- Pensioner forces BBC to lift veil on 2006 eco-seminar to top executives
- Papers reveal influence of top green campaigners including Greenpeace
- Then-head of news Helen Boaden said it impacted a ‘broad range of output’
- Yet BBC has spent more than £20,000 in legal fees trying to keep it secret
The BBC has spent tens of thousands of pounds over six years trying to keep secret an extraordinary ‘eco’ conference which has shaped its coverage of global warming, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The controversial seminar was run by a body set up by the BBC’s own environment analyst Roger Harrabin and funded via a £67,000 grant from the then Labour government, which hoped to see its ‘line’ on climate change and other Third World issues promoted in BBC reporting.
At the event, in 2006, green activists and scientists – one of whom believes climate change is a bigger danger than global nuclear war – lectured 28 of the Corporation’s most senior executives.
Then director of television Jana Bennett opened the seminar by telling the executives to ask themselves: ‘How do you plan and run a city that is going to be submerged?’ And she asked them to consider if climate change laboratories might offer material for a thriller.
A lobby group with close links to green campaigners, the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT), helped to arrange government funding for both the climate seminar and other BBC seminars run by Mr Harrabin – one of which was attended by then Labour Cabinet Minister Hilary Benn.
Applying for money from Mr Benn’s Department for International Development (DFID), the IBT promised Ministers the seminars would influence programme content for years to come.
The BBC began its long legal battle to keep details of the conference secret after an amateur climate blogger spotted a passing reference to it in an official report.
Tony Newbery, 69, from North Wales, asked for further disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC’s resistance to revealing anything about its funding and the names of those present led to a protracted struggle in the Information Tribunal. The BBC has admitted it has spent more than £20,000 on barristers’ fees. However, the full cost of their legal battle is understood to be much higher.
Thanks to Maurizio for that revelation.
Tony Newbery writes:
What is clear in the Mail on Sunday report is that funding for the 2006 BBC climate change seminar came from a government department. Also that the funds were channelled through environmental lobbyists who were organising the seminar. And it is possible that the government department that provided the funds had some input about the topics selected for the seminars. Lord Hall, as the man who encouraged Roger Harrabin to set up the seminar programme, features in this story too. However since his return to the BBC he has thrown some interesting light on the matter, contradicting just about everything that the BBC has claimed about the seminar previously. –Tony Newbery, Harmless Sky, 12 January 2014
There is more at Harmless Sky, including links to the FOI release that nails the BBC.
The new attention on the BBC’s 28gate seminar has been prompted by disclosure of documents showing how the [UK Government’s] Department for International Development responded to a funding request for funding from the International Broadcasting Trust a body that lobbies broadcasters on behalf of green NGOs. What we have, in essence, appears to be government paying for subversion of the state broadcaster. –Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill, 12 January 2014
UPDATE: from comments.
Roger Harrabin was on the advisory board of the Tyndall centre, at the same time his CMEP was being funded by Prof Mike Hulme (seminar attendee) Tyndall to organise the seminars.
I’m still to curious to know whether he had stepped down or not from Tyndall , when the January 26th, 2006 seminar happened.
According to wayback machine,
Roger Harrabin was on the Tyndall Advisory (alongside Bill Hare Greenpeace) board in August 2005, (after this date, the Tyndall website changed and advisory board info was no longer available, via wayback)
the conflict of interest for the BBC seems huge, given:
Prof Mike Hulme (climategate 2 email):
“Did anyone hear Stott vs. Houghton on Today, radio 4 this morning? Woeful stuff really. This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media/Environment Programme to starve this type of reporting at source.” (email 2496)
Both Harrabin and Smith seemed to have thought that the CMEP seminars werevery succesful in persuading the BBC to change it stance and policies in the reporting of ‘climate change’ as described by Dr Joe Smith’s in his OU profile: (h/t DAvid Holland)
“The seminars have been publicly credited with catalysing significant changes in the tone and content of BBC outputs across platforms and with leading directly to specific and major innovations in programming,” – Dr Joe Smith
“It has had a major impact on the willingness of the BBC to raise these issues for discussion. Joe Smith and I are now wondering whether we can help other journalists to perform a similar role in countries round the world” – Roger Harrabin
We wrote about the above at Watts Up With That, when climategate 2 broke, quotes from & more detail here:
Congratulations to Tony, in finally getting all the information..
Links to all the docs on his blog – The Harmless Sky