Aug 232011


Before saying any more about Professor Steve Jones’ BBC Trust Review of the Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBC’s Coverage of Science, I should probably own up to not having read the whole report. It runs to over a hundred pages, much of which deals with areas of science that I am not particularly interested in. More importantly perhaps, by the time I had read the one part of the report that considers issues I am very familiar with, I had doubts as to whether the rest was likely to be worth reading.

There are a few basic requirements for any kind of review: objectivity, accuracy, breadth of outlook, the willingness to consider even unwelcome material, clarity and precision when writing up the findings. All of these are essential if the end product is to have any kind of credibility, and all of these are lacking in the parts of the Professor Jones’ work that I have examined.

Only a fairly small section of this report less than ten pages focuses specifically on climate change, although this subject seems to be the elephant in the room throughout the introductory sections, which I have only skimmed through. Climate change is, without question, the most important, the most controversial, and most testing scientific issue that the BBC has had to report during the last decade. One might have expected that rather more space would have been devoted to detailed consideration of such an important topic.

If this rather bulky submission wasn’t enough to inflict on readers, there is also an appendix of similar length presenting Imperial College London’s Content Analysis of BBC the BBC’s Science Coverage. This is a terrifyingly dry looking document, but I did catch sight of a familiar name on the title page.

One of the author’s of this paper is Alice Bell, a specialist in the sociology or education and science communication at Imperial who I once had a very minor run-in with on her blog in connection with the ‘Bedtime Story’ climate scare advertising campaign launched by DECC in the run-up to the Copenhagen Conference in 2009. She had said, in passing, ‘I am in no way a climate change sceptic, in fact I find such people a bit worrying’. I suggested to her that I found social scientists who categorise ‘people’ as ‘a bit worrying’ because of a single opinion they hold with which you disagree might, just possibly, be ‘a bit worrying’ themselves. The point seemed to be lost on her. (Update: Alex Cull has an excellent comment about the Context Report and Alice Bell here.

Anyway, when I first had a look at Professor Jones’ report I did the obvious thing and turned straight to the part that deals with the submission that Andrew Montford and I made to his review. This is what he has to say about it:

A submission made to this Review by Andrew Montford and Tony Newbery (both active in the anti?global?warming movement, and the former the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science) devotes much of its content to criticising not the data on temperatures but the membership of a BBC seminar on the topic in 2006, and to a lengthy discussion as to whether its Environment Analyst was carrying out BBC duties or acting as a freelance during an environment programme at Cambridge University. The factual argument, even for activists, appears to be largely over but parts of the BBC are taking a long time to notice.

There are just a few things about this that I find very surprising.

I’ve never been described, as ‘active in the anti?global?warming movement’ before, and I don’t suppose Andrew has either. Does Professor Jones really think that we spend our time trying to stave off anthropogenic climate change along with all those sanctimonious politicians and green activists whose names litter the pages of the Guardian? Is that really what Professor Jones intended to say? Is that really what he means, or does he mean the exact opposite of what he has said. God knows! but I understand that this report cost the BBC £140,000, nearly half of which went on Professor Jones’ fee. The least that licence payers might expect for that kind of money is a review author who can write clear English.

This may sound like a quibble, but Professor Jones seems to have a very real problem with semantics which I’ll come back to and that is a severe handicap for anyone who is trying to write a review that is intended to be taken seriously.

Then, can anyone explain to me why Andrew and I might choose to write about the global temperature record to a geneticist who is conducting a review of journalism for a broadcaster? Apparently Professor Jones thinks that is what we should have done. And he also seems to think that because we didn’t do this, we must think that the debate about the science of climate change is over. That is just plain silly.

In fact we wrote to Professor Jones providing evidence, and I do mean evidence, that the BBC’s news gathering operation had become far too close to environmental activism and environmental activists to be able to report climate change impartially or accurately (here). That criticism is clearly material to his report, and his failure to address the issues we raised says far more about the rigour with which he has conducted his review than it does about our views on the science of climate change, which are in any case irrelevant to his review. I was under the impression that scientists are people who gather and analyse all the available evidence before drawing a conclusion, but of course we are talking about climate science here and the normal practices of science have long since been suspended for fear of anyone reaching the ‘wrong’ conclusion.

The seminar that Professor Jones mentions was organised by the BBC’s Environment Analyst with the help of an environmentalist called Joe Smith and a self-proclaimed environmental lobby group. The stated purpose was to inform senior BBC staff of the current state of scientific knowledge concerning climate change in order to shape editorial policy on the extent to which sceptical views should be represented in science coverage. One might reasonably expect that this would be just the kind of thing that a review of the accuracy and impartiality of science coverage by the BBC would be concerned with.

The guests who were invited to brief the BBC on this very important subject at a time when editorial policy was coalescing, were described as the ‘best scientific experts’, but in fact seem to have been activists drawn from the ranks of non governmental organisations. I say ‘seem to have been’ because the BBC will not reveal who the experts were in spite of repeated requests to do so. In fact they are at present spending licence payers money on the legal costs of defending a case before the Information Tribunal in an attempt to avoid being made to disclose the names of the attendees. Might one ask whether an apparent need to keep such information secret throws any light on the accuracy and impartiality of the Corporation’s science coverage? Is it just possible that this is a subject that a conscientious and objective author conducting a review of such matters might at least take an interest in?

Evidently Professor Jones is not conducting that kind of review.

But he does mention the seminar in the paragraph quoted above and also, apparently, again in an earlier paragraph on page 67 when he extols what he evidently considers to be a conscientious and virtuous way in which the BBC has formulated editorial policy on climate change. He says ‘There have been seminars with high-profile speakers … ’, so there is no question of his ignoring the relevance of where, and from whom, the BBC has received advice on climate science.

The public certainly have a right to know what scientific advice the national broadcaster has relied on when determining how it should report what is undoubtedly one of the most important topics of our age. Professor Jones has had the opportunity to clear this matter up once and for all in his report, and it is fair and reasonable to ask why he has chosen not to do so, and thereby spare the BBC further embarrassment. The answer may be that had he not dodged the issue, then he would have had to reveal a most unattractive underbelly of influence and manipulation that afflicts the impartial and accurate reporting of this subject within the BBC. But surely that is exactly what a proper review of the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science would be expected to do, isn’t it?

On top of all this, Professor Jones has failed even to report accurately the only aspect of what we said that he deigns to mention. According to him, our submission includes “a lengthy discussion as to whether its Environment Analyst was carrying out BBC duties or acting as a freelance during an environment programme at Cambridge University”. But this is quite untrue. We merely provided evidence, in the form of a letter from the BBC Trust, that Roger Harrabin had been carrying out his duties as co-director of the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme (CMEP) as part of his duties at the BBC. That was a cut-and-dried fact that required no discussion, ‘lengthy’ or other wise, and the question of his ‘freelancing’ is not even raised.

Nor did we suggest that Roger Harrabin’s activities were part of a ‘programme at Cambridge University’. Indeed we provided evidence, in the form of reply to a Freedom of Information request, that Harrabin had made a spurious claim that CMEP operated under the auspices of Wolfson College.

The BBC’s chosen author of this review may prefer to ignore what we told him and that’s up to him of course but untruthfully misrepresenting what we set out clearly and with full references is inexcusable. Our submission was presented in terms that could not possibly be misunderstood. As I have noted here, the BBC Trust has already had to publish one embarrassing retraction as a result of Professor Jones making a false claim about Lords Monckton and Lawson. I wonder how many more may become necessary if what we have seen so far is representative of the standard of Professor Jones’ work.

On a more general but still significant point, there is Professor Jones’ failure to mention either of our blogs, or even that we are bloggers. Those readers who have followed this very strange saga from the beginning, when we wrote to the BBC Trust and suggested that we should make a submission, will know that this was done specifically in our role as bloggers. We pointed out that our bogs had not only carried heavy criticism of the BBC’s partisan reporting of the climate debate, but that some of these stories had fed into the main stream media. We made it very clear that we were making a submission as part of the new citizen’s journalism movement that is increasingly competing successfully with the old mainstream media for hearts, minds, credibility, and public attention.

Not mentioning the blogs may just be mean-spirited and ungracious, but it is probably also an example of the paranoid fear that many high profile scientists who seek to defend the sacred flame of global warming alarmism have about the general public gaining access to sources of information, or views that challenge their own beliefs, over which they have no control. This always raises the question, ‘If your evidence is so utterly convincing, and sceptics are such a load of ignorant morons, what have you got to worry about?’ In the context of a review of the way in which one of the world’s most influential opinion formers with a budget that runs into billions of pounds communicates science which determines a range of pubic policies that have a significant and increasing impact on all our lives, this is indeed strange. What’s to be afraid of about a couple of blogers?

Following on from this, I notice that Professor Jones has, where he wishes to substantiate some of his own claims, provided references with links to documents and other source material. I suppose that it isn’t really surprising that there is no link to our submission, but on the other hand, if it really was demonstrably tripe as his remarks suggest, then surely that would aid his case considerably.

Perhaps the most interesting part of what Professor Jones has to say comes from reading between the lines. He mentions the 2006 seminar twice in his report. However he does not confirm that the participants who briefed the BBC top brass on climate change at a vital time when editorial policy on this immensely important topic was being formed, were in fact ‘the best scientific experts’, as the BBC has previously  claimed, rather than environmental activists, as an eyewitness account and other circumstantial evidence suggests. Had he done so, this might have laid the matter to rest, but instead he has preferred to dismiss the matter. Why would he not clasp such a perfect opportunity to set the record straight?

Can there be a greater irony than an organisation such as the BBC, which owes its exalted place in the media firmament to its reputation for accurate and impartial reporting, has commissioned a report on the impartiality and accuracy of its science coverage from an academic who seems to be quite incapable of either accuracy or impartiality when dealing with the subject he has been asked to review.

One might also wonder whether this choice was entirely fortuitous, of whether the BBC Trust really intended to place this so-called Review of the Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBC’s Coverage of Science in what they thought would prove to be a safe pair of hands. If so they have betrayed their duty as guardians of the BBC’s integrity, and that is something that deserves inquiry at a higher level, perhaps by a parliamentary select committee.


Update 23rd August 2011, 16:20

I blush to admit that commenter ‘Q’ has caught me out not doing my homework properly; here. I was far too quick to dismiss Imperial College’s Content Analysis of BBC the BBC’s Science Coverage, which seems to be a document with hidden depths, and I’m not sure I have been fair to Alice Bell either, for which I apologise. The link to a brief, but magisterial, critique of the BBC Review that he provides is well worth following.

49 Responses to “The Jones Review: reading between the lines”

  1. @JunkkMale, to listen to Brian Cox in his recent “Alternative MacTaggart Lecture” (now here on YouTube), you would get the impression that Britain has successfully turned around its decline in science and engineering, and a major factor in this triumph is that we have a public service broadcaster, the BBC, which has given viewers little choice but to watch ground-breaking science documentaries (many, of course, featuring Brian Cox.) I’m still transcribing this, but here are some excerpts:

    I think that choice, just unfettered choice, so the fact that you leave people to say that “I am interested in art, so I’ll watch this channel” or “I am interested in science.” That’s what we see in the U.S. My programmes in the U.S. are on the Science Channel, so unless you want to go to the Science Channel, you don’t see my programmes, or any programmes about science, actually, in general. So to me that’s not choice, right, the absolute choice removes choice because it doesn’t give people the ability to come to things, with serendipity.

    I mean, this is interesting, because actually I do, you know – I am an academic although, you know, the amount of time I spend on it at the moment is minimal, but I am at the University of Manchester, I’m a part of the – I’m a university research fellow for the Royal Society and so, in that guise, what am I interested in? I’m interested in making Britain a more scientific place. Why? Because 6.9% of our GDP comes from physics-based industry, for example, which is more than comes from financial services. So everybody accepts the fact, and Eric Schmidt made the point very well last night, that high-tech industry – “knowledge-intensive service and industry” is the jargon term, those are the future. Right, so that includes media, because that’s a knowledge-intensive service and industry.

    So how do you maintain that foundation? Now I think – my proposal is that public service broadcasting has a very important role to play in, I suppose, changing the direction of a society. So think about putting things into little silos, and about giving people choice to allowing people to ghetto-ise themselves into the areas they’re interested without, almost this, kind of, Reith-y ideal of very unfashionably and very bluntly saying you don’t necesarily know what’s best for you. You know – with the appropriate caveats around that, but you know what I mean. That to me is – that’s very important. It’s a very important context in the debate about where our media goes. But I think it plays a big role in allowing change to happen. And if you ghet – you allow people to ghetto-ise, you make it very difficult for change to happen.

    I mean, I’ve had this interesting – I have a lot of friends in the U.S. – I discuss a lot because those media stories about the upswing in science which went across the Atlantic, and they were used by a lot of people in America to say well could this happen in America? You know how did Britain turn around this decline in science and engineering? How has it done it? And if you accept the fact that it’s the media, it almost can’t be done in America, because it’s already so riven with the doctrine of choice, in a sense, that you can’t – you don’t have any national broadcasters, either public service or commercial, to get that audience. You have ten percent of the population watching a science progamme – does have the chan- there’s a possibility that can make a difference.

  2. Alex
    I just read the extract from your transcript of Cox above, and I goes , like, wow, who is this cool dude? Professor Alternative McTaggart must be really proud to have him as a student..
    It’s not a statistic quoted by Cox, but I believe 69% of our GDP involves a basic mastery of the English language. (The other 31% involves nailing Chinese solar panels on to roofs and pouring concrete on to Welsh hilltops).

    my proposal is that public service broadcasting has a very important role to play in, I suppose, changing the direction of a society. So think about putting things into little silos, and about giving people choice to allowing people to ghetto-ise themselves into the areas they’re interested without, almost this, kind of, Reith-y ideal of very unfashionably and very bluntly saying you don’t necessarily know what’s best for you. You know – with the appropriate caveats around that, but you know what I mean.

    Yes, we know what you mean Brian. Even though you haven’t finished the second to last sentence, we kind of, like, get it.

  3. ‘my proposal is that public service broadcasting has a very important role to play in, I suppose, changing the direction of a society’

    As with so many things, and especially areas of life’s interactions, that sounds fair enough at first, but the way it is seemingly interpreted (another employee/BBC rather infamously being quoted as being in the business of ‘interpreting events’) these days is being thrown into the spotlight, and not in a good way.

    Science is, basically, about what is, though there are components of course of what was and ‘could be’.

    And that is great. With a few appropriate caveats.

    There seems to be a creeping ‘extra’ creeping in, and one not much to do with science, or credible scientists, as the subject and scientists are being melded into public service broadcasting to produce an (in theory) more credible establishment, established ‘voice’.

    When I were a lad, making a change, especially via science, was a noble ambition. However changing the direction of society was usually a consequence, not a main strategic aim. Certainly not often driven mainly by narrow social engineering dogma.

    When I see terms like ‘knowing (or not) what’s best for [you]’ (though I think he is trying to claim imposition is not good, though rather wondering if the way he says it infers that’s more in a Nixonian ‘don’t get caught doing it’ way than sincere concerns to be avoided) deployed, I refer back to my Orwell.

    Usually finding his famous tomes read more like a manual some have taken to heart, rather than a fictional historical caution.

    There are few enough avenues with and within the BBC’s media empire (some might say monopoly) to address this. Another major concern of mine is how draconian their control of discussion is. Of the few outlets that are not broadcast only, those that do allow debate to be initiated are too often modded into mush, or closed very quickly and ‘moved on’ from. That is a slide to propaganda, which can be effective, especially if impatient in ‘seeking to change society’.

    ps/OT (previous thread): Boys now at new school… and loathing it. So far. Beyond new levels of tradition and discipline, Saturday morning school really not going down well. So missus and I hunkering down against when the benefits get appreciated. So far no doubt they are being pushed into a great education by folk who really are clearly determined that they are going to learn and be rounded out doing so. As to syllabus I will have to wait and see.

  4. Junkkmale #28
    The sentence you quote from Cox is quite terrifying in its implications. It plays into the hands of those who see the BBC as a leftwing propaganda outfit.
    I wonder whether his cool laid-back prose style isn’t a way of diluting the effect, or disguising the message. “Look guys, don’t take it too seriously, I’m just making this stuff up as I go long”.
    It’s a pity, because his point about total choice and the “Reithy” alternative is in fact a very interesting one, or would be, if he’d bothered to express it in English, instead of just referring to it in his irritating “know what I mean” style.

  5. Geoffchambers,

    We have the ABC in Australia, which was originally modelled on the BBC.

    They too change the direction of Australian society. There is no question about that. They do have a history of running stories which none of the other channels or Australian newspapers will touch.

    The most recent example is when they highlighted extreme mistreatment of Australian cattle after being exported for slaughter to Indonesia. There was such a public outcry that the government had no alternative but to suspend the live cattle trade. The cost to Australian agriculture is running into $$ hundreds of millions. Its starting to get going again after several months under stringent conditions but hopefully not like it was before..

    Should they have done it? Absolutely yes in my , and most other Australian opinion. No. In the opinion of big agri-business.

    The problem isn’t so much about the ABC wanting to change things, it’s more that the commercial channels don’t seem to want to do any investigative journalism at all, in case it does highlight practices that do need changing. I say no investigative journalism – they seem to like stories about “tenants from hell” and “Australia’s worse plumber”. Does that qualify?

    Is that what you want from the BBC too?

  6. In the spirit of ‘two picked cherries make a facile stand off (and a miserable pie)’ …

    Is that what you want from the BBC too?

    What the licence fee payers of the UK might reasonably expect is fact over opinion, and impartiality over agenda.

    Sadly, that is not always the case. And as compelled co-funders, it seems not unreaonable to be less than thrilled how its educate and inform remit is eroded daily by tribal dogma.

    Having £4Bpa to play with, yet not having, or using resources to check in favour of received wisdom prejudices seems at best a level of professional compromise about which ‘questions need to be asked’.

    Maybe that famous Australian reticence with imposed authority prevails more now?

    In the UK we do have a tradition of ‘not bad’ investigative journalism. But its reputation is getting marred by instances where the potential benefits of what is reported upon get distracted from by the quality of the reporting. The once flagship Panorama brand is now quite tainted by what can happen in the pre-pro or edit suite.

    Or before. Omission is a potent tool, if guided by agenda. It is getting noticed that enthusisms for exposure in all sorts of areas with their own extremes can be ‘selective’ chez Aunty.

    It may be different in Australia, but not living there I feel less qualified to comment.

  7. tempterrain
    Good on the ABC. That’s what we have independent state broadcasters for. Long may they continue.
    Now imagine that the ABC had recently had a special seminar with scientists to discuss how to report agricultural affairs; that the names of the scientists consulted were a state secret, but they were suspected of being animal rights activists; and that an independent report written by a vet suggested that only government-approved vets should be interviewed on agricultural matters.
    That’s approximately where we are with the BBC and climate change. With, of course, the usual right wing voices calling for the closing down of public broadcasting in favour of the commercial channels and their 24 hour visual bubblegum. That’s the situation which Brian Cox was attempting to comment on. Instead of which, he called an interesting independent documentary “bollocks”, and hinted at the need to go back to the era of “Auntie knows best”.
    I happen to think he has a point about the need to put judgement over ratings in reporting serious subjects. And the first step would be for star presenters like Cox to address us like adults, in properly constructed sentences.

  8. I’ve said this before, but your quarrel is more with scientific opinion on AGW than the BBC.

    The BBC would be hard put to find any practising climate scientist in the UK who would be likely to say what you’d like to hear on the subject.

    They aren’t suddenly going to start taking advice from Lord Monckton ! And, why should they?

  9. tempterrain
    What I’d like to hear from the BBC on the subject of clmate science is:
    “There are no reliable predictions of future temperatures”
    (Trenberth said that)
    “It’s probably impossible to make a reliable reconstruction of past temperatures”
    (Phil Jones said that)
    “Present temperaures are not rising”
    (Phil Jones again)
    But the BBC won’t say that. Steve Jones doesn’t want them to say that. A secret cabal of “experts” (we don’t know who) said they mustn’t say that. Isn’t that strange?

  10. Geoffchambers,

    On a point of information, the last of your three quotes is a the usual denialists distortion of what Phil Jones actually said in Feb 2010 and was reported accurately by the BBC.

    BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

    PJ: Yes, but only just…………….

    Look, if its distortion you want, you can either do it yourself, like many denialists, or if you can’t be bothered, there are lots of climate science rejectionsist websites out there who’ll happily feed you crap until your heart’s content.

    We do need at least one source who can be relied upon to interview people like Phil Jones and not twist and distort their answers, as you can see from yourself if you Google Phil Jones’s infamous “no cooling since 1995” quote.

  11. The BBC would be hard put to find any practising climate scientist in the UK who would be likely to say what you’d like to hear on the subject.

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Resigns Over ‘Global Warming’…

  12. tempterrain claims, rather unpleasantly IMHO:
    September 15th, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Before the semantic ‘UK-based’ qualifier (there is a back, and forward story to all that, one is sure yet to fully develop) is trotted out to justify in distraction… it’s probably best not to use phrase ‘points of information’ when the topic is the rather editorially-selective BBC enviro reporting beat, especially in combination with ‘distortion’ or the practice of denial.

    I am amazed how often our national broadcaster suddenly gets very keen on rare frogs or hybrid cars when there are topics of greater heft in the subject area that seem below their radar.

    Other times there is a complete shut down on blog exchange and even reporting, which is coyly called ‘watertight oversight’, and meant to be… oddly for a 24/7 global news medium… them not guessing until all facts are in on ‘hot stories. This does rather seem to apply more when the heat of the topic is burning one direction, mind.

    Anyone relying on the BBC, especially in matters of science, is well-advised to check around to ensure the totality of any story is appreciated. And indeed, too often, for simple accuracy. Most of their editors/correspondents/analysts/reporters are barely qualified to retype the press releases from restricted sources that they call stories.

    And you’d be hard-pressed to find an objective, unconflicted scientist or engineer in my neck of the UK who doesn’t know it.

  13. Altho, as you say, only a few pages are devoted specifically to warming it is clear that is the enitre point of having this.

    I put in a submission to Professor Jones on the subject of BBC re reporting of nuclear power. It didn’t even get the courtesy of a dishonest dismissal in writing that yours did and I can’t say that was a surprise.

    However the conclusions of his report, if taken as the serious consideration of science coverage in general, as it claims to be, rather than a warmist defence, would have a major effect on their reporting of nuclear power.

    He concludes that the BBC should only report the “consensus” particularly the consensus of “experts” employed in the business – ie “climate scientists” for warming..

    However in the nuclear industry all nuclear engineers employed by the industry without, so far as I know, any exception acknowledge that nuclear power is the safest, most reliable, least polluting and at least in engineering costs, least expensive way of producing power. Indeed I would be prepared to guess that at least “97%” of all qualified engineers across the board willing to express an opinion would say that. You really have to go to “independent experts” employed by Greenpeace and the like or wholly ignorant politicians to hear different.

    Of course the BBC have always gone to such “independent experts” and politicians first and even when a real expert is asked they always “balance” it with someone of that ilk.

    However if the Jones “review of science coverage” were honestly about science coverage they would now have to be considerably less willing to interview anti-nuclearists than they are catastrophic warming sceptics, since we sceptics do, at worst, represent a serious part of the scientific community (including Nebel Physics winners) and the alarmist “science”us not within orders of magnitude as well tested as nuclear engineering.

    Of course that would only apply if prof Jones and the BBC staff, management and assorted hangers on were something other than 100% (… snip …) with a £140,000 piece of anti-science propaganda (… snip – see blog rules …) that serves the politicians.

    . So far no change at all in BBC nuclear science coverage.

  14. TonyN @ 4371
    Your post was very interesting!
    On a broader but somewhat similar connection of vested interest, you and others here may be interested in this interview by our Oz ABC radio presenter of the so-called “The Science Show” within the hallowed turf of the Royal Society with Steve Jones. (professor of genetics).

    SUBJECT: BBC Trust Report into BBC science broadcasting:
    Click on ‘transcript’ @

    You can reduce the wading-pain by doing a page-search for the word: ‘climate’.
    Our hero Williams introduces the dreaded word ‘balance’ in terms of his view of “the weight of the evidence” and he appears to criticise the BBC for not doing this. However, he also seems to disregard at least the following clause in the ABC Editorial Policies (my bold):

    4.2 Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.

    Erh, since various pollings seem to show that about 50% of Aussies think that CAGW is crap, (and similarly in North America, and more so in the UK), then one would think that the independant government/tax-payer funded ABC (cinicism intended) should show more balance in the public interest.

    It is also interesting to note that geneticist Jones, (similar discipline to Paul Nurse), uses the ‘D’ word for sceptics of his views on climate change.
    I’ve been in busy correspondence with the ABC, and intend to assemble some of it here which shows extreme bias by the so-called “The Science Show”.

  15. @Bob_FJ, a fascinating interview, and one which in which the good Prof. Jones demonstrates a grasp of the debate almost equal to that of a twenty-something arts-student activist just back from Climate Camp. Who’d have realised the world of climate science was so very simple, and so black and white?

    Greatly looking forward to reading about your exchanges with ABC.

  16. Alex @ 40,
    My correspondence with the ABC goes back a long way and largely involves their Complaints Rejection Unit (AKA Audience and Consumer Affairs/A&CA). Enough to write a book! They have rejected all eight complaints in total, one of which I’m very confident will be upheld by the independent authority; the ACMA. (although they’ve had it for 4 months) Here is my latest to the Chairman of the Board and MD etc, but I’m not expecting to hear anything from the ABC.

    Joanne Nova runs a popular website here and has undertaken to post an update of the footnotes, when I see the promised transcript probably today of “the Science Show” that marks the first anniversary of the Bob Ward interview.

    From: BobFJ
    Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011 5:09 PM
    To: Angela Peters ; Lin Buckfield ; Mark Scott ; Paul Chadwick
    Cc: Andrew Montford ; Joanne Nova ; Jonathan Holmes ; Marc Hendrickx
    Subject: Should ABC management be concerned about…..

    ….. Apparent disinterest by A&CA to my comment made 10 days ago?

    BTW I was saddened to see in the Melbourne Age on 15/Sep that Radio National share had dropped to 2.3%

    Yours sincerely,
    Bob Fernley-Jones

    From: BobFJ
    Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 6:20 PM
    To: ABC Corporate_Affairs10
    Subject: ABC “Science Show” Complaints to A&CA.

    Dear Ms Gorman and Ms McLiesh

    Thankyou for your three Emails all of them on 23/Aug, dismissing three of my complaints. I was contemplating submitting yet another, as roughed out in-part in the footnotes. However, I was recently shocked to see in the Melbourne Age a survey claiming that Radio National only has a 3% share here. (and presumably even less in combined radio and TV, and less still in Sydney). So what’s the point in dealing with A&CA when it does not seem interested in accepting complaints? INSTEAD, by your choice, unless you might quickly declare an interest, I’ll disseminate this stuff elsewhere in the realm of “new media”, including directly to politicians.

    Yours sincerely
    Bob Fernley-Jones (engineer retired)


    Since the nefarious attack on 2/Oct/2010, by Bob Ward on Prof Bob Carter, and associated denigrations of the professor’s highly acclaimed book, there have been at least eighteen alarmist stories listed about climate change topics that are very controversial. A bunch of softer stories on alternative energy and comedy sketches are not included in the list.
    Some seriously false or misleading claims have been REPEATED in consecutive stories, without mediation by the presenter, despite his foreknowledge and ability to edit those pre-recorded shows.
    Despite various Editorial Policies that argue for fairness, there have been no balancing topics or discussions to address this, other than on websites.

    LIST: Short Title and date, (found by searching key words on Science Show website; may not be complete):

    1) Eureka prizes. (John Cook; false claim repeated); 10/Sep
    2) Plants and CO2 (Tasmanian grass); 27/Aug
    3) Science under attack; 6/Aug
    4) Climate change Tasmania; 30/July
    5) Laws of thermodynamics; 11/June
    6) Southern Ocean Sentinel; 7/May
    7) East Antarctica; 4/June
    8) Climate change deniers; 14/May
    9) Great Barrier Reef; 28/May
    10) Arctic atmosphere; 4/June
    11) Mertz Glacier; 23/April
    12) Climate change biodiversity; 26/March
    13) Naomi Oreskes; 8/Jan
    14) Tim Flannery; 1/Jan
    15) Antarctic penguins threatened; 13/Nov
    16) David Suzuki; 18/Dec
    17) Climate change and wine; 10/Oct
    18) Bob Ward; 2/Oct

    For brevity here, let’s just consider example 1): Author John Cook repeated one of the falsehoods from his book as in story No.8).
    As I write this, (Tuesday avo) the promised Monday transcript has not yet appeared, but here is the similar version from No.8

    John Cook: “…we measure the actual effect from CO2 so satellites and planes observe the heat coming from the Earth and escaping out to space, so they can compare what we simulate or what we expect with what is actually happening. So observations show that CO2 is causing warming…”

    This statement and its context is totally false. Various instruments can indeed measure various parameters, but they CANNOT attribute cause to any change. The ultimate AGW authority; the IPCC, has NEVER CLAIMED that there is any empirical evidence to link warming to CO2, whilst they rely only on computer models using speculative human assumptions. This was advised to the Science Show back in May, and it seems unbelievable that the self claimed very-well-read Robyn Williams does not know this truth anyway. However, they are not shy to (typically) repeat the same misrepresentation in September. Sure, CO2 IS a greenhouse gas, (although minor compared with the predominant more powerful water vapour), but its effect may arguably be negated by what are known as negative feedbacks, on which exists great complexity and there is vigorous debate and research ensuing. Mr Cook, (a non-climate scientist), is entitled to say; I think that….., but to assert his opinion as fact, when it is not supported by the science, and for Robyn Williams to CONTINUE to fully agree with it, despite contrary advice given, is disgracefully unscientific. (and yet your ABC show is called “The Science Show”!)

    BTW, various global average temperature records also show a plateau in temperature over the past decade or more, despite increasing CO2 levels. (and despite the MSM opposite scare-reporting)

    This example in No.1) + 8) is by no means the worst. But, starting from the top and keeping it brief, I could go-on, but will probably wait until the 1-year anniversary of the Bob Ward rant. (that exposed the ABC to great ridicule around the World).

    Ask if you would like more information aplenty.

  17. @Bob_FJ, this is fascinating stuff, and demonstrates amply that ABC’s Science Show is definitely of the same mould as the Guardian/Beeb axis over here. Looks like Saturday’s transcripts haven’t yet made it to the website, but will have another glance at it tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve been reading through some of the comments, including some of your exchanges with people such as Mulga Mumblebrain, who sounds as if he/she would be very much at home on the Guardian’s “Comment Is Free”. I must commend you for sticking to your guns in the face of much provocative rudeness.

  18. ” provocative rudeness.” ??

    Streuth! This is Australia we’re talking about. We may not be top of the tree at Test cricket at the moment but I’d say our sledging can still bear comparison to anyone else’s. We know how to be rude when we want to be!

    And the way Bob F-J was treated wasn’t at all rude. If Bob wants rude, he sure does deserve it, then just let me know and I see if I can oblige!

  19. Brute,

    Two points about your 36. This guy was never a practising climate scientist. Nor is he in in the UK.

  20. BobFJ #39

    The Steve Jones interview is fascinating. Nothing as detailed as this has come out in the UK. Jones says:

    The BBC is I think obsessed with the b-word, with balance. Impartiality… I can see that if you are interviewing a politician, say .. you will take opposing views, and he will try to give some objective balance between them. But that then becomes a disease in broadcast media as a whole and it’s spreading across the world, which is that there is always two sides to every coin, but there aren’t in science

    So the man hired to report on impartiality thinks the BBC is obsessed with the subject. Science should be protected from impartiality rules because there aren’t two sides to the question in science.

    There is a large body of people, literally thousands of whom have commented on my report who don’t believe that because they [don’t] want to believe it. That becomes just a boring argument. Whether you want to believe it or not is neither here nor there, it’s of no interest to anybody, it’s either true or it isn’t, and I honestly don’t understand the logic of the climate change deniers.

    So climate science is either true or it isn’t. And it is. End of story.

    Jones clearly hasn’t read a single word of the arguments of sceptics. Thousands of comments? Really? There certainly should be.

  21. @Geoff, @Bob_FJ, the following two sentences are the ones I still find quite surprising that a scientist could utter. “I think there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is happening. There [is] a slightly less but still overwhelming consensus that it’s due to human activities.” Climate change is happening – as opposed to what? Perpetual climate stasis? “… it’s due to human activities”. All climate change due to human activities? As opposed to none of it due to human activities?

    Idle speculation: could this on/off, true/false binary way of thinking be influenced by Prof Jones’s career as a geneticist? Dominant gene/recessive gene, etc?

    @Peter M (#43) That’s a very kind offer, but unfortunately I’ll have to decline, as I wouldn’t dream of putting you to so much trouble. :o)

  22. […] intervened after Steve Jones of BBC science impartiality and accuracy report “fame” (or not), who’s still (and still angrily) repeating the fantasy allegation of the BBC being too keen […]

  23. […] Newbery is as succint as explicit: “can anyone explain to me why Andrew and I might choose to write about the global temperature record to a geneticist who is conducting a review of journalism for a broadcaster? Apparently Professor Jones thinks that is what we should have done. And he also seems to think that because we didn’t do this, we must think that the debate about the science of climate change is over. That is just plain silly. […]

  24. […] and Newbery’s submission moves Professor Jones’ assessment into cheap fiction territory. Newbery is as succint as explicit in his blog “Harmless […]

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