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BBC’s deceit over ‘dried up’ Victoria Falls


THERE has been a longstanding concern about blatant bias at the BBC, not least in matters of climate change. This dates back at least to January 2006, when they held a seminar of ‘top scientific experts’ to advise them on climate change. The BBC fought tooth and nail to conceal the identity of these experts, but it was subsequently discovered that they were not experts at all, but the usual collection of green lobbyists.

Ever since, the BBC’s coverage of global warming has been woefully one sided and at times inaccurate.

This year they have been publishing a monthly feature, Then and Now, purportedly showing how climate has been changing in a warming world.

One article looked at the recent drought in California, while another claimed that the Victoria Falls had dried up. Both implied that climate change was to blame, with the usual weasel words that while one weather event cannot be linked to climate change, ‘scientists’ say that such events are likely to get worse with global warming.

However both stories omitted crucial information, which would have shown such claims to be nonsensical and untruthful.

California, for instance, has had droughts in the 20th century every bit as bad as the current one. Moreover the official data clearly shows that megadroughts there were much worse for much of the last thousand years or so. In short, California is a land of drought. The modest amount of warming there since the Little Ice Age has altered nothing.

The BBC claims about the Victoria Falls were even more absurd. For a start, the Falls did not run dry; every dry season lake levels drop. As the Zambian side is at a higher elevation, the Falls there dry up, while continuing at the other end. This happens every year, but the BBC deceitfully misled readers by showing a split image comparing January 2019 with December 2019. In January every year water levels rise sharply, and January 2020 was no exception.

It is certainly true that there was a drought in the region in 2019, and water levels were lower than average. But the Zambesi River Authority say that there have been six occasions since 1914 when water levels were lower, the worst being in 1995.

Just as with California, the BBC have picked on a drought, but ignored all the data showing that they are both natural events, with no evidence that droughts are getting more severe or common.

This sort of misreporting of the Victoria Falls is of extreme concern to Zambia’s tourist industry and local businesses, who are naturally worried that tourists may stop visiting if they think the Falls are no longer there.

Which brings us to the point of the story. I complained to the BBC that both stories were grossly misleading and omitted crucial information.

Complaints to the BBC go through three stages. The first response appears to be written by the office junior, who tries to fob you off with a few bland statements.

If you are unhappy, you can resubmit the complaint, which usually gets the same response, though dressed up in science-y sounding language.

Finally you can appeal to the Executive Complaints Unit.

As is usually the case, I effectively received the same reply at all three stages, viz:

  1. There was a drought
  2. ‘Scientists say’ climate change is making droughts worse

None of the replies actually addressed my complaint that the actual data shows droughts are not unusual or getting worse at either location.

The real issue here of course is that the BBC Complaints Dept is all in house, even the ECU. In effect the BBC is marking its own homework.

In theory it is possible to appeal to Ofcom. In practice however they have no obligation to investigate, and would only consider doing so for substantive cases.

Clearly BBC bias will never be addressed until they are subject to a fully independent process, just as the press is.

In the meantime, if Tim Davie is serious about cleaning the stables, he should start by taking his axe to the bloated 14-strong Environmental Department, which is now clearly out of control.

Instances of bias and misinformation, such as these two, are now commonplace in their output, and they seem to believe that they don’t even have to pay lip service to editorial guidelines anymore.

This article first appeared on Not A Lot Of People Know That on July 18, 2021, and is republished by kind permission. 

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Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood is a former accountant who blogs about climate change at Not a Lot of People Know That

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