Things the BBC need to know about chemistry: The BBC responds.

Remember the BBC’s recent botched attempt to produce an entertaining program about chemistry?

It got covered in a variety of chemistry blogs, so I won’t go into details again.

I wasn’t satisfied with whinging about it in cyberspace, so I also complained directly to the BBC.

Here’s their reply.

Thank you for contacting us about ‘James May’s Things You Need to Know’ broadcast on BBC Two on 17 September.

Your concerns were brought to the attention of the BBC Commissioning Executive responsible for this programme and we’re very grateful to you and to the others who contacted us to highlight the errors we made.

We do not wish to make excuses but we feel you deserve an explanation as to how the errors occurred. We used a chemistry professor as a consultant on the programme who checked over scripts and supplied formulas and visual plans to the programme animators. However, the animators were not as focused on the accuracy of rendering the formulas and images they had been given and we did not get the consultant to double check the pictures once the programme had been completed – a real mistake which we will not be making again.

We have now corrected the film wherever relevant throughout so that it will be accurate for future broadcasts.

That seems like a pretty reasonable response to me. Good to know they listen to complaints and do something about it.


  1. I have to agree with you on it being a reasonable response from the bbc. However do you feel it is acceptable that people are unable to perform their job correctly?(I suppose this is all down to “artistic liscence”) The longer i live, the more i realise how ignorant and foolish the population are.

  2. The original program was far from acceptable, but on the whole the BBC turns out very high quality science programming so I’m willing to let this one go.

  3. I think on that picture isn’t vinegor. We know that vinegar has structure formulae CH3COOH, with -OH like a acid hidroxy group.

    Thank you.

  4. The structural formula for acetic acid is CH 3 COOH… OH as a hydroxide group

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