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« Getting your argument straight | Main | Five Labour administrations, five devaluations »

More Harrabin

I've previously blogged about the Cambridge Environment and Media Programme (which might be the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme; nobody seems sure). CEMP, as I'll call it, is run by the BBC's Roger Harrabin and Dr Joe Smith of the Open University, apparently to improve coverage of green issues in the media. As far as I can tell this involves using the BBC to promote environmentalism, but I recognise that my views may be prejudiced, so let me lay down the evidence I have recently uncovered.

CEMP's activities seem mainly to involve putting together BBC journalists and bigwigs and NGOs to discuss green issues. These meetings have lead to among other things the abortive Planet Relief day of BBC greenery.

CEMP is funded from a mixture of public and private sources - the BBC and the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia both say they have contributed. What the private sources are, or indeed what the legal status of CEMP is remain unclear, but it is not a great stretch of the imagination to believe that these are in fact the self-same NGOs who get to meet the BBC bigwigs.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, Dr Smith indicated that in his view, his work with Roger Harrabin is private activity.

Put these factors together and you have a disturbing situation which raises some uncomfortable questions for the corporation. For example:

  • Why is the BBC funding the private activities of one of its journalists?
  • How can the BBC claim to be editorially independent when it is engaged in a joint venture with unidentified private organisations to shape its own content?
  • Who is authorising this expenditure within the BBC?
  • What is the BBC getting in return?

Lots of questions, but precious few answers at the moment. I'll keep digging, but any suggestions as to ways of attacking the problem will be gratefully received.

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Reader Comments (17)

Unfortunately the BBC does not claim to be impartial with regard to AGW. I emailed them and accused them of bias and after a couple of fairly neutral replies I got this:

"BBC News currently takes the view that their reporting needs to be calibrated to take into account the scientific consensus that global warming is man-made. The BBC's Editorial Guidelines, issued to all editorial staff, state that "we must ensure we avoid bias or an imbalance of views on controversial subjects" and, given the weight of scientific opinion, the challenge for us is to strike the right balance between
mainstream science and sceptics since to give them equal weight would imply that the argument is evenly balanced. The BBC Governors and BBC Management jointly commissioned a report, "From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel - Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century", published in June 2007, which noted that: "There may be now a broad scientific consensus that climate change is definitely happening and that it is at least predominantly man-made… the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus."

I love the statement that "climate change is definitely happening." This was after I sent them the satellite temperature data showing the constant levels since 1998. Not giving equal space is not the same as always reporting evidence supporting AGW, like Pugh's unsuccessful canoe trip to the North Pole where the start was trumpeted, but his failure to get further than previous expeditions was not reported I have complained to the BBC Trust and await a reply.
Dec 16, 2008 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Stroud

Yes, I know about the BBC's claims that they no longer need to be impartial here, but that doesn't permit them to fund private activities of one of their journalists and it doesn't allow them to have their content dictated to them by green organisations, as appears to be happening now.
Dec 16, 2008 at 11:13 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Would the BBC be pleased if one of its political correspondents was involved in something like the Cambridge Political and Media Programme. I think not.

Giving equal space to 'sceptics' isn't the point. Does the BBC even give them a voice? When was the last time that a piece was run entirely from the 'sceptical' viewpoint?

Journalism that only sticks to the 'consensus' isn't journalism but a form of campaigning. The political 'consensus' in the UK is tested at a General Election but that doesn't mean the BBC ignores the political opposition until they get into power. They don't say "The election is settled." in the same way that years ago they said the science was settled.

The reason why the CMCP was established was to give Roger some academic credibility because although he claims to have been reporting on the environment for decades in reality he hasn't. I guess the BBC was hoping that no one would ask questions about it.

And why did the BBC see fit to create a new post for Roger, that of an 'analyst' when it has three environment correrpondents already? It doesn't have 'analysts' in other fields?

I suspect that the BBC news management know nothing about science but felt they wanted to 'own' the subject of global warming so they gave it to Roger who also knows nothing about science.

It is interesting that a former BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse - whom I think is a qualified scientist - takes a different view of global warming. I wonder what his views are on its current reporting?
Dec 16, 2008 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoubting Thomas
Might I suggest any UK citizen reading this blog and comments also complain to the BBC Trust. Perhaps if enough pressure is put on it, it just might influence the BBC.

What I find annoying is that the Corporation always accepts such expressions as 'this is due to climate change' or 'climate change is causing...' from anyone it interviews, regardless of qualifications, yet will never enlist a qualified opinion that might contradict or even debate the statements.

Anyone who wishes to contact the Trust please write to:

Complaints Manager
BBC Trust Unit
Room 211
35 Marylebone High Street

Another complaint that is gaining groud is the BBC's left wing bias.
Dec 16, 2008 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete Stroud
I fear the BBC long ago ceased to behave with even the pretence of impartiality on any "Green" issue. Their behaviour reminds me of the old Russian joke about Izvestia (news) & Pravda (truth) that "there is no Pravda in Izvestia & no Izvestia in Pravda".

Of course the real objection is that we are funding this crap. Personally I believe a mass boycott of the licence fee is the only solution.
Dec 16, 2008 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix
...please keep digging, the BBC still carries a lot of clout, and its prejudices must be exposed. A big YEAH to the poster who suggested non-payment of the broadcasting fee. We did it here in NZ, it worked. The bastard's get it eventually of course, but it was a groundswell of outrage that eventually forced its cancellation.
Dec 16, 2008 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAyrdale
That the BBC has its own quango to ensure that the nonsense it makes up can be attributed elsewhere is not surprising - considering how heavily political the organisation is.
It is well known that governments from the EU down fund lobbyists to lobby the funding organisation in subjects that they cannot be seen to approach without reason. There is also a lot of small print in the funding of green issues which doesn't allow for the alternative point of view to be expressed.

As an example, try and get anyone who is on an EU pension to express doubt in the man made global warming theory and you will fail. Their pension is at stake and no one is going to risk it!

As the BBC gets its funding in no small part from the EU, it might help to explain their point of view. It might be worth trying to find that small print and seeing if it can be publicised. However, the problem is that issues like these are too complex to explain in simple soundbites and so are generally ignored by anyone trying to sell papers. Its a lot easier to talk about future disasters and celebrity boob jobs!
Dec 17, 2008 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterf0ul
Good post - this is something that should be brought to light. The BBC's uncritical and whole-hearted endorsement of the Hockey Stick, in their Climate Wars series this year, was further proof (if any were needed) of their AGW advocacy. Maybe if they brought back David Bellamy to do a series on "Why I'm Sceptical About Manmade Global Warming", I'd start to change my mind about them. Doubt that will happen any time soon, though.

If requests and complaints get nowhere, maybe a mole in CEMP could be the answer. Does anyone reading this blog live in Cambridge?
Dec 17, 2008 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull
A friend and I have both complained several times to the BBC about bias, particularly with regard to climate change, and we get repeated identical replies from the complaints department. Writing directly to the DG (Mark Thompson) has got us no further, with either no response or the complaint passed on to the complaints department, despite asking for a personal response from him.

The whole system is corrupt, but I don't know what can be done about it.
Dec 17, 2008 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

As far as I can tell, CEMP is just Harrabin and Joe Smith. There's nothing to infiltrate.
Dec 18, 2008 at 8:10 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Dec 18, 2008 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterwater melon politics
I would suggest to examine the editorial guidelines of the Beeb. This is a way to hold them accountable - at least to their very own rules set by themselves.

You can browse by subject or download the 200 something long pdf altogether from here:
Dec 18, 2008 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterukridge
water melon politics, thanks for the link. Frankly it is worse than I realised and I am disgusted that our licence fees are being wasted on such propaganda. The beeb are just pushing the very worst of the AGW alarmists views. The normal rubbish about rising sea levels, melting sea ice and the highest ever recorded temperature. I still await an answer from the BBC Trust but as they lost my first letter I need to contact them again.
Dec 18, 2008 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete Stroud
Yes, I have a suggestion about exposing these BBC douchebags. Do unto them as they do unto us.

Go "undercover" and expose them.

Set up a paper fictitious "green group." Something like <b>The International Union of Green Scientists</b>. International is good, because it allows for all sorts of "Hitlers Diaries" scenarios.

Create bogus credentials and successes with the patina of believability. Letterheads, a website, major "endorsements"

Contact CEMP, and try to set up something with the BBC.


It's the only way. I'm up for it and will help.
Dec 18, 2008 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Bauer
Peter - no probs

Al Beeb has another "green" site at

although at first it appears to be just another moonbat web page, at the bottom of the page it says

"©BBC Worldwide Ltd. All rights reserved. The love earth logo is a trademark of the BBC."

who are they saving planet earth from ?

makes me wonder what else Al beeb has hidden away
Dec 19, 2008 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterwater melon politics
Why don't you ask the BBC for a list of all the web domains they have registered?
Dec 20, 2008 at 3:32 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I have just received a reply from the BBC Trust to my letter outlining my complaint of overall bias in favour of AGW, after receiving what I assumed were replies from all the pre BBC Trust stages in complaints procedure. It seems that I have missed out one stage i.e to the head of Editorial Compliance. How complicated can this get? I get the impression that the procedure is so complex that the Beeb hopes complainants will give up. No matter, I'm not giving up and will direct my evidence to this Editorial Compliance bureaucrat and report what answer I receive.

You all might have seen that our government has just sold its one third share of our atomic weapons establishment to a US company. As you can imagine there have been a vast number of adverse comments. More than one commentator has suggested selling the BBC if our government is desperate to raise more money. I guess they have a point.
Dec 20, 2008 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete Stroud

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