, following his recent outspokenness against the BBC’s work on a planned day of Planet Relief pro
pagandagrammes (see below), writes on the BBC Editors Blog that the BBC has No line on climate change:
BBC News certainly does not have a line on climate change, however the weight of our coverage reflects the fact that there is an increasingly strong (although not overwhelming) weight of scientific opinion in favour of the proposition that climate change is happening and is being largely caused by man.
Well Peter, that’s a big ‘and’ that you’ve slipped in at the end there, and is, I’d venture, one of the central points of contention in the climate change debate – i.e. the extent to which climate change is caused by man vs. other influences on the earth’s atmosphere – an area that, so far, the BBC doesn’t seem terribly keen to explore thoroughly.
Further to this, supposing that we accept that climate change is largely caused by human activity, the other significant area of debate that the BBC as a whole doesn’t explore adequately is the question of what to do about it.
The BBC ‘line’, if you’ll indulge me with such a notion, seems to be all about reducing carbon output (unilaterally) in the UK and the developed world, primarily through curtailing flying and private car use, whilst ignoring what’s happening elsewhere on the planet (for example, the 500 new fossil fuel power stations planned and under construction in China).
Moreover, the BBC ‘line’ seems, at best, to ignore reliable carbon-free nuclear power generation (though expensive, unsightly, unreliable windmills and suchlike get a big BBC thumbs up) and other technological solutions, such as hydrogen powered vehicles and carbon-sequestration techniques.
BBC news programmes and our website of course reflect alternative views but we do not balance these views mathematically as that is not our judgement about where the argument has now reached.
It is highly debatable just how well BBC news programmes and BBC Views Online do reflect alternative views. Alternative views, to use your term, get the occasional passing reference on minority interest programmes such as Newsnight or a brief mention on News 24 from occasional guests such as Nigel Calder, but in the main, these views might as well not exist at the BBC for the minimal airtime they receive.
BBC Views Online in particular rushes to report man-made climate change news prominently, whilst slowly, ever so minimally, if at all, reporting news to the contrary, hence we have people such as Dr. David Whitehouse, a former BBC science correspondent (and believer in man-made climate change), warning: “look on the BBC and Al Gore with scepticism. A scientist’s first allegiance should not be to computer models or political spin but to the data: that shows the science is not settled”.
For many years the BBC has treated EU-sceptics (euro-sceptics as you term them) as if they were deranged flat-earthers braying at the moon (rather than a large portion of the UK population). Those with alternative views on the twin issues of 1) the causes of climate change; and 2) what to do about climate change, seem to be even less well regarded at the BBC.
That is definitely not the same as us propagating a view ourselves about climate change.
Uh-huh. I think we could argue about that too.
It’s not our job to do that.
Indeed. And that’s why this site is here, free-of-charge, unlike the BBC.
In the Edinburgh session the possibility of the BBC doing a “consciousness-raising” event about the subject, possibly called Planet Relief, was raised.
There has been no decision yet about whether there might be such an event, nor what its editorial purpose might be. However it is clear that all BBC programming about climate change – whether about the science itself or the potential policy response by governments – needs to meet the BBC’s standards of impartiality.
Sounds like a spot of back-pedalling Peter. According to The Grauniad there’s been eighteen months worth of development work already. Have they got you on the rack now that they’ve you back from the freedom of Edinburgh?
I was pleased that you and Peter Barron both spoke out against this latest nonsense that the BBC has been quietly planning to inflict on our unwitting nation, but I cannot help but feel that your concern has more to do with protecting the BBC from itself than from genuinely seeking to return the BBC to a state of impartiality on the causes of climate change and the steps we should take in response.
In closing, let’s have the last word on the BBC ‘line’ on man-made climate change straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:
“People who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that [global warming] is the consequence of our own behaviour. I assume that this is why the BBC’s coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago”,
Jeremy Paxman, Media Guardian, Jan 31st, 2007.
Update, 6pm: Come on Peter, I submitted my own very reasonable comment on your BBC blog post around 12.15pm (you know, the one with the Paxman quote and a link back to the discussion here), and yet it seems to have been skipped over for some reason in favour of apparently later comments. What gives? Have I caused offense? Please feel free to comment here on my blog post if you prefer. Thank you.
Update, midnight: I’ve just checked again and, as if by magic, my comment has appeared in the right place, bumping the previous no. 57 up to no. 58. Thank you Peter. Much obliged.