UPROAR AS BBC MUZZLES CLIMATE CHANGE SCEPTICS, screams The Daily Express:
THE BBC was criticised by climate change sceptics yesterday after it emerged that their views will get less coverage because they differ from mainline scientific opinion. [...] It said coverage should not be tailored to represent a “false balance” of opinion if one side came from a minority group.
So this isn’t about the BBC muzzling anyone, it’s about making sure that the BBC isn’t giving fringe ideas disproportionate amounts of time. It doesn’t just refer to climate change, either: the BBC Trust report (PDF) also refers to the BBC’s coverage of MMR, where giving undue weight to the idea that MMR caused autism even after science had conclusively proved otherwise on caused a public health disaster, and of the safety of GM food. Climate change is just another example of an area of science where a few loud voices have drowned out the actual science.
So, who’s in uproar?
Lord Lawson, chairman of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, said the fact that carbon dioxide levels were rising leading to global warming was not under dispute. However, he added, its extent and effect could not be explained by majority scientific opinion alone. [...]
The foundation’s director, Dr Benny Peiser, said the report would lead to biased coverage of climate change and stifle any real debate. [...]
Dr David Whitehouse, the foundation’s editor and a former BBC science correspondent, said the corporation had “lost the plot” when it came to science journalism.*
Yes, every single “sceptic” The Express quotes is actually a member of the GWPF thinktank. The Express does not quote any independent sceptics, any actual climate scientists, any sci-comms experts – in fact, it doesn’t quote anyone else except for an anonymous BBC spokesman.
So there are two possibilities here. Either The Express has been spectacularly lazy in putting this story together, or they’ve just been fed this story by the GWPF and have published it unthinkingly.
Well, funnily enough this press release went up on the GWPF website just yesterday.** What good timing.
* Dr Whitehouse’s full comment bears quoting here:
He said the corporation was “grouping sceptics with deniers” which would result in a lack of valid scientific input to its reports.
He said: “A sceptic is not a denier, all good scientists should be sceptics. The BBC has got itself into a complete muddle.
“In seeking to get the science right it has missed the journalism which is about asking awkward questions and shaking the tree.”
I think the BBC needs to investigate whether the royal family are all shapeshifting lizard aliens from Alpha Draconis. Sure, there’s no evidence for it, and the people who believe it are an extremely fringe group, but journalism is about ASKING AWKWARD QUESTIONS and SHAKING THE TREE.
** The GWPF claim that the independent report was a “damning indictment” of the BBC. Indeed, it was so damning that the author made these caustic remarks:
One thing should be made clear: BBC science broadcasting is seen as of high quality and is much praised for its accurate and impartial approach, its breadth, and its professionalism. Comments from the submissions made to this Review show how widespread is this opinion.
The BBC is to be commended for the breadth, depth and professionalism of its science coverage. I was impressed by its treatment, which has shown real progress over the past decade or so.
Ouch for the BBC!