To preach or inform? Favouring vested or public interests?

August 27, 2007 at 3:20 am | Posted in BBC, Climate change, Durkin (again!), Impartiality, Newsnight, TGGWS | 5 Comments

“It is absolutely not the BBC’s job to save the planet. I think there are a lot of people who think that, but it must be stopped.”

Peter Barron, Newsnight editor


I have to say that if the BBC thinks its job is to prevent us saving the planet, which is the natural consequence of continuing a needless debate over climate change science instead of raising awareness of the facts and debating what actions to take, I shall have to ask for my licence fee back before it’s too late!

BBC news chiefs attack plans for climate change campaign

Richard Wray and Leigh Holmwood
Monday August 27, 2007
The Guardian

Two of the BBC’s most senior news and current affairs executives attacked the corporation’s plans yesterday for a Comic Relief-style day of programming on environmental issues, saying it was not the broadcaster’s job to preach to viewers.

The event, understood to have been 18 months in development, would see stars such as Ricky Gervais and Jonathan Ross take part in a “consciousness raising” event, provisionally titled Planet Relief, early next year.

But, speaking at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday, Newsnight’s editor, Peter Barron, and the BBC’s head of television news, Peter Horrocks, attacked the plan, which also seems to contradict the corporation’s guidelines. Asked whether the BBC should campaign on issues such as climate change, Mr Horrocks said: “I absolutely don’t think we should do that because it’s not impartial. It’s not our job to lead people and proselytise about it.” Mr Barron said: “It is absolutely not the BBC’s job to save the planet. I think there are a lot of people who think that, but it must be stopped.”

Planet Relief appears to contradict BBC guidelines on impartiality. In June a BBC-endorsed report set out 12 principles on impartiality, warning that the broadcaster “has many public purposes of both ambition and merit – but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them”.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “This idea is still in development and the intention would be to debate the issue and in no way campaign on a single point of view.”

Meanwhile, in a session at the festival yesterday titled How Green is TV, the documentary producer Martin Durkin attacked the BBC as stifling debate on climate change. Durkin, whose film The Great Global Warming Swindle attracted a large number of complaints when it was shown on Channel 4 this year, said: “The thing that disturbs me most is that the BBC has such a leviathan position … that if it decides that it is going to adopt climate change as a moral purpose, I have got a lot of trouble with that. I don’t think it is the role of the BBC to spend my money on a moral purpose.”

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  1. Any info on who to complain to? If the BBC regards an announcement of scientific and political consensus as something it should present arguments against, where are its impartial “Flat Earth – Fact or Fiction?” programmes? If it should not campaign for any cause, then what about Children in Need, etc.! Choosing one cause over another is not impartial, and putting any ‘principle’ in the way of saving life on this planet is frankly brain-dead.

  2. The BBC operates under a Royal Charter and Agreement.
    The Royal Charter states on page 4, under item 3 The BBC’s public nature and its objects:

    (1) The BBC exists to serve the public interest.

    It is not in the public interest to have one day in which climate change is the sole topic of the day. Nor is it in the public interest to have a debate about the weight of scientific evidence, though a debate about what actions each of us can take might help some people.
    Our climate challenge is a long-term project requiring changes of our attitude to the environment and to our lifestyles. As with all such projects, accurate information needs to be integrated within all programming—not just one-day campaign which people can ignore—to have any long-lasting effect.
    Anyone who argues impartiality without giving equal weight to accuracy is cherry-picking from another document that specifies the BBC’s role. The document I refer to is the Agreement that accompanies the Charter. On page 20, under the section titled REGULATORY OBLIGATIONS ON THE UK PUBLIC SERVICES, item 44 states:

    44. Accuracy and impartiality
    (1) The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output.
    (2) In applying paragraph (1), a series of programmes may be considered as a whole.

    The reason sceptics WORK SO HARD to make climate change a controversial subject is that they can then take advantage of the impartiality requirement while ignoring the requirement for accuracy.
    Accuracy goes with impartiality the way responsibilities go with rights.

  3. […] looking into the BBC situation (see my comments here) I was delighted to come across this column. Steve Outing adds value to the discussion and his […]

  4. “Controversial” and “impartial” are poor words to use in such a document, as both are entirely subjective. Any point can be argued, and any treatment seen as “partial” from an opposing point of view. Unfortunately, rather than impartiality, our “Nanny State” tends to positive discrimination – in which the minority voice is amplified, no matter how small the minority, or how great the opposing consensus. This is the exact opposite of one-man-one-vote democracy, but very few people seem to have noticed that.

    The climate change ‘debate’ ended with the consensus presented by the IPCC, but this positive discrimination continues to give the impression that large numbers of scientists disagree. This creates controversy where none should exist, and utterly fails to be impartial, because it patently favours the minority.

  5. The latest news on the BBC’s climate change decision is good news.

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