Friday, 22 October 2010

BBC head honcho interviewed on Radio 4

The BBC announces new editorial guidelines that concern climate change. Science has been added to the list of controversial subjects, I gather . I haven't yet found the BBC's official announcement but the skeptics seem to think this will benefit them. David Jordan, Controller Editorial Policy is the author of the new  guidelines and was interviewed by the esteemed Roger Bolton on Feedback, for the record here's what was said.

RB: Can I start by asking you... it is the attitude that producers should take to the question of climate change. Is it alright for a programme maker to proceed on the basis that climate change is occurring and it is largely man made?

DJ: The way we approach scientific controversy and indeed other controversies where there is a general consensus about something being the case is to say that we don't have to in every time we mention the issue have a balance of view one way or the other, in fact you can distort the debate if every time you talk about man made climate change you have somebody who either denies that it's happening at all or doesn't believe that it's man made. The important thing is that in our airwaves and in our coverage it's acknowledged that there are people who don't accept that there is man made climate change. They don't have to be part of every programme we make on the subject or be part of every discussion we do on the subject  provided across our airwaves in general that view is reflected from time to time.

RB: You say they don't have to refer to the alternative view but do they have to critically question those who are saying that it is a proven reality?

DJ: It's appropriate for any report on those subjects to cross examine or question any assumptions that people may be making but it isn't necessary for the two different views always to be represented equally in any given programme.

RB: But no BBC programme should be a campaigning programme on an issue like this.

DJ: No. We don't do campaigning. We report

RB (interrupts) We shouldn't do but some of our listeners would think some programmes are campaigning.

DJ: We report campaigns and we shouldn't ever be campaigning on issues of this sort. Other than issues around broadcasting the BBC doesn't take sides and doesn't have a view.

RB; Can we move on to the new guidelines that you've just published. why are they needed, what has happened to make them necessary in your view?

DJ: Well, you know Roger, someone as long in the tooth as you are, knows that things change over the years we've had a lot of

RB: (interrupts) Principals don't change do they?

DJ: No the principals may not change hugely but the last one was produced in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry and the Gilligan affair, this one's being produced in the wake of some major editorial policy shocks, namely the telephony and interactivity issues, the issues over queengate and latterly the Brand Ross issue.

RB: Now you're extending the ideas of impartiality to a wider area. Theres an investigation by the Trust about the question of science and there's the issue of religion where you have at least in the view of the National Secular Society given further protection from offence to religious believers , have you done that?

(Interview continues on the subject of religion)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

World Service only half biased

With comparative lightning speed the World Service's One Planet have responded to the point I made last week. It seems we have to follow the whole series to see impartiality. I was expecting an answer like that. This episode shows up how awkward it is to monitor the question of impartiality. Perhap's the Editor's response could be paraphrased as "this was only half biased."  More thoughts to follow. Here's what he has to say:

Many thanks for your email, I always appreciate it when people take the time to write into the One Planet team.

I was aware that the interview with Professor Lindzen would open up the show to criticism from many people. But I do think it was right to speak with him. It's not often that we interview a climate change denier on the show (reflecting the fact that it remains a minority view among scientists), but it would be wrong of us to simply ignore the issue or pretend it doesn't exist. That does no one any favours as it fuels talk of conspiracies and cover ups. I believe it's much better to reveal the arguments being made on both sides, and allow listeners to make their
own choice. As you clearly have done.

I don't think anyone could accuse One Planet of giving equal time to those who do not believe in man-made climate change. And during the interview, Mike made a number of references to the fact that Professor Lindzen's view is in the minority. If - over the course of the One Planet series - you balance this show against the many other programmes which involve interviews with scientists, academics and politicians who strongly believe in the dangers posed by climate change, I believe One Planet offers a fair and impartial examination of the subject.

All the very best,
Steven Duke
Editor, One Planet

Friday, 8 October 2010

Response to BBC World Service 'One Planet' broadcast 3rd October featuring  Dr Richard Lindzen

Most of this programme is given over to an interview with Dr Richard Lindzen who is clearly an opponent of the scientific consensus. The BBC's guide on impartiality in this field states :”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, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. ” (From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel page 40)

There was nobody to rebut his assertions . It was not a debate . Dr. Lindzen's views were broadcast largely without criticism. In this programme the sceptics are clearly getting more than equal space. I suggest this is against the rules established for the BBC's impartiality.