In February 2007, an article that Jeremy Paxman had originally written for Ariel, the BBC’s house magazine, was published on the Newsnight website. It included this remarkable statement about global warming:

I have neither the learning nor the experience to know whether the doomsayers are right about the human causes of climate change. But I am willing to acknowledge that people who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that it 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. But it strikes me as very odd indeed that an organisation which affects such a high moral tone cannot be more environmentally responsible. [My emphasis]

Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight Homepage 02/02/2007

This stark admission of partisan reporting by the BBC - coming from someone who has been at the centre of current affairs broadcasting for decades - was a surprise to me, not because I was unaware of bias on this subject, but because someone so highly placed in the organisation was prepared to make such a frank admission.

In June of the same year, the BBC published an 80-page report with the astonishingly obscure title, From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel. Now there may be quite a few people who are concerned about the odd wheel coming off our national broadcaster’s wagon, but why would they be talking about see-saws? A subtitle on the cover of the report sheds some light on this mystery, but not much: safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century’. The connection between this relatively straightforward expression of intent, wagon wheels, and seasaws is explained in excruciating detail in the early pages of the report, but thankfully it is not the subject of this post.

In fact, once one has got past the silly title, the report is very interesting, even courageous in its attempt to confront a difficult problem. This seems to be a genuine attempt to address concerns that editorial policy at the BBC too often reflects the views of its young, metropolitan, university educated, middle class, mildly left of centre employees, rather than the full spectrum of public opinion. This problem is not just the preserve of people who sign letters of complaint, ‘disgusted, Tonbridge Wells’ but as the report makes clear, it is also causing alarm among senior staff within the organisation.

Not surprisingly, I thumbed through From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel to see if it included any attempt to justify the blatantly partisan line that the BBC takes in the climate change debate. I was not disappointed.

Skilfully dovetailed into a section that also considers the problems of reporting Holocaust denial impartially, I found a few paragraphs dealing with what the Corporation obviously considers to be an equally tedious and morally reprehensible group: climate change sceptics. Immediately it became clear why Jeremy Paxman had felt able to be so forthright about editorial policy on the climate change debate in his article. This is what the report says:

The BBC has 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 [on anthropogenic climate change].

From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, Page 40

That sentence worried me. Years of watching the BBC’s coverage of this subject - with growing astonishment - during which numerous ‘scientific experts’ who clearly hold very partisan views on climate change, have been interviewed to provide viewers with what they were lead to believe were objective opinions on the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, has made me despair of BBC impartiality. I am thinking of people like George Monbiot, Mark Lynas, Professor Chris Rapley, Lord May of Oxford, Sir David King and Professor Tom Burke in particular. Anyone who has followed this controversy will be well aware that, although such people may be experts on the subject, they are anything but impartial or objective.

In an attempt to discover whether the BBC had organised this seminar in order to acquaint itself with the issues, or whether the purpose had been to obtain some kind of spurious authority for an editorial policy that had long since become ingrained in their news coverage, I thought that it would be worth trying to find out who had been invited to advise them. Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations I made the following request to the BBC for information:

1. What was the name or title given to this seminar?

2. Where and when was this seminar held?

3. When did the seminar start and when did it end.

4. A copy of the invitation that was sent to prospective participants.

5. The agenda for the seminar together with any notes that were provided for the participants.

6. The names of all those who were invited to attend the seminar as participants, observers or in any other capacity together with their job description, organizational affiliation’s or any other information relating to their eligibility for being invited to be present.

7. The names of all those who attended the seminar as participants, observers or in any other capacity together with their job description, organizational affiliation’s or any other information relating to their eligibility for being invited to be present.

8. Any minutes, notes, electronic communications, recorded material or other records of the proceedings of the seminar.

Letter to the BBC, 20th July, 2007

Eventually I received their response:

In this case, the information you have requested is outside the scope of the Act because information relating to the seminar is held to help inform the arc’s editorial policy around reporting climate change. The only exception to this is the logistic details which you have requested

In this respect I can confirm that the seminar was called ‘Climate Change – the Challenge to Broadcasting’ and was held at the BBC’s Television Centre in White City London on 26 January 2006. The seminar ran from 9.30am to 5.30prn.

We are also happy to voluntarily provide you with some further information relating to the seminar.

The attendees at the seminar were made up of 30 key BBC staff and 30 invited guests who are specialists in the area of climate change. It was hosted by Jana Bennett, Director of Vision (then Television), BBC and Helen Boaden, Director of News BBC. It was chaired by Fergal Keane, Special Correspondent with BBC News. The key speaker at the seminar was Robert McCredie, Lord May of Oxford.

Seminar had the following aims:

  • · To offer a clear summary of the state of knowledge on the issue
  • · To find where the main debates lie
  • · To invoke imagination to allow the media to deal with the scope of the issue
  • · To consider the BBC’s role in public debate.

Letter from the BBC, 21st August, 2007

So we know that Lord May, an ex-government chief scientific adviser, ex-president of the Royal Society and a vehement advocate of climate alarmism played an important role in the proceedings. But apparently the BBC would prefer that just about everything else to do with a seminar which formed their editorial policy on a matter of immense public importance should remain a secret.

There may be people outside the realms of the BBC and environmental activism who would attempt to justify this decision, but I doubt if there are many.
As the BBC does not offer any internal review procedure when a request under the
Freedom of Information Act is refused, I referred my application to the Information Commissioner’s Office for adjudication. After a delay of almost a year, they are just beginning to investigate. Future developments will be reported on this blog.

108 Responses to “Jeremy Paxman, the BBC, Impartiality, and Freedom of Information”

Pages: [1] 2 3 » Show All

  1. 1
    Colin Holland Says:

    The secrecy inherent in the BBC is indicative of its paranoid fear of risk of exposure to ridicule and lack of objectivity.
    Unfortunately our politicians of all parties but especially the opposition, are too weak spined to insist on bringing some objectivity to this now walking wounded institution. They also condone the voting in of similar weak willed people into its so-called oversight committee.

  2. 2
    TonyN Says:

    Colin,

    I find the idea of politicians imposing ‘objectivity’ on the BBC even more scary than the present very unsatisfactory situation.

    In fact the BBC report that I referred to makes it quite clear that there are very real concerns about impartiality within the organisation. Spotlighting the kind of secretiveness that I have encountered may give these forces a better chance of prevailing.

  3. 3
    Bishop Hill Says:

    I would have thought that the BBC will struggle to withhold this. There is no get out on information held to inform editorial policy – only information held for journalistic purposes.

  4. 4
    Bishop Hill Says:

    And how can the identity of the attendees be considered as informing editorial policy anyway?

  5. 5
    TonyN Says:

    Your Eminence, greetings!

    Those are exactly the questions I am looking for answers to. Unfortunately the Information Commissioner’s Office moves in very mysterious ways, his wonders to perform, and he does so very, very slowly. But there should be a new angel on this in a day or two.

  6. 6
    Bishop Hill Says:

    Mind you, IIRC the BBC blocked the release of an internal report into their balance (or lack of it) on the subject of the Palestinian question, despite a demand by the Information Commissioner that they do so.

  7. 7
    TonyN Says:

    Bishop Hill,

    The ICO has already reminded me about this, but I am not asking to see a limited circulation internal report. The BBC published From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel on the net, so it is in the public domain.

    The AGW seminar I am interested in is presented in the report as compelling evidence of painstaking consultation on a matter of great importance for editorial policy, but they are not prepared to reveal who the ‘best scientific experts’ where, let alone what they were told. So their assertion that they took good advice is in the public domain, but they are claiming that evidence supporting their assertion is not.

  8. 8
    Gareth Says:

    The seminar you are interested in sounds like the 2006 Real World Brainstorm in association with the International Broadcasting Trust.

    2006
    A one day event was held in London on January 26 2006, focusing on climate change and its impact on development. The brainstorm brought together 28 BBC executives and independent producers, this time including several from BBC News, and 28 policy experts. It was chaired by Fergal Keane and looked ahead to the next 10 years, to explore the challenges facing television in covering this issue. Several delegates attended from developing countries, including Ethiopia, China and Bangladesh.

    http://tinyurl.com/69s2pw

    Are ‘policy experts’ the same as ‘specialists in the area of climate change’?

  9. 9
    TonyN Says:

    Re: #8,Gareth

    It seems that the seminar was organised in partnership with the IBT who describe their activities on their website as:

    * lobbying Government, regulators and broadcasters
    * dialogue with the main public service broadcasters
    * research on television coverage of the developing world
    * developing a slate of innovative programme ideas

    http://www.ibt.org.uk/about_us.php

    As well as the two descriptions of the delegates that you mention, the impartiality report that I quoted in my header post says that they were ‘the best scientific experts’ on climate change. Rather confusing, or perhaps the BBC has difficulty distinguishing between science and policy when it is dealing with global warming.

  10. 10
    Peter Martin Says:

    Tony,
    I have heard that recently there has been a policy change at the BBC. They are now going to provide ‘both sides’ of the story on a range of controversial scientific issues. We’ll have to see what they come up with on the AGW issue but you may all be pleased to see that they have made a start with:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7540427.stm

  11. 11
    TonyN Says:

    Peter,

    Ten out of ten for a very neat snark, but it would be interesting to know what you think the BBC should do: cough up the information or stay stum and hope that no one else notices?

  12. 12
    Gareth Says:

    A treat from the BBC this coming Autumn: The History of Climate Change.

    History Of Climate Change is a thorough and definitive guide to the subject of climate change, over three hour-long programmes on BBC Two.

    Charting the issue of how we know what we know about climate change, its aim is to show how scientists went from thinking the world was tipping into an ice age in the Seventies, to being sure that we are now heading towards global warming. It asks the question: if we were so wrong then, how can we be so sure now?

    Can’t wait! Perhaps it will honestly explain how much we don’t know and just how much stock has been put in computer predictions based on poor quality data.

    There is a bit more about it here.

    And a bit more about the making of it here and here.

  13. 13
    TonyN Says:

    Gareth,

    Thanks, I hadn’t heard about this. I wonder if there will be any clues as to who the producer and scriptwriters turned to for advice while this project was in the making?

  14. 14
    Peter Martin Says:

    TonyN,

    What information do you mean , exactly?

    Generally speaking, we’d all like our newspapers and TV stations to be ‘impartial’. The problem arises . of course, when it get down to how impartiality is defined in detail.

    In a political sense, impartiality is possible to some extent, but even so the Daily Mail’s idea may not be the same as the Daily Mirror’s. The BBC , as the public broadcaster, is in a more difficult position and gets attacked and criticised from both sides, which may be taken as a sign that they do get it about right.

    But, even in the political sense, it is sometimes necessary to take a position. I don’t remember reading many arguments claiming that poor Mr Mugabe was given very unfavourable coverage by the BBC recently, for example.

    In a scientific context there is what might be called a mainstream view, or more correctly a range of mainstream views. If you want to know what that is then I’d refer you to your own Royal Society. Or the maybe the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each country has one and , although there are of course disagreements at the edges, there is a generally recognised worldwide consensus on all scientific issues. If the BBC, or any other publicly funded broadcaster, are reporting on scientific matters I would suggest that they do stick to this range.

    Because, if you don’t, where do you draw the line? Should every reference on evolutionary theory be counterbalanced by a spokesman with Biblical creationist beliefs? I was being a bit flippant with the BBC’s flat earth story , but why not give the flat earthers an equal opportunity, if presenting all sides of the argument, is the paramount concern?

  15. 15
    TonyN Says:

    Peter

    What information do you mean , exactly?

    The information that I asked the BBC for and have described precisely in my header post above. Should the BBC reveal who the ‘best scientific experts’ were who attended their seminar?

    My question has nothing to do with the Daily Mail, Robert Mugabe or the Royal Society.

  16. 16
    Peter Martin Says:

    So what if the BBC revealed their list of so-called experts? I don’t particularly like that word myself and cringe with embarrassment if anyone calls me that, even when maybe I am
    :-)

    I’m sure that you’d find fault with many of their credentials, and you may well be justified in doing so. In many cases, they may well turn out to be scientific journalists who don’t have any real scientific background. That sort of thing happens all the time, not just in climate science.

    The key question that you should be asking is if the general line taken by the BBC is, or is not, in line with the what the real experts, who are probably much too busy to sit in a seminar all day listening to the great and the good pontificating on this and that, are actually saying. The UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre is as good a place as any to start looking for the answer.

  17. 17
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    The BBC cannot report impartially on climate change or a lot of any other issues for that matters.

    They will never, ever open a news bulletin by stating “Polar Ice is perfectly fine” or “There’s peace in Malawi”. The BBC journalists are bound by the way their profession to go hunting for “bad news”: the only way global warming is going to disappear from their reports is for global cooling to kick off in some spectacular way.

    I am still waiting for a news item reporting that the summer 2005 drought in the UK has finished. They are simply physically unable to say a word about that. And if you want an example that is completely unrelated, just look at how house prices were spoken about when they were going up (“first-time buyers are getting priced out of the market!”) and now that they are going down (“prices in free-fall will put many people in negative equity!”).

    “Normality” is not news and nobody will ever write about “normality”. If it gets on the BBC, it has to be bad.

  18. 18
    Dr. Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen Says:

    The politics of Global Warming, and the role of science played in it, are my field of research and have been at it since late 1980s, after acid rain.(Google Boehmer-Christiansen) I edit a journal concerned with the energy-environment links and am concerned about the unhealthy drift of UK policy as revealed by this debate.

    There is an explanation of all this bias in the UK climate policy. This is really about ‘decarbonisation’of energy supply and technological change stimulated by the state, that is by bureaucratic action, be it taxation or regualtion or subsidisation. To sicceed the public needs to be persuaded.
    This state objective of a ‘low carbon
    economy includes full support for the UNFCCC/Kyto/IPCC, and above all now teh diplomatic drive for a mandatory post Kyoto global emission reduction regime. The UK claims a global ‘leadership’ role in this saving the planet from CO2 project, though CO2 is not a very noxious gas and is much needed by the planet with a still debated role in ‘dangerous’ climate change. Without it we would all freeze to death…
    This offical support for one scientific hypothesis – dangerous man-dmade (average) warming caused by greenhouse gases, is based on international and domestic political ambitions as well as a technology policy linked to international commercial ambitions. UK claims have also been adopted, for slightly different reasons, by the Commission of the EU, and especially Germany.
    The actual climate saving policies adopted and demanded from the whole world are largely energy related (now agriculture and forestry as well). They all involve a shift of powers to teh centre, to London and the EU Commission. The technological ambitions involve the renaissance of nuclear power and promotion of energy efficiency efforts missed out on during the 1970s (all pretty rational policies but why make them global and mandatory?), but above all they involve the search for new markets for renewables technologies and finance, and now ‘carbon management’expertise.
    Both are, or are to become, major exports of the UK/EU technology and financial service systems.

    Carbon management is now being pushed very hard by all institutions, whatever the economic or political costs may be, it seems to me. The BBC pension fund is linked to investments in green energy, according to on eLondon based finance journal.

    All this attack on carbon based fuels began in the 1970s during the limits to growth hysteria, and was (also) fed by increase in oil prices – 7x – . There is little that is really new under the sun, for the old with experience!)

    So, when discussing science, don’t ignore the politics… and the research lobbies as a main beneficiaries of a policy that claims to be science based .(but is not in my understanding of climatology).
    Science is a tool of politics, has always been used in making policy. It does not matter to politics if the science later turns out to have been wrong, or selected and interpreted to justify policy.
    What we observing with the BBC, is part of the process of policy justification (mis)using science, the BBC is simply playing its allotted, and expected, role.

  19. 19
    TonyN Says:

    Sonja,

    For me the document that resonates most – and I think confirms much of what you say – is the one referred to here.

    Thanks for all that Energy and Environment has done over the years, and for your thoughtful contribution here.

  20. 20
    Bob Carter Says:

    The third aim cited by the BBC in their letter of reply was:

    · To invoke imagination to allow the media to deal with the scope of the issue.

    Has anybody ANY idea what this statement means?

    Bob Carter

  21. 21
    TonyN Says:

    Bob,

    The use of the phrase ‘invoke imagination’ in that sentence reminded me of the suggestion by the IPPR in their Warm Word report that myth was a useful and legitimate tool in convincing the general public that AGW is a ‘fact’.

  22. 22
    Jack Hughes Says:

    Strange document altogether, the “wagonwheel” report.

    Lists dozens of examples of bias then explains them away or just says we must try a bit harder next time.

    This was the worst part for me:

    There was a feeling [...of] political correctness, which (although indicative of a civilised, respectful society) was itself a symbol of bias.

    This sentence starts with a fact then drifts into opinion (bold). So typical of the BBC mindset. The BBC is accused of being PC. But PC = good. So its OK.

  23. 23
    Jack Hughes Says:

    PS: nice blog – keep up the work :-)

  24. 24
    Robin Guenier Says:

    Last week (5th August) the BBC’s staff newspaper, Ariel, informed its readers that

    The BBC has a key role in educating and informing people about the link between climate change and human activity. It is only when people realise the severity of the problem that they will be motivated to play their part in tackling it.

    Hmm. Doesn’t bode too well for the BBC’s autumn project referred to by Gareth (post 12).

  25. 25
    TonyN Says:

    Re: #16, Peter

    That was almost an answer to my question in #11, but not quite. One more try and you might get there: either yes or no would do.

  26. 26
    alex Says:

    Tony, the next few lines in the BBC report are interesting:

    But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as ‘flat-earthers’ or ‘deniers’, who ‘should not be given a platform’ by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space. ‘Bias by elimination’ is even more offensive today than it was in 1926. The BBC has many public purposes of both ambition and merit – but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them. The BBC’s best contribution is to increase public awareness of the issues and possible solutions through impartial and accurate programming. Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution.

    Which, when put with the bit you quoted, seems to be the BBC both saying it is and isn’t giving voice to those opposed to the consensus.

    If it’s worrying at all, it’s that the document seems to be written by one of those ‘university educated, middle class, mildly left of centre employees’ (oops, just described myself) who do skew the BBC output, which I feel is the major problem with it (the document and the channel)–it’s iconoclastic to the extreme, to be read by a rather small circle. Mind you, I’m a big Test Match Special fan, and so I got the wagon wheel straight away.

    The section comes under Guiding Principle 4: “Impartiality is about breadth of view, and can be breached by omission. It is not necessarily to be found on the centre ground.”

    I agree, it probably is a genuine attempt to support impartiality, but needs cutting to the chase.

  27. 27
    BBC impartiality and climate change | alexlockwood.net Says:

    [...] at Harmless Sky has been following , for 18 months at least, development of BBC policy on the coverage of climate [...]

  28. 28
    alex Says:

    PS just blogged on this with some info from a paper published in 2005 that might be useful.

  29. 29
    Bishop Hill Says:

    I wrote to the IBT and asked for a list of attendees at the BBC seminar, but they’re not playing ball either.

  30. 30
    TonyN Says:

    Re: #29 Bishop Hill

    Many thanks for passing that on. Did the IBT give reasons and is there any chance that you might post the correspondence either at your place or here?

  31. 31
    TonyN Says:

    Re: 26, Alex

    The passage that you quoted from the BBC impartiality report is likely to be the subject of a post here soon, but lets just look at the last sentence for now:

    Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution.

    All I am asking is that the hawk-eyed ones at the BBC reveal who they are relying on for expert advice.

    I would be very interested to know whether you think that they should provide the information I have requested or not.

  32. 32
    alex Says:

    Hi Tony, yes I do agree they should provide the information, but it’s not likely, as it was most likely under Chatham House Rules.

    This bit of info comes from the Joe Smith article I referenced (p.1472 of the journal Risk Analysis 25:6, 2005) over on my post. It only covers the seminars from 1997-2004, but I would imagine it extends and covers those later seminars.

  33. 33
    TonyN Says:

    Alex,

    Of course BBC only needs to provide me with the text of the invitation to participate in the seminar for us to know whether Chatham House Rules applied, rather than just speculating about it. And why would they feel the need to offer their ‘best scientific experts’ on climate change this kind of protection anyway?

  34. 34
    Bishop Hill Says:

    Tony

    Chatham House it was, apparently at the request of the BBC. I now have FoI requests in at the MetOffice, DEFRA and UEA to see if they will tell me who attended. There may be others to try as well – any suggestions are welcomed.

  35. 35
    TonyN Says:

    Bishop Hill.

    Have you also asked for copies of all correspondence, including emails, received form the BBC about the seminar? Also all relevant internal communications that refer to it?

    Incidentally, congratulations on your Hockey Stick post, which should be required reading for anyone who takes an interest in AGW, from whichever side of the debate.

  36. 36
    TonyN Says:

    There is only one Chatham House Rule, and it is as follows:

    “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”.

    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/about/chathamhouserule/

    Although it seems probable – from what Alex and Bishop Hill have said – that the the rule was applied to the BBC seminar I still have no confirmation of this. If you follow the link above you will find that the rule can be applied in different ways.

  37. 37
    Robin Guenier Says:

    According to the Chatham House website (see Tony’s link above), the purpose of the Chatham House Rule is to provide “anonymity to speakers and to encourage openness and the sharing of information”. It goes on to say that its advantage is that “It allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organizations, and therefore it encourages free discussion. People usually feel more relaxed if they don’t have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.” The BBC is obviously entitled to hold a meeting on that basis.

    But the Rule exists to protect the participants – not to protect the organisation holding the meeting. Therefore, I believe it would be wrong for a publicly funded body such as the BBC to determine its editorial policy on a matter of public importance on the basis of a meeting where the Rule applies – if participants fear that their views might cause problems with their employers or might endanger their reputations, those views are unlikely to be a good basis for editorial policy. If, however, the participants have no such fears but the BBC wishes for some reason to keep their identities secret, that would be a misuse of the Rule.

  38. 38
    TonyN Says:

    Robin

    Although Alex and Bishop Hill think that the seminar would have been held under the Chatham house rule, the BBC makes no mention of this in their letter.

    I have always understood that the the Rule only applies to the attribution of what is said at a meeting. In other words it is only an embargo on revealing who said what, and not on what was said. The wording of the rule is certainly open to this interpretation. If it becomes an issue, then I hope that I will be able to get a definitive (and impartial) opinion from Chatham House.

    Even if the Rule does apply, I do not see that it can have any implications for providing me with the invitation list as there can be no duty to protect the anonymity of the recipients prior to their acceptance on the basis of whatever terms the invitation set out. Or am I wrong?

    I fully agree with what you say about the BBC’s conduct if they did in fact use the Rule as a means of dodging public scrutiny of such an important event.

  39. 39
    Robin Guenier Says:

    Tony:

    Your understanding is correct. I have attended and have chaired many meetings (or parts of meetings) to which the Rule applied – in both the public and private sectors. My clear understanding has always been that, as you say, the Rule is only concerned with attribution: unless the meeting was “off the record” (a different matter altogether), it does not prevent what was said being reported and/or used.

    But it does prevent the disclosure of either the name or affiliation of any participant. Therefore, I do not think the BBC would be safe to disclose the names of invitees as (presumably) some of them went on to become participants. There is, of course, no reason why the BBC should not confirm whether or not the meeting was held subject to the Rule.

  40. 40
    TonyN Says:

    Robin: My point is that at the time that the invitation list was drawn up there were no participants, so there could be no agreemnent between the organiser and any participant.

  41. 41
    Robin Guenier Says:

    Tony: I’m still of the view that it would be unsafe for the BBC to disclose the names of invitees as (presumably) some of them went on to become participants – unless perhaps you asked before the meeting took place.

  42. 42
    TonyN Says:

    Robin: Let’s hope that it is an issue that never has to be addressed. For the time being the matter is in the hands of the Information Commissioner I intend to wait and see what he comes up with.

  43. 43
    Gareth Says:

    Can the Chatham House Rule apply given that the BBC have already admitted “The key speaker at the seminar was Robert McCredie, Lord May of Oxford”?

  44. 44
    TonyN Says:

    Gareth

    I wondered about that too, but unless I see documentary evidence that the Rule applied to this meeting I’m working on the assumption that it did not.

  45. 45
    Robin Guenier Says:

    Gareth/Tony: I didn’t know about the disclosure of Robert McCredie as “key speaker”. In that case, it seems the Rule cannot apply – unless individual participants requested that their contribution or attendance be subject to it.

  46. 46
    Geoff Says:

    It would seem that Lord May has ample opportunity to “stamp out” dissenting views in the US as well since he is a member of the Senior Editorial Board of the journal Science. One wonders if that can be a partial explanation for Science’s non-enforcement of its own rules on archiving data.

  47. 47
    TonyN Says:

    Geoff

    Interesting!

    I have a note from October 2006 which suggests that at that time May was a non-executive director of the Met Office. Brian Hoskins of Reading seems to have been on the board too and Sir David King (May’s successor as chief scientific adviser to the government) was on the panel that appointed John Mitchell as Met Office chief scientist about that time. See here for much, much more about Mitchell:


    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=3192

    And of course Bob Ward thrived at the Royal Society when May was the president.

    Interesting crowd.

  48. 48
    Robin Guenier Says:

    The involvement of Robert McCredie (Lord May) as lead speaker at the BBC seminar is disturbing. He is a very senior and influential person – an OM and ex Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, ex President of the Royal Society and a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford (just a few of his many achievements). He is, I understand, an eloquent and persuasive speaker. His view on climate change is unequivocal: for example, in his valedictory address to the Royal Society, he said,

    make no mistake, climate change is undeniably real, caused by human activities, and has serious consequences. [He spoke of] the climate change disaster which looms this century

    Although many of his recommendations are eminently sensible, he is – as TonyN has noted – fiercely partisan and a vocal opponent of those who are sceptical about the dangerous anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. For example, in the valedictory address, he said,

    there exists a climate change “denial lobby”, funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by sectors of the hydrocarbon industry, and highly influential in some countries. This lobby has understandable similarities, in attitudes and tactics, to the tobacco lobby that continues to deny smoking causes lung cancer, or the curious lobby denying that HIV causes AIDS

    These an extraordinary accusation – and is, so far as I am aware, wholly unsubstantiated.

    It would, I suggest, be difficult for anyone with limited knowledge of the climate change issue who heard him at the BBC seminar not to be persuaded by his views – unless, that is, he was balanced by another distinguished speaker with equally good credentials; Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT comes to mind. That’s why it’s so important to know more about the content of the BBC’s ” high-level seminar’ and, in particular, who were the so-called “best scientific experts” who took part. Otherwise, it is impossible for licence-payers to form a judgement about whether or not the BBC’s editorial policy was properly informed – and about the BBC’s subsequent objectivity on this extraordinarily important issue.

  49. 49
    Tony Brown Says:

    Hello TonyN

    Thanks for your response via Climate Audit concerning BBC bias.

    I am happy to send you information but would rather not do it in an open forum. Can I have your email address?

    Nice Web site. I used to live along the estuary at Farchynys so know your part of the world well. Interesting to hear about the plans for the airfield. The communications are too dire for it to become a proper commercial airport but it would be nice to see it providing desperately needed local jobs.
    TonyB

  50. 50
    David Holland Says:

    If the seminar was discussing climate change and the policies regarding the dissemination of information on climate change, why would it not be subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 which has a presumption of disclosure and fewer absolute exceptions?

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