As reported in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, the BBC has been told to ensure balance in its reporting on climate.
“New editorial guidelines, after an extensive consultation that considered over 1,600 submissions by members of the public, say expressly for the first time that scientific issues fall within the corporation’s obligation to be impartial.”
One professional organisation based in the UK, the Society of Chemical Industry, reports that members were not impressed. Key themes from respondents were:
- Would like to see the BBC cover a much wider range of science topics
- Certain topics such as medicine, climate change or creationism, receive a disproportionate coverage
- Would like to see more coverage of sciences such as physics and mathematics
- Coverage of science is too soft and ‘dumbed down’
- Information is distorted or misrepresented in the interest of the ‘soundbite’ or word count
- Media, including the BBC, often create opposing views for the sake of effect and can give undue credence to minority views rather than giving proven science the ‘last word’
…well not for climate change on that last point perhaps, but the other themes are valid. So if they have to be more balanced on climate change, just how do they do that? And, indeed, can they? The Telegraph’s article quote’s James Delingpole as expecting little change because belief in AGW is so ingrained:
“It’s a whole cultural thing at the BBC – that people who don’t believe are just ‘flat earthers’.”
WUWT has also covered the story today (here) and the first comment said:
“The BBC love makeover programmes and it is only when they carry out a makeover with their environmental correspondants with scientifically qualified personnel will any change occur.” (h/t Stacy for giving me a title for this post)
Unfortunately a change in the great tradition of TV makeover shows is what we are likely to get – you know, that feeling when you see the new house or garden revealed and you wonder what is just out of camera angle. Will it be all gloss and no substance? There is a lot that needs to change in the public climate debate and there is a lot that needs to change at the BBC.
It is not just the environmental correspondents; it is also the documentary makers, script writers and broadcasters. It has become ‘the norm’ that climate change is happening and everyone should care. So even if the debate becomes more balanced, it will take years before we cease to hear the words ‘due to climate change’ in almost every nature or natural history programme.
Here’s an example, a debate this morning on BBC Radio Oxford – “Is climate change real?” Chris Goodall (a Green Party candidate, and a Director at 10:10), a guest in the studio, was introduced as an “Oxford-based Environmentalist” and Richard North, interviewed by telephone, was introduced as a writer and “self-confessed climate-change sceptic” (as if it was surprising that anyone would admit to such a thing). Richard North refers to this also in a blog post today at eureferendum.blogspot.com. Hal Lewis’s resignation was mentioned – only that he was an 87-year-old physicist, and mentioning his quote that climate change –
“It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”
Chris Goodall said that indeed the professor “has no scientific reasons for that resignation; he’s upset that his views have not been listened to.” Sheesh.
Actually Richard North came across very strongly. The interviewer finished by asking North what it would take to make him less sceptical, to which he replied: “Some decent science“.
Well, cue for the roll in of Oxford University’s Dr Myles Allen (from his university webpage “Dr. Allen’s latest research addresses the question of how scientific evidence can best be used to inform climate policy.”) Hmm. A caller tried to debate with him the role of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and gave him the most wonderful opportunity to ram home the consensus view and state that the caller was wrong. I started listening to the debate with a sense of optimism, but it brought home to me just what the problems are. (See also Richard North’s Radio 5 debate with Roger Harrabin – partial transcript on Omniclimate).
It is not a makeover that is needed; it is a seismic shift in both thinking and understanding and a sea change of belief.