BBC given a mandate: balanced climate change coverage

At Last: BBC Told To Ensure Balance On Climate Change

The Daily Telegraph, 13 October 2010

by Neil Midgley

Climate change sceptics are likely to be given greater prominence in BBC documentaries and news bulletins following new editorial guidelines that call for impartiality in the corporation’s science coverage.

The BBC has been repeatedly accused of bias in its reporting of climate change issues.

Last year one of its reporters, Paul Hudson, was criticised for not reporting on some of the highly controversial “Climategate” leaked emails from the University of East Anglia, even though he had been in possession of them for some time.

Climate change sceptics have also accused the BBC of not properly reporting “Glaciergate”, when a study from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying that glaciers would melt by 2035 was discredited.

But the BBC’s new editorial guidelines, published yesterday after an extensive consultation that considered over 1,600 submissions by members of the public, say expressly for the first time that scientific issues fall within the corporation’s obligation to be impartial.

“The BBC must be inclusive, consider the broad perspective, and ensure that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected,” said BBC trustee Alison Hastings.

“In addition the new guideline extends the definition of ‘controversial’ subjects beyond those of public policy and political or industrial controversy to include controversy within religion, science, finance, culture, ethics and other matters.”

However James Delingpole, a prominent climate change sceptic, yesterday said that he predicted little movement in the BBC’s environmental stories.

“It’s highly unlikely that they’ll be more balanced in their coverage,” he said.

“It’s a whole cultural thing at the BBC – that people who don’t believe are just ‘flat earthers’. Whenever they invite dissenters like me on to debates, they surround us with ‘warmists’. On Any Questions, for example, Jonathan Dimbleby does his best to be impartial, but this is a man with a wind turbine in his garden.”

In 2007, a BBC Trust report called Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century said: “Climate change is another subject where dissenters can be unpopular … The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that 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.”

The BBC Trust is also currently conducting a separate review into impartiality in the corporation’s science coverage, led by Professor Steve Jones from University College London, which will report in the spring of next year.

Professor Jones has been asked to consider whether the BBC’s output “gives appropriate weight to scientific conclusions including different theories and due weight to the views expressed by those sceptical about the science and how it was conducted or evaluated.”

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Richard Black the doyen of unbiased reporting said:-
“Successive reports, notably by the Dutch government, have found nothing to challenge the basic picture of a warming world that the IPCC and many other scientific bodies have painted in recent times – whatever the findings may have been about the behaviour of some individual scientists.”
The BBC love makeover programmes and it is only when they carry out a makeover with their environmental correspondants with scientifically qualified personnel will any change occur.

Ken Hall

About time, but I will believe it only when I see it. The BBC is stuffed over full of left-wing cultists who are totally in denial about anything not of that left-wing belief system. They literally cannot compute any data that runs counter to their belief system.


I have been in the UK for a few days and listened to ‘Costing the Earth’ today. A more ludicrous party political broadcast for panic stricken catastrophism one has rarely heard. There is no such thing as balance. There is not even any rationality. Some air head lady explained that indigenous peoples (whoever they are) have a law which is made nature and the environment and not by man. This apparently was the law which excused the Kingsnorth vandals. The complete falsity that extreme weather events are (a) increasing (b) caused by CO2 increases was taken for granted. It was taken for granted that the Katrina disaster was due to emissions.
The oil giants were to blame for having funded denialism, it was just like the tobacco situation all over again.
There was not even the smallest gesture to any different point of view. This was pure propaganda. The UK population is paying for this stuff out of what is essentially a tax levy on the privilege of watching television.
You can probably download it, listen. And then write and object.
But no, there is no balance. There is basically carefully put together deliberate propaganda that has no basis whatever in fact.

Nobody anywhere has established that Hudson was in possession of more than the one, single email that mentioned him personally, and that was passed to him by “a friend”. Because Hudson was able to attest to the veracity of THIS email, he suggested that the content of the Climategate ZIP file may be genuine – all before the veracity of the email content was confirmed by UEA.
Many have made the presumption that, because he had been forwarded THAT email, he must have known of the Climategate ZIP and stayed quiet. This is a logical fallacy. It would be nice if this was acknowledged at some point. Preferably soon.
As for the BBC reporting climate science in a balanced way, there is nothing in the new mandate to force change. The same reporters are reporting the same drivel in the same alarmist ways. Until the BBC’s environmental journalists and spokespeople become suspicious of advocacy scientists and sceptical of their motivations – ideological or financial – and until the BBC recruits science journalists rather than environmentalist advocates and activists, nothing will ever change at the BBC.


Isn’t Prof. Jones an advocate of agw? Not sure. Still, I’ll believe in a change when it actually happens. This last week on Radio 4 has seen a stream of programmes almost automatically accepting the agw hypothesis.

Gene Zeien

Will this make BBC = “Fair and Balanced” news? Hmm, seems rather unlikely, but it could happen…
BTW, I don’t think any news outlet is really unbiased. Anthony’s pretty close, though.

Cheap Shot

I’m surprised they didn’t ask Professor PHIL Jones to consider whether the BBC’s output “gives appropriate weight to scientific conclusions including different theories and due weight to the views expressed by those sceptical about the science and how it was conducted or evaluated.”

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

It’s a start?

erik sloneker

Government should NEVER be in the business of funding journalism. The temptation to control content in pursuit of a political agenda is too great. The recipients of their funding are too easily manipulated.
Here is the USA we need to defund PBS and NPR. Let them stand on their own, if they can. It seems to me that both of these entities are pretty far left of center because the only party that has ever seriousely proposed to withdraw their funding are the repulicans.


I don’t need the Beeb and other media outfits to be more balanced – I just want them to be clear and honest about their rhetorical position on a story so that readers who give a crap can determine when they are being spun. For starters, a prominent link to the editorial guidelines would be essential.
I long abandoned the naïve notion that journalists acted like Joe Friday and just gave us the facts. “Facts” are used explicitly by politicians to argue for a certain position. Media outfits do the very same thing with facts but cloak themselves in the intellectually dishonest claim of “impartiality”. By compelling media outfits to publish editorial guidelines we can better know the spin (again assuming one cares enough to ferret out the spin).


Expecting the BBC to be balanced on global warming is like a boxing commentator asking a deaf person to extol the wonders of Mozart, they just don’t have any shared terms of reference. They can’t tell when they’re being biased.
They need to spend some time talking to sceptics to hear our side of the story, not our side as told by climate crusaders.

Don’t buy the hype. The media is the propaganda arm of the government, and government wants draconian global warming legislation.

Tim Spence

Think what you like but it ain’t going to happen. There’s too much invested in AGM and the BBC are part of the machinery.

Anyway the good news is (from the Guardian) that the BBC willl have a tiny ‘carbon footprint’ covering Cancun Cop16..
Damian Carrington – Guardian
“Certainly the political momentum has gone out of the climate talks after the Copenhagen debacle, which saw 120 world leaders turning up to sign a treaty which had yet to be negotiated. But sending just one correspondent to Mexico seems very underweight for one of the world’s biggest newsgathering organisations. Shame on them.”
What a shame. all those beaches and nice hotels going to waste.


All the BBC has to do is call up the CBC and run some Rex Murphy pieces

Staffan Lindström

October 14, 2010 at 10:16 am
…Michel…one BBC Radio 4 “Costing the earth” programme is called: “Can we save
the earth by staying in our pyjamas?” … Monty Python somebody…??


michel says October 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

You can probably download it …

Schrodinger's Cat

The notion of AGW is so engrained in the BBC that less bias is simply impossible to achieve. The message about warming creeps into almost every subject on R4 and if there is a rare reporting of sceptical views it is laced with dire warming comments by the reporter. The organisation is incapable of rational thought on the subject.


Sure, they’ll make sure they balance the coverage, the same way the CBC used to balance coverage of American politics. They would interview a Democrat who hated GWB, and then to balance things, they would interview a Republican who hated GWB. See how fair you can be if you try?


Simply marking the items in a store known for exorbitant pricing as “reduced” won’t bring in spending customers, and neither will token attempts at painting BBC as environmentally unbiased. The public has to see tangible change.
So, the ball rests in BBC’s court. Will they actually make a move?

Old Goat

Watch my lips – “There will be NO discernible change”.
Too much at stake, dyed-in-the-wool advocacy, and a pension fund to think about. They’ll not give up that easily, even if they pretend to. The BBC requires at best privatisation, at worst disassembly. pretty soon, too.

Northern Exposure

Ooooo, a news media reporting impartially… what a novel idea !

Fine in theory. But the main Science bodies are still putting out rubbish statements.
OK BBC. Will you put your money where your mouth is? Will you host a debate between experts on both sides?
WUWT readers – can we all ask for this?


I sent an email on Monday to the British Bovine Excrement Corp alerting them of the Hal Wilson story and requesting they cover it in the interest of fairness.
Have they?
Not yet and I’m not staying up till they do.

Andrew P.

Even if the BBC sacked Harribin, Black and Shukman, it could never be balanced when covering the AGW hypothesis; the organisation is entirely funded by the license fee, which every 5 years or so the UK government reviews. Hence, the BBC never diverges too far from the government line on any policy or issue, lest it offends the politicians in charge, and it suffers a subsequent ‘cut’ in funding. As all the mainstream UK parties have fallen for the AGW bull, the BBC will be honour bound to support the AGW nonsense, for some time yet. That said, it is a big organisation, and there will always be some individuals who retain balance and integrity, but in recent years they have been few and far between. (Stephen Sackur’s excellent interview with Greenpeace’s outgoing Executive Director is the only piece that springs to mind – ). Hopefully this new guidance will mean that Paxman can start tearing in to the AGW advocates.

UK Sceptic

I thinks it’s about time the BBC became a PLC. Let’s see how long its various leftie and greenie biases last when separated from the £billions legally extorted from private UK citizens via the TV licence.

I have to agree with Dellingpole. A few words in a policy statement is not going to change “blind” obedience to their god. They will simply not find anyone or anything on the skeptic side to report on, or to offer comments on pro AGW articles. Or, more probably, they will simply not recognize an article as being on climate change, instead being something dealing with administrative matters or politics.

Andrew P.

UK Sceptic says:
October 14, 2010 at 11:21 am
I thinks it’s about time the BBC became a PLC. Let’s see how long its various leftie and greenie biases last when separated from the £billions legally extorted from private UK citizens via the TV licence.

Much as I agree that the BBC is biased in favour of the greens (and the left on some but not all issues), I don’t think privatisation is the way forward; The Daily Telegraph and Times are both very keen on AGW, and they are hardly run by a bunch of lefties with a fondness for out of season blaeberries.

This was discussed on Yahoo climatesceptics some time ago. I believe it was Richard Courtney who went after the BBC with FOI. As I try and remember, when Lord May was President of the Royal Society he took some 20 scientists to meet with a similar number of senior BBC staff. It was after this meeting that the BBC adopted it’s policy of only reporting pro-CAGW news. Presumably this is merely a reversal of this policy, and we might see a significant shift.

richard verney

The BBC is institutionally biased and this guideline is no more than lip service to journalistic standards and there will be no sea change.
As noted the BBC is heavily influenced by the government (overwhelmingly so when the governmnent is left wing or liberal) and therefore tends to tow the party line especially if this fits in with the views of the leftish geeks who run the show.
Further, the BBC’s pension fund is hugely invested in green technology. The BBC needs to talk up green issues to prevent pension deficits and therefore has a vested interest in talking up AGW.


As a good proportion of the BBC’s pension pot sits in ‘green’ portfolios, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much change soon. However, provided people are willing to spend the time complaining when they see unbiased reporting on climate issues, then this ‘ruling’ gives them more power, and with continual pressure change can be forced to happen.

We should give the BBC a chance to prove their commitment to neutrality. Nothing would please more than Connely having to say the BBC is not a reliable source and remove all Wiki articles that have a BBC link. That would inflame some people.

UK John

The BBC News first reported the Asian Tsunami as “caused by Climate Change”, and they never issued a retraction, they just sort of ignored what they initially reported as the cause.
The BBC News have also reported that coastal erosion in Norfolk, houses falling in the sea etc, is caused by Climate Change. I wrote, complained, and pointed out that they were correct that coastal erosion of Cliffs made of Glacial Deposits, was due to Climate Change, in this case the climate change that occurred 10,000 years ago.

Russell C

If America’s own PBS NewsHour is ever told to ‘put things back even’ they would have their own tough hill to climb. In my American Thinker article “The Left and Its Talking Points” ( ), I tell how they had over 200 program segments about AGW in some form or another going back to 1996, with only three giving any usable mention of skeptic science.

Paul Deacon, Christchurch, New Zealand

The BBC staff pension fund is heavily invested in “green” technologies, to a greater extent, IIRC, than any other major UK corporation.
The UK government is heavily into “green” corporatism . The Climate Change minister, Tim Yeo, is an investor in, and on the board of a handful of “green” technology companies, some of which he chairs. Since this is all very well aligned with the BBC’s stance, not just on AGW, but other “green” issues, I do not expect any change during the term of the current parliament (and probably beyond).
I suggest a boycott of the BBC (don’t watch BBC TV, and you don’t have to pay their license fee) would be a better method of achieving change than dreaming about any change from the top.
All the best.


Jonathan Dimbleby does his best to be impartial, but this is a man with a wind turbine in his garden.
Dunno anything about Dimbleby, and I’m not sure what this is supposed to tell me. I mean, I’ve heard of a reputable climate realist who has solar panels on his roof…. : > )


Andrew P,
The Times and the Guardian can be what ever they want simply because no one is forced by law to buy their news papers. With the BBC it is different. Here in the UK we HAVE to pay for the BBC.


I suggest a boycott of the BBC (don’t watch BBC TV, and you don’t have to pay their license fee) would be a better method of achieving change than dreaming about any change from the top.
Oh you do have to pay, even if you watch on a pc!


Unfortunately for balance, the scientific literature found in peer reviewed journals is strongly biased in favor of green house gases causing serious climate warming. What does balance mean in this situation? Should balance be based polling or the popularity of internet blogs? If 90% of scientific articles support AGW, would balanced reporting also give 90% support to AGW?


Lord Reith (first and great director general of the BBC) must be spinning in his grave at the lack of impartiality and disinterest in the BBC. They will spin anything, yes anything, as driven by AGW. They are an outrage to the licence fee public. They exemplify perfectly the development of contemporary society, first catered by cheap daily papers and weekly ones, the spread of tertiary education, which resulted in a large population with well developed literary and scholarly tastes – but all sufficiently uneducated to undertake analytical thought. The pavlovian response by the BBC is to spin anything that can possibly be attributable to AGW. Do we laugh? Or do we cry? Meanwhile, the Royal Society, stamps itself indelibly into history by refusing to debate the issue. Rees and May will have a lot to answer for when posterity looks back at today.

Ken Hall

If the BBC’s record on political impartiality is anything to go by, they will never live up to their duties under their own charter.
They seem to think that they can demonstrate impartiality only through issuing statements of impartiality, without actually having to be impartial in practice.

Michael Larkin

Paul Deacon, Christchurch, New Zealand says:
October 14, 2010 at 12:33 pm
“I suggest a boycott of the BBC (don’t watch BBC TV, and you don’t have to pay their license fee) would be a better method of achieving change than dreaming about any change from the top.”
Would that it were so. In fact, It wouldn’t matter if you could prove your TV had been disabled from receiving BBC programmes – the licence fee is still due in full. It’s been admitted by government that the licence fee is, in effect, a TV tax, not a BBC tax.
If you don’t have a TV and don’t pay the tax, that’s okay. However, You can be sure that this will be picked up quickly and you’ll have people from TV licensing round in a jiffy to accuse you of evasion. I’m being perfectly serious here, by the way. It is presumed that every household has a TV, and if there is no revenue from it, evasion is presumed.

Stephen Brown

The BBC cannot be unbiased, it is too heavily involved financially with CAGW.
“The BBC is the only media organisation in Britain whose pension fund is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has more than 50 members across Europe.
Its chairman is Peter Dunscombe, also the BBC’s Head of Pensions Investment.”
Would you talk down the value of your own pension? I think not.


Was it the complaints registered to Ofcom that prompted all of this action?


I think this is a good idea
The sooner the UK public can see the reality of the inconsistency of (and lack of scientific backing for) the anti-AGW arguments the quicker we can get on with implementing the changes to tackle the problem.
I’m just waiting for the program where we get some saying it isn’t warming , some saying its solar activity , some saying it’s a scientific conspiracy and a series of fact showing the artic melting , the solar minimum and the reality of normal scientists.
The BBC might even sell the program to other media organisation so it might end up on TV in the US .

Peter Miller

The BBC has long had a built in institutional bias to reporting all matters in a trendy and/or liberal/lefty way. Nothing is going to change this, unless you clean out the Augean Stable and that is not going to happen anytime soon.
The BBC is top heavy with overpaid executives, mostly of the ‘sensible sweater’ variety. These individuals would be largely unemployable in the real world and therefore will do nothing to implement real and meaningful change.
They are part of a mutual support organisation, similar to climate ‘scientists’, where dissension is not tolerated and only the status quo of what the Establishment deems good is allowed.
Having said that, it is still one one of the most professional and least biased news organisations when it comes to reporting facts.
However, the BBC still refuses to recognise that climate ‘science’ obviously does not fall into the category of ‘facts’, but rather of a cult run by a small group of grant-financed individuals, purveying dubious theories in the form of scary unfounded forecasts and models, which in turn are based on manipulated, strangled or falsified data.

David A. Evans

On the one hand I’m with Dellers, no change likely.
On the other hand, Richard North was invited onto Radio Oxford…

Aunty Freeze

The BBC won’t change their biased reporting whilst they have so much money invested in the AGW scam
There is no honesty or integrity in science, politics, journalism etc,. views, theories, policies and reporting all come down to money over honesty.


Black and Harrabin have their snouts in the ideological trough. Nothing will change.

Dave Andrews

Paul Deacon,
It’s not that simple. If you watch any broadcast by any broadcaster on any medium (TV,satellite, digital box, computer or mobile phone) as it is actually being broadcast you have to have a licence.
Doesn’t matter if you never watch BBC at all.