Guest essay by Eric Worrall
University of East Anglia Philosophy teacher Rupert Read is outraged that the government funded BBC would invite a climate “denier” to appear on the same show as himself.
I won’t go on the BBC if it supplies climate change deniers as ‘balance’
Thu 2 Aug 2018 22.16 AEST
Like most Greens, I typically jump at opportunities to go on air. Pretty much any opportunity: BBC national radio, BBC TV, Channel 4, Sky – I’ve done them all over the years, for good or ill. Even when, as is not infrequently the case, the deck is somewhat stacked against me, or the timing inadequate for anything more than a soundbite, or the question up for debate less than ideal.
But this Wednesday, when I was rung up by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and asked to come on air to debate with a climate change denier, something in me broke, and rebelled. Really? I thought. This summer, of all times?
So, for almost the first time in my life, I turned it down. I told it that I will no longer be part of such charades. I said that the BBC should be ashamed of its nonsensical idea of “balance”, when the scientific debate is as settled as the “debate” about whether smoking causes cancer. By giving climate change deniers a full platform, producers make their position seem infinitely more reasonable than it is. (This contributes to the spread of misinformation and miseducation around climate change that fuels the inaction producing the long emergency we are facing.)
From a public service broadcaster, this is simply not good enough.
In the end, the broadcast went ahead without me. Much of it wasn’t bad. The scientists interviewed were excellent. But the framing of the debate was awful, and framing is everything, so far as the message that most listeners receive is concerned. The presenter introduced the segment by asking, “Is climate change real?” The journalist doing vox pops bombarded ordinary people with canards such as, “Maybe it’s just a natural cycle?” And, of course, a climate change denier was given a huge and undeserved platform on an equal basis to his opponent.
How UEA – a philosopher who refuses to debate.