Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BBC policy on climate change

Peter Sissons, a former BBC newsreader, has written his memoirs. These have been serialized in the The Daily Mail. It is obvious that Sissons  was at loggerheads with the culture and policy of the BBC, including a reporting style he dismisses as 'politically correct'. What caught my attention is his comment on the BBC's reporting on climate change.

My interest in climate change grew out of my concern for the failings of BBC journalism in reporting it. In my early and formative days at ITN, I learned that we have an obligation to report both sides of a story. It is not journalism if you don’t. It is close to propaganda. 
The BBC’s editorial policy on ­climate change, however, was spelled out in a report by the BBC Trust — whose job is to oversee the workings of the BBC in the interests of the public — in 2007. This disclosed that the BBC had held ‘a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus’.
The error here, of course, was that the BBC never at any stage gave equal space to the opponents of the consensus.
But the Trust continued its ­pretence that climate change ­dissenters had been, and still would be, heard on its airwaves. ‘Impartiality,’ it said, ‘always requires a breadth of view, for as long as minority ­opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space.’ 
In reality, the ‘appropriate space’ given to minority views on climate change was practically zero.
Moreover, we were allowed to know practically nothing about that top-level seminar mentioned by the BBC Trust at which such momentous conclusions were reached. Despite a Freedom of Information request, they wouldn’t even make the guest list public.
Unfortunately we do not learn more about the timing or the circumstances of this 'high level seminar'. If there ever was such a decision we should know about it.


Anonymous said...

@ Grundmann

"If there ever was such a decision we should know about it"

There are some interesting tracks to follow:


TonyN said...

@ grundmann

Peter Sissons information about the climate seminar, which took place at BBC Television Centre on 26/01/2006, comes from my blog, Harmless Sky.

I am still, after three-and-a-half years, trying to obtain the seminar guest list from the BBC by means of UK freedom of information legislation. At present a hearing before the Information Tribunal is stayed pending a Supreme Court decision on a related matter.

There is far more about this and other problems relating to BBC coverage of climate change here:

And a submission that Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) and I have sent to the current BBC Trust’s current review of science coverage can be found here:

The problems we experienced in trying to get the BBC Trust to accept a submission from a couple of sceptical bloggers are described here:

On a related matter, an account of what happened when I complained to the UK broadcasting regulator (Ofcom) about the way in which Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth was screened by Channel4 can be found here:

In order to avoid any criticism of the film, or it’s Nobel laureate creator, Ofcom was forced to determine that climate change is not a matter relating to current public policy and therefor the film did not breach impartiality rules. There is no means of appealing this perverse decision other than an immensely expensive application for judicial review.


@ReinerGrundmann said...

thanks for the links. Can you update us here once you have new information?

ghost said...

yeah evil BBC... great conspiracy story. Well, I think deniers in TV can have good sides. If you want to see some real fun:

40% funds for Pat Michaels "Research" comes from by oil companies. Maybe he was wrong about his funding in this show, because Pat Michaels said in front of the congress, 3% of his funding come from oil and coal companies.

read for yourself: and

conclusion: the BBC should provide some room for people like Michaels. They expose themselves.

PS: @TonyN The Inconvenient Truth is not the pinnacle of documentary movies, but it is not bad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog post and for further informations.

@ghost (breaking news?)

Just to start: If we only (would) read your comment above (#4) we could think that somebody actually would have said here something about the BBC like:

      "evil" (cf. ghost: "yeah evil BBC...")


      "conspiracy" (cf. ghost: "great conspiracy story").

Sissons is straitforward. But, did I overlook_something/get_it_wrong or did I miss a(nother) breaking news story which wrote about something "evil" (sic!) or/and even a "conspiracy" (sic!) or something alike? Sissons did not, did he! Such "news" – by whom ever - could be interesting - at least obviously for some of us -, ghost, please show us your evidence for your claim about an evil BBC conspiracy.

With respect to Pat Michaels, ghost, what makes you call him a denier, exactly?


TonyN said...

@ Reiner Grundmann

Yes of course, with pleasure.

@ ghost

The issue was not whether AIT was a good or a bad film, but whether its take on AGW was impartial.

Anonymous said...

@ Grundmann

Ch. Booker on biased BBC documentaries ...

"7 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2 are emitted each year by human activity while only 1 gigaton comes from natural sources such as the oceans ..." (!!!)

Read more ...


ghost said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
@ReinerGrundmann said...

what makes you think I love the Daily Mail?
You seem to be upset by a critical examination of the BBC's practices and seem to feel that the same stick should be applied to the Daily Mail. Because the BBC is a public body it has principles such as this: "Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest."
I doubt that any private paper could (or would) want to subscribe to such a statement.

Anonymous said...


Just have a look at the trailer to discover the "independent, impartial and honest" approach behind that kind of "inconvenient information" ...

Read more here ...

By the way, the german word "Geist" allows diffferent translations.
Think about it and meanwhile stop calling other people names like "denier" for instance, - while denying the obvious.


Hans von Storch said...

I have deleted ghost's comment #8. Insulting terminology, full of aggressions. I wonder why it is so difficult to express oneself in a way, which is recognizing the opponent's dignity.