the impact of the pandemic. As a resident of Blackpool, I am tired of this sort of lazy journalism that repeatedly misrepresents the town.

"Whilst the BBC might argue that the broadcast was about Lancashire in general, it was very clearly rooted in Blackpool, creating a false impression about the resort and its response to COVID. It is somewhat ironic that a news item that purported to be about inequality was in itself so unfair and unbalanced.”

Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health for Blackpool Council, added: "We went to considerable lengths to try to explain to the BBC journalist that the statistics it was so intent on using were out of context. Had they used the recognised Age Standardised rates of death due to COVID, the figures show Blackpool at 199 compared to a North West average of 207.

"Using a different set of statistics to support a pre-ordained narrative is irresponsible and can only alarm people and undermine those who are working tirelessly in the community.

"Had the BBC wanted to portray a more balanced picture, it could also have pointed to Blackpool having the lowest infection rates across the whole of Lancashire, currently standing at 280 per 100,000 of the population compared to 423 for the North West and 403 for England respectively, or to the speed at which we have rolled out one of the UK’s biggest vaccination hubs at the Winter Gardens. Sadly, that was not part of the agenda."

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