Wednesday, September 5, 2007

BBC scraps climate change bias-athon

The BBC has abandoned plans for Planet Relief, a 'telethon' to raise awareness about climate change, which was being touted as a cross between Comic Relief (an annual BBC cringe-fest in which people give money to various good causes because comedians tell them to) and Al Gore's mega-flop Live Earth. The report says:

The decision comes after executives said it was not the BBC's job to lead opinion on climate change.

Which is exactly what they’ve been doing for the past several years – so what’s changed? The report admits that:

…against the backdrop of intense internal debates about impartiality, senior news editors expressed misgivings that Planet Relief was too "campaigning" in nature and would have left the Corporation open to the charge of bias.

There has indeed been intense internal debate, with various senior BBC figures criticising the corporation for ‘editorialising’ on climate change – and this in the wake of a report by the BBC itself which essentially acknowledged that it was infected with a left-liberal culture.

The BBC claims it scrapped Planet Relief because audiences 'prefer factual output on climate change'. This is a non-sequitor of course, because the BBC’s factual programmes on climate change are every bit as biased as Planet Relief promised to be.

The real reason for the decision appears to be that the BBC realises the public is becoming sick of hysterical media coverage of the subject, as the failure of Live Earth demonstrated, so the BBC has decided it can have more influence on public opinion by dressing its editorialising up as ‘factual’ programming.

Not surprisingly, environmentalists have slammed the BBC’s decision as "cowardice", (damn, foiled by those pesky well-funded deniers again!). The report adds:

A number of right-wing commentators such as the Daily Mail's Keith Waterhouse also criticised the idea.

The writer, environment correspondent and global warming doomsayer Richard Black, is clearly allowing his frustration to get to him here. You’ll notice that you’ll rarely, if ever, see a commentator referred to as ‘left-wing’ by the BBC.

Interestingly, however, Black adds that ‘Many blogs run by climate skeptics groups regularly accuse the BBC of bias’, and I think this is the really interesting point in all of this. Bloggers, have, of course been at the forefront of the resistance to claims that the debate is over, and have enabled research by skeptical scientists, which previously would have been confined to science magazines and easily suppressed by a hostile media, to be seen by millions.

Another area where bloggers have led the way is in exposing media bias. A few years ago it was almost impossible for the public to complain about biased reporting by the BBC. You could write to them, or phone them, and your complaint would be duly noted before disappearing into the system. Only a few ‘right-wing’ journalists and Tory MPs were able to draw attention to dishonest or misleading reports with any effect.

Blogs have changed all that, and brought together thousands of people who have been quietly seething at the BBC for years, but felt they were powerless to do anything about it; complaints about bias now appear daily, both on dedicated 'Beeb-watch' sites and mainstream blogs, and every omission, half-truth and lie is quickly thrown back in the faces of those responsible.

There are clearly decent people in the BBC who are truly committed to impartiality, but I think we can chalk this one up to the bloggers.

UPDATE: Thanks to Junk Science for linking, and a warming welcome to all you well-funded deniers. I've only been going a month, so do check out some previous posts while you're here; the above piece doesn't fully articulate my admiration for Albert Gore Jr.

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