BBC Policy on Contacting Extra Terrestrial Life Forms

November 9, 2012

I was amused to read this story earlier this week: “Don’t look for aliens – it’s against health and safety! What BBC bosses told Professor Brian Cox about new planet”

Several years ago I worked in the BBC’s Editorial Policy unit.

If – hypothetically – I had been asked for advice concerning BBC policy on contacting extra terrestrials at that time, I might have said:

“Firstly nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. So even if you do send a message to the nearest star system and it’s capable of supporting life it will take a minimum of 4 years to get there and another 4 for any life forms to travel to earth. This is well into period of the next BBC Charter and Agreement so we can afford to take the long view.

Secondly, if aliens are capable of picking up this signal then your first step should be ask whether they have a valid TV Licence.

Thirdly, you should give due impartial weight to all shades of extra terrestrial opinion in the programme.

Fourthly, if in ten years time we are all cowering in caves underground while huge spacecraft destroy our cities… well I’m just an adviser… I can only advise…”

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