Gates Foundation funds BBC global health TV

The logo for the BBC's new Gates-funded program

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded another media outlet, something called the BBC, to do a television show on global health.

The Gates Foundation is funding a lot of media these days.

I’ve written about this before, including when ABC News launched a Gates-funded series and then a few days later after talking with some of the media folks at the philanthropy about concerns many had raised regarding potential conflicts of interest (since the Gates Foundation does global health). NPR, I should note, has also received funding from the Gates Foundation.

Here’s what The Media Online reports today about the new Gates-BBC program:

A television health show supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched on BBC World News last week. The 26-part weekly magazine programme, called The Health Show, reports on global health issues from areas vulnerable to specific conditions.

Ah, The Health Show. Clever name. I wasn’t quite sure what “areas vulnerable to specific conditions” meant. So here is what the BBC has to say about its new Gates-funded show:

The Health Show is a groundbreaking new series covering the most important and dramatic health stories from around the world.

From biotechnology, to genetic analysis, to new drugs and treatments, we report on the latest scientific and technological advances. We will be exploring the most innovative solutions to global health challenges, especially where vulnerable people are most at risk.

I suspect some might cringe at that description. At one site News on News announcing the new BBC show, a number of those who saw the first installment were pretty critical.

Global health, arguably, supposed to be primarily focused on fighting diseases of poverty — diseases for which effectiveness, simplicity and affordability clearly have to take priority over innovation or “the latest” scientific advance in health care. Innovation is certainly okay, and sometimes appropriate but ….

But most problems in global health already have solutions. The problem is that these existing solutions — drugs, diagnostic tests, vaccines or trained health care workers — aren’t getting to these poor communities which suffer from a lack of many other basics such as clean water or electricity. What we are fighting here, fundamentally, is poverty. And poverty is not really, at its root, caused by lack of innovation.

Unfortunately, The Health Show’s promo on the BBC website features a photo of two white-coated guys working some high-tech gizmo entitled “The future of ultrasound surgery.” Sheesh.


As an unrelated side note: Take a look at this photo below I took of my own television set last night, of BBC America. Behind the news presenter Jane (didn’t catch her last name) is the Space Needle.

Apparently, Seattle’s most recognizable icon is also, as far as the BBC is concerned, one of America’s most appealing icons for a news set backdrop.


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • In developing countries many millions of people suffer from one or more diseases and have compromised immune systems.

    Vaccines should never be given to people who are ill and have compromised immune systems as they may become even more ill.

    Invariably it has been observed that infectious diseases were on the decline before vaccine programs were introduced.

    The best vaccines to give people in the developing world are clean water, sanitation, better food, housing and education.