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David Keighley: The BBC reinvents itself as a scientific authority on climate change


The BBC appears increasingly to despise and denigrate the Christian religion.

And yet its latest pronouncement about science reporting is close to the assumption by the Corporation of a media world equivalent to Papal Infallibility. For petrine authority, substitute the Holy Writ of the Gospel according to Greenpeace.

The BBC Trust Review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science: follow up is an extraordinary, self-congratulatory, and smug document which I think is virtually unprecedented in terms of partisanship in the broadcast arena.  The BBC Trustees have reinforced with steely belligerence against those who dare to disagree, their 2012 ruling that, in effect, the debate about climate change alarmism is settled.

In a previous TCW post, I highlighted that Fraser Steel, the BBC’s head of complaints, has recently decreed after a complaint from a Green Party activist  that audiences must be made  aware that climate sceptics such as  Lord Lawson are totally outvoted by a ‘consensus’ of science, and is  wrong in holding such ‘opinions’.

In BBC programmes, if ever he is invited to appear, he must therefore receive only ‘due impartiality’ (Trustee Newspeak for less airtime). The document published this week explains why Steel acted with such brass-necked certainty.

This is a long and complex subject to deal with in an 800-word post, but the way the BBC arrived at establishing there is such consensus makes the whole process of Rotten Borough nomination look wholesome.

Act 1 was back in 2006-7, when Roger Harrabin, the Corporation’s chief climate change alarmism correspondent – himself a blatant greeenie activist – persuaded BBC news chiefs  to call a meeting of ‘scientists’ to seek advice on the topic about what was then called global warming.  It turned out that, although the BBC tried desperately hard to conceal who these so-called ’scientists’ were, most of them were in fact fully-paid up leading eco-warriors determined to foist their anti-capitalist views on the world via BBC airtime. They got their way.

Act 2 was in 2010-12, when the Trustees commissioned a report to see if that adoption of such partisanship was correct. They appointed for this ‘independent’ review Professor Steve Jones, who is  a known climate change alarmist and had regular paid employment from the BBC in their science programmes. Somehow, the Trustees missed or glossed over that a) he is  not independent, b) he is  a biologist and not an expert on climate,  and c)  that he is a political activist who has broadcast that private schools are a ‘cancer’ in the education system.

The Jones report, which appeared in 2012 was therefore rather unsurprisingly a partisan political tract.  It argued that climate change science was settled and that the BBC must work to virtually exclude from the airwaves anyone who disagreed with alarmism. The BBC was already doing that anyway, but the report gave theBBC the Trustees what they saw as the ‘independent;’ authority to continue with their disgracefully biased approach in this area of public policy that is costing the UK taxpayer countless wasted billions to pursue.

Spool forward to the latest report. Since Jones, the Trustees have been monitoring the science output further, and have asked the programme-making executives to respond to the points made.

The new document is a total charade and whitewash. Throughout, its tone parrots without an iota of modesty that BBC science reporting is the best in the world.

The first section reinforces the commitment to bias by chillingly repeating that a ‘false balance’ between well-established fact and opinion must be avoided. That’s the BBC Trustees code for saying Lord Lawson has wrong-headed ‘opinions’ whereas those who support climate alarmism have been somehow proved right beyond doubt.

It then goes on to outline that this orthodoxy is being enforced by the holding of more meetings with selected ‘scientists’ and the creation internally of a ‘Science Forum’ (at what expense, one wonders?). This has already trained 75 ‘senior editorial figures’ in ensuring they understand where ‘consensus’ lies in the reporting of climate change. In other words, in true Harry Palmer style, they have been to a brainwashing boot camp to ensure they do not give too much airtime to Lord Lawson.

Even more chillingly, the document also reveals that the goal of  senior management is now to create a centralised science unit which will ensure that What the BBC Knows To Be True in science  is enforced across all the Corporation’s media platforms and that no-one transgresses the due impartiality rules . God forbid.

The irony lost on the Trustees here is that this is not science, because science has never worked on consensus; so-called ‘truths’ are established by a robust process of continual ferment and experimentation.  What the BBC Trustees are actually promulgating is a new Article of Faith: that they know they are right about the science of climate change because they have consulted the right people and they have told them that it is right to be alarmed.  This new report shows they are pursuing that self-declared orthodoxy with an unfounded and reckless missionary zeal.

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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