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BBC’s illegal refusal to be impartial makes the licence fee unenforceable


IT IS nearly six years since the BBC’s then director of news Fran Unsworth issued a formal directive to BBC journalists stating, in effect, that climate change is proven and may not be challenged on the airwaves. It was a totalitarian memorandum unashamedly aimed at stamping out free scientific discourse, on the basis that certain facts are established beyond dispute, as we reported at the time

The crucial paragraph read:

‘Most climate scientists regard a rise of 2 degrees C as the point when global warming could become irreversible and the effects dangerous. At current rates, we are on track for a rise of more than 3-4 degrees C by the end of the century.’

A month later an apparatchik took to the airwaves to ram home the message. You had to read the transcript to appreciate the jaw-dropping scale of the bias involved. It confirmed that despite viewer concerns the Corporation was deliberately adopting a partisan approach: the science is beyond doubt and the IPCC’s word on the subject must be considered gospel. 

Since then the BBC has been repeatedly guilty of failing to report accurately the nuances of climate science and the degree to which certain claims continue to be disputed, and in face of ever more such evidence still stands by Unsworth’s article of faith that:

·         man-made climate change exists: that ‘if the science proves it we should report it and that the best science on the issue is the IPCC’s position’;

·         journalists must be aware of ‘false balance’: as climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate. Although there are those who disagree with the IPCC’s position, very few of them now go so far as to deny that climate change is happening;

·         to achieve impartiality, ‘you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken’. With the contradictory proviso that ‘the BBC does not exclude any shade of opinion from its output, and with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer, there may be occasions to hear from a denier’.

These last words were significant. Just months before, Lord Lawson, the chairman of the sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, had become the subject of Ofcom’s first ruling against the BBC. He had not been ‘suitably challenged’ during his BBC interview, they decreed. It was an extraordinary ruling by any standard. Without providing any evidence to justify disputing the IPCC’s conclusions, on which Lawson’s statement about extreme weather was based, Ofcom deemed it incorrect and ‘not sufficiently challenged by the BBC presenter during the interview’. 

The BBC has not faltered from its path since then – though it is now more than ever apparent that human activities have very little effect on global warming, such as it is. The deep flaws in the global warming theory, set out most recently and most comprehensively in Climate the Movie by a number of prominent  scientists, including Professor Steven Koonin (Barack Obama’s under-secretary for science), Professor Dick Lindzen (formerly professor of meteorology at Harvard and MIT), Professor Will Happer (professor of physics at Princeton), Dr John Clauser (winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics), Professor Nir Shaviv (Racah Institute of Physics) and others, are yet to impinge on the BBC.

The BBC is uniquely funded by the UK public who are legally obliged to pay a licence fee if they wish to avail themselves of any live broadcast transmission – not just the BBC but ITV, Channels 4 and 5 etc and even Netflix and Amazon Prime – the refusal of which can result in prosecution and, potentially, a custodial sentence for failure to pay any fine. In 2023 the licence fee provided £3.74billion, 65 per cent of the BBC’s total income of £5.73billion, the remainder coming from commercial activities, themselves based on the BBC’s privileged status.

Its Charter status puts the BBC under a legal obligation ‘to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain’. The public are fully entitled to expect the BBC to be faithful to this: to remain completely impartial on contentious issues such as climate change.

This is a duty it has deliberately renounced over the question of climate change. The implications therefore are as follows:

1 The BBC by publicly stating that it was refusing to comply with its legal obligation to be impartial over the climate change issue was publicly breaking the law;

2 Hence, the Director General and all the BBC’s Board of Directors from September 2018 have allegedly knowingly accepted that the BBC was operating illegally and had not taken any action to correct this. They were all allegedly guilty of complicity in this crime;

3 In addition, all members of Ofcom, and Ministers of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have, since September 2018, allegedly been guilty of complicity regarding the BBC’s illegal practices and done nothing about it. Ofcom are also allegedly guilty of encouraging this;

4 Hence, the governments of the day since September 2018 have forfeited the legal right to make UK householders pay the BBC licence fee, bearing in mind the fact that this was being used to finance its allegedly illegal activities;

5 This is why we should continue to campaign to scrap the licence fee and demand payments back from the BBC from September 2018 to the present day, the cost of this to be met by the BBC, its Board of Directors, Ofcom and the Ministers responsible for media, and not out of public finances;

6 This is why the public have a right to refuse to pay the licence fee and why all those who have received threatening letters and harassment from Capita demanding payment of the licence fee should be compensated by Capita.

This may sound like a pipe dream. Justice has already closed its eyes to BBC bias when attempts were made on these lines to challenge it through the courts. 

That however shouldn’t be the end of the story. It must not stop us from underlining the BBC’s continuing perfidy.

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Jeremy Wraith
Jeremy Wraith
Jeremy Wraith is retired after 52 years in the aircraft industry.

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