Dec 082011

BookerBBC Today, Christopher Booker, Telegraph columnist and author of The Real Global Warming Disaster will be launching a report he has written for the Global Warming Policy Foundation called The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal. I implore anyone who is interested in the strange story of how the British public was sold the idea that anthropogenic climate change is threatening the future of the planet to read it.

I saw a draft of the report a little while ago because Booker has used a great deal of the information that Andrew Montford and I have uncovered about the BBC’s unhealthily close and cordial relationship with climate activism. This is very satisfying for us as we have long believed that this is a scandal that needs to be confronted and given a good public airing. Hopefully that will now happen.

However this new GWPF report also contains much that is new to me, and Christopher Booker has obviously cast his net very widely in order to gather together incontrovertible evidence that our revered national broadcaster has strayed far beyond the statutory limitations imposed on its activities so far as impartiality is concerned. Furthermore, the author is scathing about what happened when the BBC Trust set up a review to supposedly consider the accuracy and impartiality of the Corporation’s science coverage. Their chosen author - a self confessed ‘media tart’ with close links to the BBC - ignored evidence that should have been at the heart of his deliberations. This was provided in a submission that Andrew Montford and I provided him with, and this document now forms the core of Christopher Booker’s indictment of the BBC and the science review.

By chance, new evidence of the BBC Trust’s very strange behaviour when climate change is in the frame has just come to light. This concerns their oft repeated claim that the Jones Review was a ‘routine’ exercise and quite unrelated to Climategate and the welter of criticism, led by the blogoshere, of the BBC’s routinely partisan reporting of the climate debate. It would seem that the Trust has not been altogether truthful.

When Andrew and I originally wrote to the then chairman of the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee, Professor Richard Tait, suggesting that we should contribute to their recently announced review of science coverage, we said:

We both run blogs, at Bishop Hill and Harmless Sky respectively, and we have both been extremely critical the BBC’s output relating to climate change. As I am sure you are aware, such comment often becomes the subject of mainstream media stories now, a trend that is likely to accelerate as the public’s scepticism about anthropogenic global warming grows and the media adjust its editorial policies accordingly.

We realise that pubic criticisms of the BBC’s impartiality is very harmful to the Corporation’s reputation, but experience has taught us that, where this subject is concerned at least, going through the official complaints procedures is slow, time-consuming, frustrating, and usually ineffective. The BBC has also failed to respond positively to enquiries that we have made.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the BBC Trust has instituted this review as a result of concern within the organisation as well as criticisms that have appeared in the media and elsewhere. [emphasis added]

Letter to BBC Trust, 7th April 2010

This brought an immediate rebuke - within the hour - from the BBC Trust; the fastest reply by far that I have ever received from them.

Your letter states that: ‘It would seem reasonable to assume that the BBC Trust has instituted the review as a result of concern within the organisation as well as criticisms that have appeared in the media and elsewhere’.  This is not the case, as the press release and published terms of reference make clear. This is the latest in a series of reviews that assess impartiality in specific areas of BBC output. Previous topics covered were BBC coverage of business (2007) and the devolved nations (2008).

Email from the BBC Trust 7th April 2010

Frankly, given that the review was announced in the wake of a spate of similar announcements of inquiries into the Climategate scandal, I found this hard to swallow, and I think Andrew did too.

At the end of November 2009, over a thousand emails from the University of East Anglia’s immensely influential Climatic Research Unit had appeared on the Internet. Many of these showed climate scientists behaving very badly indeed.

In December 2009, the UN’s Copenhagen climate summit, which had been hyped as the last opportunity to save the planet by imposing a global regime of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, had dissolved into acrimony, chaos, recriminations, and abject failure.

By the time we all thankfully lapsed into the usual torpor of Christmas and New Year, climate science was being scrutinised by the media in a way that no one had previously expected. The University of East Anglia was forced to announce two supposedly independent inquiries into the conduct of some of the world’s top climate scientists, and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee was asking questions not only about the scientists’ activities, but also about the university’s bona fides concerning any investigations they might carry out.

When everyone finally returned to work after the New Year holiday, it was quite clear that the landscape had utterly changed so far as public perception of the climate change debate was concerned. Now, not only was the University of East Anglia under attack, but the IPCC was being scrutinised as well. Throughout these upheavals, and long before the Climategate emails appeared on the scene to add substance to many of the climate sceptics’ worst fears about the way in which climate research is conducted, there had been a steadily growing tsunami of criticism of the BBC’s partisan role as a primary source of information on this immensely important subject. And this is the moment when the BBC chose to announce a supposedly routine review of their science coverage.

However, if the BBC Trust was claiming that the timing of the review was a mere coincidence, we had no alternative but to accept what they said, even if we had doubts.

When Professor Jones’ review was finally published in July this year, the introduction provided by the BBC Trust said:

Science plays an extremely important role in contemporary life. Scientific developments have the capacity to directly affect us all significantly. Debates relating to everything from climate change to medical advances to DNA technology feature prominently in our public discourse. And ethical, policy and funding questions associated with science arouse strong emotions. As a consequence they often strike at the core of sensitive editorial issues. So it is vital that the BBC’s audience enjoys science coverage of the very highest standards.

It is for this reason that the Trust decided in 2010 to review the accuracy and impartiality of BBC science coverage. (emphasis added)

Jones Report p3

And :

… the Trust has a rolling programme of impartiality reviews: this is the third that the Trust has carried out since it was established in 2007. (emphasis added)

Jones Report p4

There is no mention of Climategate or criticisms of BBC reporting playing any part in the decision.

Then later in the report, professor Jones has this to say:

News of the Trust’s decision to commission this Review was greeted by some anti?global warming enthusiasts as a statement of its desire to haul the Corporation over the coals for supposed failings around this topic. Nothing could be further from the truth: this is one of a regular series of evaluations of its output. (emphasis added)

Jones Report p56

And that seems pretty conclusive really, doesn’t it, except that I was surprised that neither the BBC Trust, nor Professor Jones, hammered the nail right home by saying when the review was originally mooted and planned, which presumably would have been long before the announcement on 6th January 2010, and probably even before Climategate, if what they were saying was true.

Then just last month, I happened to hear Alison Hastings, Professor Tait’s successor as chairman of the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee, being interviewed on Radio4’s Feedback programme. This was focused on a recently announced impartiality review into BBC coverage of the Arab spring, but the science review got a mention too:

Presenter: Previously the Trust has carried out three impartiality reviews, so what prompted this, the forth? Have there been lots of complaints?

Alison Hastings: We don’t react, actually, often with these reviews because there’s a massive problem necessarily. It’s actually sometimes, actually, a matter of looking at very normal things that the BBC does and making sure that there is no complacency there.

Presenter: Did anything trigger this, or was it just … the first one was into business, you had another one into news and current affairs coverage domestically, and you had another on science. Did anything trigger this?

AH: The word I’d probably use on this is topicality, on this particular one, a word that I wouldn’t have used on the science for example. (emphasis added)

BBC Radio4, Feedback, 11th November 2011

So far, everyone at the BBC, from the bottom to the very top, has been singing from the same hymn sheet. But then the unexpected happened.

On two successive Sundays in late November, The Mail on Sunday published major exposés claiming that the BBC’s impartiality on climate change has long since been compromised, and criticising Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s Environment Analyst in particular. (See here and here). Once again, these revelations relied heavily on information uncovered by Andrew and I, as well as very compromising correspondence between the BBC and scientists at the University of East Anglia that had just come to light in a new tranche of Climategate emails.

This stung Roger Harrabin into writing an attempted justification of his behaviour for publication in the BBC’s in-house journal Ariel. In this he said:

Climate sceptics seeking more space on the BBC helped provoke the Trust’s investigation into science impartiality but the Trust said we were already giving them too much space – not too little.

A Controversial Conversation (1.6Mb)

Oh dear! That really has let the cat out of the bag. And I for one will continue to be rather cautious about anything that the BBC Trust tells me. That’s not a terribly good thing for any kind of trust, is it?

9 Responses to “A matter of timing”

  1. 1
    Bob Ashton Says:

    The following is the text of an e-mail sent to the Daily Mail today:

    I completely agree with Christopher Booker’s assessment of BBC bias on climate change.

    Between October 2006 and February 2010 I entered into correspondence with the BBC on this very subject. I wrote directly to Mark Thompson, Director General, in the hope that I would get some straight answers. What a pious dream that turned out to be!

    Until I enlisted the help of my MP, Nick Harvey, in June 2009 the only responses I received were from various ‘Managers’ in BBC ‘Complaints’ and ‘Information’ (Propaganda) departments. Each of these was arrogant, patronising and completely self-centred and served only to perpetuate what I came to call the ‘Principle of Circular Denial’. In other words: covering each others’ backsides.

    Even the responses from Thompson covered the same ground and were addressed directly to Nick Harvey who copied them to me. During this period I also wrote to the BBC Trust … and got exactly the same type of reply. I even exchanged letters with Sir David Attenborough … and got exactly the same type of reply!

    The common theme throughout this farrago was the BBC’s slavish reliance upon the utterances of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was the IPCC which spawned the Kyoto Agreement on tackling climate change. Two years ago ‘Climategate’ exposed that the IPCC was peddling what amounted to nothing more reliable than Voodoo Science dreamt up by the usual ‘environmentalist’ suspects. Currently ‘Climategate 2’ is showing that the BBC was complicit in fomenting bias in favour of the argument promoting Anthropogenic (Man-made) Climate Change but is not giving it any air time … surprise, surprise!

    The IPCC is currently running the 2011 version of its ‘Jolly-Boys Outing’ in Durban which is why the timing of ‘Frozen Planet’ is so important as far as the Beeb is concerned. Until and unless the BBC is subject to the chill winds of competition instead of being feather-bedded by the pernicious tax known as the ‘Licence Fee’ it will be due to the continuing efforts of Christopher Booker and his supporters to try to raise public awareness of what this unaccountable organisation is up to.

  2. 2
    Mike T Says:

    I cannot but agree with all you say. I, as a humble individual, started a complaint to the BBC of bias in their reporting of climate science sometime in 2008. Any day now (I am told, although I have already had two stalling emails) I am to receive the Trust’s final decision as to whether they will actually consider my final appeal. As you say, somewhat of a lengthy procedure – and at no point has anyone even addressed the (many) points that I raised.

    I persisted with my complaint, because I couldn’t think of any other way of having an effect on this important debate. I am just glad that there are people like yourself and Andrew out there, who are clearly having some effect.

    And what decision do I expect from the BBC Trust? Well, the Jones report came out just before my final appeal against a decision not to put my complaint before the committee – Help!

    Miket

  3. 3
    miket Says:

    You are lucky you could go to your MP Bob. Mine is Nick Herbert and I haven’t even had a reply to any of my correspondence, although his office insisted that he liked to reply personally to everyone. Couldn’t have been something to do with the subject matter do you think?

    Miket

  4. 4
    TonyN Says:

    Mike T

    Would you mind giving a very brief summary? If you have managed to reach the threshold of the ESC, you must be very determined and have a good case.

  5. 5
    Mailman Says:

    Maybe someone should approach Durkin and see if he is interested in making another documentary, based on this report, about the BBC’s part in the “Great Religion of Mann Made Global Warming ™”?

    Mailman

  6. 6
    Alex Cull Says:

    Tony, much as I enjoyed reading the Booker report, what you’ve demonstrated here is, in its quiet way, just as damning. If the BBC Trust is promoting a version of events that is contradicted by other sources in the BBC, what this tells us is there are things the BBC value more than the truth – which I think has some quite profound implications.

  7. 7
    Pete Ridley Says:

    Hi Tony, after reading his booklet “The Propaganda Bureau” I exchanged a few E-mails with Andrew Montford about this issue of BBC bias in support of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) hypothesis. In my opinion this is exemplified by the BBC’s continuing use of Dr. Iain Stewart, despite his clear declaration in March 2008 that “ .. I’m going to go and campaign about this .. ”.

    In March 2008 Dr. Stewart said ” .. Where is the point that scientists say that enough is enough with the data. We know enough. The data is consensual now. 90 % of scientists believe its happening. There’s arguments around the edges about models and about how bad it will be but 90%, 95% of scientists .. At what point do scientists stop analysing the data to the nth degree and then kind of stand up and say ‘right I’m gonna go and campaign about this .. ’. My stuff’s ??? I don’t know climate change but the point is I do believe it and there are points where you do have to make that change .. Why kids, why do it this way? I’ve got kids and its very emotive and the images, that works and its genuine .. but there is another reason why the children aspect is so crucial. I’m going to go and campaign about this .. I believed it was happening .. we are putting out stuff that we don’t have to deal with because we’ll be dead, but our kids and their kids will have to deal with it .. what we are doing this for is that we value the way that our society works and we want that to continue for our children and not for them to have an impaired future .. “.

    Only 6 months later the BBC broadcast the first episode in its “BBC2 Earth: Climate Wars” series, presented by Dr. Stewart. In that first episode “The Battle Begins” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJaGuZ8C1_A) Dr. Stewart starts off talking about the 1970’s scare-mongering about a new ice age then goes on to make his first misleading claim (capitals are my emphasis and parentheses are my clarification) that “ .. today they’re ALL (scientists) apparently convinced that global warming is the big threat .. ” (from 1:25mins). Another follows shortly afterwards “ .. I’m going to explore some simple big questions. How do we KNOW the climate’s warming up? How do we KNOW that humans are causing it? And how do we KNOW what’s going to happen next .. perhaps the greatest challenge we have ever faced .. ” (from 1:45mins). On Stewart goes with his campaign propaganda, throwing in lots of terrifying pictures of fires, floods and storms, then he tugs at the heart strings, with pictures of himself and his two little girls enjoying an outing at the beach and being “ .. worried about what kind of future they’re in for .. ” (from 2:55mins), all aligned with the objectives declared by the speakers at that March 2008 meeting.

    I’ll leave you to watch the rest of that blatant CACC propaganda and concentrate on what in my opinion was deliberately misleading. At 21mins. Stewart declares “ .. I can show you how carbon dioxide affects earth’s climate .. ” and goes on to describe the apparatus that has been set up to demonstrate this. For the unsuspecting viewer the demonstration very convincingly shows how CO2 absorbs the IR energy from the candle. Dr. Stewart confidently declares “ .. What’s happening is that the Carbon Dioxide in the tube is effectively trapping THE heat. The candles WARMTH no longer reaches the camera. Instead IT IS ABSORBED by the carbon dioxide inside the tube. That’s exactly how carbon dioxide works in the atmosphere .. ” (from 21:54mins).

    What Dr. Stewart chose not to mention was that if the demonstration set-up had been as he had described it the viewers would have seen the CO2 having absolutely NO EFFECT whatsoever on the picture of the candle reproduced through the IR camera. The set up had been rigged to produce his desired effect by the insertion of a 4micron filter in front of the camera. Apart from the negligible amount of heat absorbed by the CO2 in the tube it was the unmentioned 4micron filter that was “effectively trapping the heat .. The candles WARMTH no longer reaches the camera. Instead IT IS ABSORBED by the” filter.

    In May 2011 I E-mailed both Dr. Stewart and the set-up designer Dr. Jonathan Hare about this misleading and biased demonstration. Dr. Stewart declined to respond but Dr. Hare, who has described the apparatus in full (http://www.creative-science.org.uk/hollywood15.html), acknowledged that “ .. the experiment only ‘works’ because there is a filter included that only lets the part of the IR spectrum through where the CO2 happens to absorb – thus showing the effect dramatically .. ”. He also acknowledged the problem with the IR absorption discussion that water is mostly ignored. In my opinion any honest scientist who is trying to inform the general public about the atmospheric “greenhouse effect” should emphasise the greater significance of water vapour. More importantly I would expect a full disclosure of any tricks that had to be pulled in order to demonstrate the impact of CO2. I am not aware that Dr. Stewart has ever done this.

    That Climate Wars demonstration by Dr. Stewart is not only misleading as far as the ability of CO2 to absorb IR it does nothing to “ .. show you how carbon dioxide affects earth’s climate .. ”, despite the effort put into the rest of the episode to create that impression. Towards the end of the episode Dr. Stewart throws in numerous pictures of people suffering from the heat and talks about “ .. by the 1980’s there was one final ugly fact that challenged the sceptics view that climate change was nothing to worry about .. ” and offers scares about “ .. the heat wave brought 88 high temperature records across the Nation since Sunday .. ”. He went on with “ .. Through the 80s the temperature of the planet kept rising, building on the warming that had first begun in the 70s .. almost every year broke records .. ”.

    Then at 52:20mins. He presents an extract from an A/V of the infamous presentation given by James Hanson to the US Senate on that carefully selected day in June 1988, with all of those poor Senators sweltering in the meeting room (see here for why http://www.wunderground.com/blog/sebastianjer/comment.html?entrynum=124&page=1). Dr. Stewart wraps up that first episode of his campaign with lots of scary scenes of fire, flood and storm disasters and “ .. Scientists and politicians agreed that humans were altering the climate and something had to be done about it. Global warming had well and truly arrived .. ” (57mins). In my opinion even Hitler would have been envious of the propaganda skills.

    After looking through that A/V again I feel quite sick but not half as sick as I felt after watching Dr. Stewart and his associates perform at that Houses of Parliament meeting in March 2008.

    I find it hard to understand how the BBC, which is required and claims to give unbiased coverage to contentious issues such as the CACC hypothesis, is allowed by the Trust to give a professed CACC campaigner like Iain Stewart repeated opportunities to broadcast his campaign propaganda, as he did in the BBC’s Climate Wars series only a few months later?

    Although it is virtually impossible to get anything out of the BBC using the Freedom of Information Act because it appears to always hide behind the exclusion of data used for journalistic purposes, is the BBC Trust protected in that way. Have you looked into this at all?

    Best regards, Pete Ridley.

  8. 8
    TonyN Says:

    Pete Ridley, #7:

    If you haven’t done so already, it might be worth mentioning Stewart’s rigged Co2 experiment to Anthony Watts who took a lot of trouble to analysing some similar manipulation in an Al Gore propaganda piece not long ago.

    The British Broadcasting Corporation comprises both the BBC Trust and the executive which actually runs the operation, so the FOIA applies equally. A judgement recently handed down by the Supreme Court may go some way to define and limit the BBC’s entitlement to exemptions under the Act, but this is as yet untested.

  9. 9
    Alex Cull Says:

    Hi Pete, Tony, just to say that there are transcripts of all three episodes of the BBC’s Climate Wars series here:

    1. The Battle Begins.
    2. Fightback.
    3. Fight for the Future.

    Hope this helps!

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