No more BBC platform for climate change deniers? It’d be about time | Richard Black | Opinion | The Guardian
Climate change No more BBC platform for climate change deniers? It’d be about time Richard Black
The BBC seems to be moving away from feeling obliged to give equal weight to the views of the likes of Lord Lawson
Mon 10 Sep 2018 10.00 BSTLast modified on Mon 10 Sep 2018 11.34 BST
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Shares 67 Comments658 [image: BBC radio 4 Today programme broadcaster Nick Robinson in the studio] The BBC has introduced a new course to help broadcasters such as the Today programme’s Nick Robinson get up to speed on climate change. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA
From time to time the BBC gets itself into an awful mess over climate change. Unnecessarily so, given that it has visited and revisited principles of good coverage, repeatedly arriving at more or less the same conclusions.
Back in 2007, a report for the BBC Trust, then the corporation’s regulator, concluded that the old bipolar world of “the climate change debate” had gone. The working model had to change, as the title put it, From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel : “the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should.” Four years later, the Trust’s review of accuracy and impartiality in science coverage , commissioned from geneticist Professor Steve Jones, reached very similar conclusions.
Both reports were accepted by BBC managers. Both contain much that is common sense. And then there are the editorial guidelines , which are very clear that the guiding principle is “due impartiality”, rather than equal weight. I won’t go on the BBC if it supplies climate change deniers as ‘balance’ Rupert Read
So how have we reached a situation in which the BBC has to apologise for not challenging incorrect statements made by Lord Lawson on the Today programme, where an entire Radio 4 feature, What’s the Point of the Met Office?, turns into a polemic about “dodgy” climate science, and where Radio Cambridgeshire finds it appropriate to stage a traditional seesaw-style debate between “warmist” and “sceptic”?
One answer is that the BBC has failed to promulgate its “big thinking” on editorial matters to producers and presenters, very few of whom have a science background. After the Jones Review it set up seminars on science coverage; but it failed to make them mandatory, and scrapped them after a year. Staff come and staff go; it seems extremely unlikely that Sarah Sands, editor of Today, had read either the Jones Review or From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel when she decided to call Nigel Lawson for “that” interview. Advertisement
I recently argued for the seminars’ reinstatement and for making them mandatory. Not that I’m claiming credit, but as the CarbonBrief website has reported , the BBC has now done something similar – setting up a new one-hour course on reporting climate change “… covering the latest science, policy, research, and misconceptions to challenge, giving you confidence to cover the topic accurately and knowledgeably”.