Monday, 22 March 2010

BBC poll shows BBC biased

Have sent out a complaint to the BBC about this poll in February.

UPDATE 5th May 2010: This poll is quoted on the Guardian website today, it's seven weeks since the BBC recieved my original complaint (they aim to respond in 10 to 30 days) and I have had no response so I phoned BBC Complaints, spoke to David who advised it is pending and has been sent to "Divisional Advisers"

"I write about the piece of research which you commissioned on public perception of climate change.

One would hope that a public opinion poll is used to gauge public opinion not to influence it . However you have framed your questions to invite a one sided observation about the veracity of the information seen by the respondent. This is put into a question that otherwise would tell us about the respondent's understanding of the scientific concensus. It is a shame that you have done that because you have rendered an otherwise very valid question meaningless.

In answer to the question "which of these statements is closest to your view" respondents are offered three propositions about scientific conclusions- climate change is man made, climate change is not man made or climate change is not happening ; and one proposition about the veracity of the information put out by one side - "Climate change is happening but it is environmentalist propaganda that it is man made" Why is that proposition offered amongst those other three, which cover the gamut of scientific conclusions?

The proposition about the veracity of the information "Climate change is happening but it is environmentalist propaganda that it is man made" brings a political dimension into a question on the understanding of the scientific concensus. You do not balance that with a proposition to the effect that industrialist propaganda plays a part .

You are being disingenuous in the way you go about surveying the public's perception of the veracity of the information. Firstly you are conflating different questions ie whether the respondent percieves scientific proof and whether the respondent percieves propaganda. Secondly you have to offer more than one proposition in that regard. Why do you only offer one proposition on the veracity of the information i.e. environmentalist propaganda ? Why do you not ask whether the respondent is aware of oil industry propaganda?

This research is framed to posit the view that environmentalists are lying on this topic, whilst ignoring the fact that propaganda is made by the energy industry. The BBC claims in it's editorial guidelines that it's approach will be even handed. Your approach in this survey was anything but even handed. It cannot be even handed when you only offer a proposition that veracity lies solely on one side of the argument.

You have used the research across a range of media to present the notion that belief in climate change is on the wane. Whilst that may be true you invite criticism with your comments because the public's opinion is shaped by media organisations such as yourselves. I put it to you that this survey shows that the BBC is biased towards confusing the public's understanding of the scientific concensus on climate change ."

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Here's Tom with the weather

Weather forecasting has always been an inexact science but tolerated just the same. Climate science though is afforded no such leniency. Every time the IPCC updates us on it's latest projection the media is turned over to denialists and sceptics to pick out the differences from previous missives and present them as inconsistencies ad nauseum.

I'm sorry to say that BBC Radio 4 journalist Tom Feilden has found himself deserving of my ire once again for this piece.  But it's his double act with John Humphreys that really rattles my cage ( click on the player). If one ever needed proof that the media intends to spin the climate change story in an incredulous manner this is it. So a short term fall in temperatures is predicted before a relentless rise. Rather than present this as a fact they pretend that this will undermine the case for change and dwell on how sceptics might seize on it to say climate science is flawed. Indeed they might. But only because the BBC is not an impartial observer and does not approach climate change in an even handed manner.

Postscript: The title to this piece is with apologies to the great Bill Hicks, listen to this piece if you need more explanation.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

BBC Exxon Archives: The best and the worst

Exxon is to Climate change what baked beans are to flatulence so Google will give you 796 000 results to the search term exxon climate change, but the BBC website search engine just thirty. Yes there are 30 references in the BBC archives linking these words, even though Exxon has spent millions denying climate change. So let's take a peek at some of those 30 contributions the BBC offers humanity in it's understanding of climate change and it's nexus with the world's largest oil company.  The best article is a point of view from that old stalwart Harold Evans . Harold takes on denialist has-been conspiracy theory writer Michael Crichton and Exxon and gets it through the censors at the Beeb. Here's Harold:

"Just bend an ear for a moment for the names of a few organizations very much concerned with global warming.

Advancement of Sound Science Centre Inc
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Heartland Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Annapolis Center for Science-based Public Policy

You wouldn't guess it but all these highfalutin bodies are dedicated to undermining the science of global warming and preventing America signing something like the Kyoto Treaty. And again, you wouldn't guess it, but they take thousands of dollars from Exxon Mobil. It's the world's largest oil company and a high profile opponent of Kyoto for imposing too many costs on the developed world."

For once and once only Exxon Junk Science Funding gets a mention on the BBC.  Harold , you da man.

And the worst , step forward Tom Feilden of Radio 4 Today programme for this piece . Tom's day job is at the BBC but there can be little doubt his real master is the fossil fuel lobby as he sums up with this news straight from Exxon -

"For their part Exxon Mobil say there are big holes in our understanding of climate change, and that time may be on our side. It may be 80 to 120 years before the real impact of global warming is felt, and by then technology will have come to the rescue."

The BBC like other broadcast media parrots this bollocks unquestioningly. If  Messrs Benson and Hedges were to say "keep smoking our cigarettes, it'll be years before you get cancer and by then the doctors'll find a cure, probably ",  the BBC would rightly ridicule it .  But Exxon can say whatever nonsense it likes confident double standards in BBC journalism will let them get away with it.  With a BBC mouthpiece like Tom Feilden doing the talking for them Exxon hardly need to fund their dodgy scientific bodies  . Here's how Tom introduces the conflict in his piece

"Exxon's "crime" has been to question received wisdom about the impact of climate change".

No Tom, they haven't questioned the recieved wisdom they provide a slush fund for front organizations to campaign against the scientific concensus on their behalf.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Auntie and Exxon in bed together

So the debate on climate change is wholly skewed in favour of Big Oil, due to illicit funding of academic institutions,and oil company execs in the Bush era White House amongst other things. The effects will be ecological disaster, and the democratic mechanisms to prevent this have been and are being undermined by a the world's biggest corporation . Sounds like a scoop. Lets see what the BBC website has to say and do a boolean search for exxon climate change - just thirty results  the same search on google will get you over 796 000 results. It seems that Newsnight ran a piece in September 2006 which refers to the funding as 'accusations', but that is largely it. The BBC would claim they have covered this story, they did it in a late night news show four years back. No transcript has been made available but one has to raise an eyebrow at the timing, The Royal Society no less was publicly writing to Exxon trying to hold them to an earlier promise to halt the funding at this time. So these were more than accusations.

September '06 was a busy time for the scandal, there was a Panorama documentary on 4th September called Climate Chaos although it mentions Exxon only twice and doesn't mention the Exxon junk science funding at all. 

But crucially , the story of fossil fuel funded climate denial has not been allowed to enter the news narrative , that can only be because of an editorial agenda slanted against environmentalists. If anything the news narrative slips back to questioning whether climate change is happening. Asking the same question that is already settled.

So there you have it.  Over the past five years global warming has been mentioned quite a bit but the number of times the BBC has mentioned Exxon's junk science funding amounts to a handful. And on each occasion the story is qualified .  On Newnight it is 'accusations' , when Harold Evans' writes it is point of view, Tom Feilden's effort describes Exxon's policy as to question recieved wisdom. Never does the BBC come out and say Exxon Funds Junk Science - Fact .

Exxon's massaging of public opinion and consequent undermining of public policy is no secret , the information is out there it just isn't widely known and that's exactly how the Oil industry want it. The extent of the Establishment's complicity in this scandal depends on your point of view. With the public largely relying on the BBC to inform them Exxon's dirty little secrets will surely stay secret a while longer yet.

Exxon's Junk Science funding - A bluffers guide

A pretty central contention of mine is that the energy industry is funding climate change denial. Well actually I can't claim that as an original thought. Much wiser heads than mine have been saying it for years. My contention is that many journalistic institutions whom we would like to consider impartial buy into the denialist lies whilst ignoring the fact that the oil and coal lobby is generating disinformation for public consumption.  This propaganda is then recycled by reputable sources such as the BBC.

The proof is too deep and too wide to go into here, but this is a quick incomplete list of resources supporting the fact that the fossil fuel industry has for many years been manipulating public opinion on climate change. You could start with exxon-secrets . Or there's this piece by Monbiot , or the film The Denial Machine ; a recent piece from The Independent , another piece by Monbiot , something else from The Guardian or this from the trade press. Is that enough ? No ? Try this or this blog or if you're gonna insist on something sciencey try this PDF from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Even Newsweek have picked it up. Still not convinced ? Try this excellent documentary Out of Balance. Let's not forget the excellent Naomi Oreskes , or DeSmogblog

Notice a pattern here? The story originates from activists and pressure groups and is mostly picked up by the more liberal print media, from there the story withers on the vine. It does not get onto the broadcast media where most people get their news from. Junk science funding immensely influences the debate on TV and radio, but you wouldn't know it, they aren't credited . The oil industry sponsor the arguments of the denialists but that is not allowed to be mentioned on TV or radio . Exxon are like a master of the dark arts, a largely unseen influence.

The Oil Dollar and climate change denial are joined at the hip, and evidence for that is available by the yard. Although it usually passes those folks at the BBC by.  Oil companies playing fast and loose with the facts is nothing new but the even bigger scandal here is the media whose job it is to spot the slant in the story and present an impartial viewpoint have not just sorely failed in that task, they have relied on their reputations to tip the slant in the climate change story even more in Big Oil's way.