SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – June 2003

Birds on the wire. In January 2003, on what was presumably a slow weekend for news, The Observer newspaper delivered its readers an astonishing scoop. Mobile phones, it announced, were responsible for the decline of the British sparrow population. The only evidence cited by its reporter was a correlation between the dwindling of the sparrow population and the introduction of mobile phone masts. But a correlation, as any science reporter ought to know, is not evidence of causation. Two months later, by the time the theory was officially disowned by the British Trust for Ornithology, it scarcely seemed to matter. It was easy for the story to strike a chord. Mobile phones, many of us seem to believe, are doing us harm. We just have to find out what harm they are doing. Full story