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Earlier in the year, Tony Newbery and I wrote to Professor Richard Tait the head of the BBC Trust, via Bruce Vander, the head of the trust's Editorial Standards Committee. The letter concerned the famous seminar about which Tony and I blogged the other day.

Some time later, Tony decided that it would be wise to check with Mr Vander that Professor Tait had received the letter.

And there hangs a tale...

Read it here.

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Reader Comments (40)

Its a pity we can;t have a TV license fee strike, how many times do you have to ask a straight question to get a straight yes or no.

I thought there could only be one Muir Russell !!!!!!

Nov 24, 2010 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

I have personally arrived to the conclusion that you cant trust the establishment. The only way to resolve this, will be to copy the Irish in what they are just about to do to theirs.

Nov 24, 2010 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Unfortunately arrogance is a poor substitute for competence. I would expect a rather more professional response from someone running a whelk stall.

"Professor" Tait, please note.

Nov 24, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Bruce Vander
Interested In: (among others) career opportunities, getting back in touch.

Nov 24, 2010 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

"Eh, is that you, Professor?"
"I believe so. Woke up this morning with the distinct impression that it was. Fourth floor, if you please, Van. Can't reach the demned button."
"Fourth it is. Got a letter for you from that Newbery chap."
"Not sure I recollect who he is. What does he want?"
"Wants to meddle in our forthcoming tribute to BBC's science coverage."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Tell the cheeky beggar to go do the hokey-pokey with himself."
"I say! Not in those terms, I hope!"
"Oh, no. We'll treat him with polite disdain, give him the usual proper run-around."
"[Chuckle] Oops, here's my floor. Toodle-pip."

Dear Mr Newbery: We have shared your letter with Professor...

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"...your letter has been shared..." - does that mean torn in half?

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commenternot baned yet


Put in a bacon buttie and divided equally between the two of them.

I hope they choke on it when the facts get out.

Peter Walsh

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

just in case jazznick is around:

on the "UEA - A new story thread" i just responded to jazznick's mention of a new BBC radio 4 program, The Empire of Climate fronted by Prof David Livingstone. i posted a link to a review of a Mike Hulme book by Livingstone (and Fiona Fox), plus a couple of links from Christianity Today - one an interview with Sir John Houghton at the end of which there was mention of a previous piece with Livingstone,plus the link to the earlier Livingstone article in Christianity Today.

as for the run-around newbery got from vander and the bbc, kudos to newbery for his persistence. wouldn't it have been good journalism if "hull daily news" and "the australian" newspapers had followed up the BBC spokesman/spokesmen who said paul hudson was "forwarded" his "chain of emails" by asking, "forwarded by whom"?

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Its a pity we can;t have a TV license fee strike,

WHY?? Just say "no!" You are paying for this abuse!

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

A year ago tomorrow I submitted an FOI request to the BBC asking for the names of the 30 "best scientific experts" (see who had attended the BBC's now notorious 2006 seminar on global warming. The BBC refused to divulge their names. I followed up this request with a further request for the methodology used to select these "best scientific experts". Again I was refused. So I drew my own conclusions about the transparency and the integrity of the BBC, an institution which I had always previously held in high regard.

It now appears that that at least some of these "best scientific experts" were not scientists at all but political activists. The BBC misled us and cannot be trusted.

Many thanks for pursuing the truth.

Nov 24, 2010 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

"To share something with somebody" is a form of words used by Corporate Man, notably in multinationals, as a substitute for "to pass something on to somebody". Its purposes can include, amongst other things, attempting to make the speaker sound cleverer than he is. Those who use such expressions are normally incapable of speaking plain English, which means that nobody understands what they are talking about. It looks like the BBC Trust is a corporate jargon factory, and little else.

Nov 24, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterFZM

'They know they can trust us not to be really impartial'
- Lord Reith (first Director-General of the BBC) - diary entry on the relationship between the Government and the BBC at the time of the 1926 General Strike, quoted by Clive Ponting in "Secrecy in Britain"

Nov 24, 2010 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos


I've copied your satirical take on high level consultations at the BBC over to the thread on my blog. I hope you don't mind.

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

If you've got young kids or have got to a level at which the attractions of having a TV are far outweighed by the sheer, mind-numbing output of the box, then do consider the option of withdrawing, for some time, from the pool of TV watchers.
I fall into the latter category and stopped watching TV in June; bought a DAB and have experienced zero regrets.
A friend, younger and in the former circumstances, did likewise and has experienced only positive benefits. His kids, read more. Spend more time on homework and, thanks to the DVD, get loads of entertainment to give a welcome balance to their endevours!
For some, it will be difficult to boycott the goggle-box but it's worthy of the thought and hopefully a spur to action.
As things stand; GB is poised to surrender its place in the world to other countries.
If that means that we will experience the joys of energy starvation, dawn to dusk existence and absolution from the guilt of post-colonialism then I fail to see the connection with the plea: think of the children.
The biggest monkey-organ of the CAGW cathedral is the government-supported MSN.
The greatest organ-grinder, in the UK. is the BBC.
Deprive them, in the short-term, of the funding that they've budgetted for and they'll have to rethink for the long-term.
GB, PLC, is heading towards disaster. The establishment is blissfully unaware of the looming catastrophe. It's bought, so much, into the brochurism that it funded that it needs a rude shock to regain
any semblance of sanity!
Don't let the Beebs grind you down. They need you long before you need them.
They don't like it up 'em.
Just do it.
And then, perhaps, we'll get a taste of sanity back into our lives.

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

OT but DZB is getting murdered over at the Daily Mail.......something to do with snow!

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

I nominate January the Ninth as the day on which we should alert our diaries.
OK, it's our favourite Civil servants, rhymes with poor, birthday.
In recognition of the contribution that our lordly, Russell, has given to the Scientific process, let us give honour to his day of discovery.
I nominate the Ninth of January, 2011, as that moment of time when everyone remembers where they were.
Respect Russ. You did one Helluva Job!
Maybe, 179.5 degrees out of the azimuth, but nice one mate!

Nov 25, 2010 at 1:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Let's make Jan 9th as the day we eschew the BBC sense of business as normal!
If we don't, then fine, but if we do then it'll be a powerful message sent!

Nov 25, 2010 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I have worked in this world... "shared" has a specific meaning...

It means a person with Authority is imparting information to you. Information that by rights you would not normally be expected to receive. However the person in Authority in stills retains the responsibility.

It is often used by people higher in Authority letting people lower down feel they are being given something interesting without bringing them into any decision making ownership.

Also, it is typically used by managers at competing organisations when they want to share information that might be of common benefit in the short term. Two Project Managers wanting to get rid of a Project Sponsor, passing info to each other.

"I gave the other firms Project Manager the details of the Project Directors failure to..."
"I shared with the other firms Project Manager certain details on the the Project Director..."

The person imparting the info retains OWNERSHIP with "sharing" and passes on responsibility when "giving".

Reading those BBC emals... you know in a top heavy bureaucratic organisation like the BBC this is almost a special language. And EVERYONE has learnt to write in this way, and never to hit the SEND button before making sure no one will screw you over what you write. Institutionalised.

Nov 25, 2010 at 5:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

I am afraid that this made me laugh out loud. Being a solicitor I have had the pleasure of that sort of correspondence more than once. Utterly pointless and makes you want to slam your head against the wall. Mind you, that’s the way to bill your client an enormous amount of money. May I advice that you guys next time apply a bit of Sun Tzu? “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” and pick up the telephone. People hide behind letters and emails, however if you call them up and are extremely polite they will eventually relent and put you through to whoever you want to speak to, who will then, normally slightly surprised, provide you with the required info.

Nov 25, 2010 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterH

Isn't there something in the magna carta about lawful rebellion should we not find redress?

BBC is funded by statute law, statute law is a contract is it not, governed by consent...

I consider the contract broken, and I withdraw my consent to be governed under an unfair contract.

Who do I send my notice to? :^)

Nov 25, 2010 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterpete

It takes a minute to find Tait's email at Cardiff. Why not ask him what it all means? Or if he got the letter?

Pretty sure he could be phoned there too.

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

If your objective was to get this letter to Professor Tait,would it not have been simpler and quicker to ring the BBC switchboard and ask for his address at the BBC. Or if that failed, address it to him registered mail c/o BBC?

That said, I entirely agree that the BBC have acted like a bunch of nicompoops; talk about unhelpful. The sooner they are privatised the better.

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered Commentermitcheltj

At least we have an answer now for those who still insist that the CRU emails were hacked. Perhaps a 'thank you for sharing' note might be in order...

WRT getting the message to Professor Tait, I think I'd have tried a real letter by now. That should be more difficult for others to answer.

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Pete Hayes

I note that 'Mrs ZBD' has chimed in with: "My husband told me that it was eight inches but it turned out that it was only two"

I guess you'd need a sense of humour in her position. :-)

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Don Pablo de la Sierra
Its a pity we can;t have a TV license fee strike,

WHY?? Just say "no!" You are paying for this abuse!

Ten year or so ago, I dumped my TV. The licence people kept sending rude letters demanding that I explain why I had no licence. In the end, after they threatened to apply for a search warrant to look for my supposed TV, I phoned them to say I really did not have a TV and they wrote back to say I would not be troubled further.

Two weeks later, a copper and two gorrillas with a search warrant knocked on my front door.

I got them to speak to their headquarters before going ahead with their search. Headquarters told them there had been a mistake and they should go away.

I wrote a long letter complaining about the obvious chaos in their organisation, the effect that having a copper (plus two gorrillas) on the doorstep for half an hour would have on the neighbours etc etc. I said that required compensation for the inconvenience, embarrassement, stress, etc.

They wrote back saying that they did not pay compensation but, in this totally unusual situation, they would make a ex gratia payment of £200. I still have a .jpg image of the cheque.

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

The continual demand to know whether the letter had been 'given' to the addressee is only ever answered that it had been 'shared'. It is blindingly obvious that it had not been given to the addressee. There could be a number of reasons: 1. BBC employees deliberately intervening to withhold information from Prof. Tait that they think does not serve their personal agendas, or their belief in the BBC's agenda; 2. instruction from Prof. Tait to screen out 'unhelpful' submissions so that he can honestly say that he hasn't received them. The fact that the BBC employee thought fit to comment on a submission that the addressee hadn't even seen is very telling.

Sadly, this reeks of the same kind of politics that surrounds the UEA-Briffa-Osborne-Boulton-Russell issue that is in other recent postings. This whole course of conduct and politics absolutely stinks.

Nov 25, 2010 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

I see that the BBC's experience in producing excellent comedies is spilling over into its administrative and operative activities.

In Australia, our ABC would never be like that. /sarc

Nov 25, 2010 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Pond

'Mrs ZBD" ? is this the same idiot running up and down the comments on the daily mail site demanding evidence from us "denier" types ?

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

ScientistForTruth - sounds very likely. One way to find out. Pick up the telephone to the dear Prof. T and politely enquire if he has received the letter. If not, then you go "oh what a shame, can I have your personal email so that I can re-send it and make sure you get it", if yes, then say "great, have you had a chance to look at our submission? I would love to hear your initial thoughts"

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterH

'Mrs ZBD" ? is this the same idiot running up and down the comments on the daily mail site demanding evidence from us "denier" types ?

Sadly yes, plus is the resident Tame Troll for this site too.

The less mentioned the better IMHO.

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

All very depressing but couldn't you just email him at his Cardiff Uni address instead...
...and get him to offer you a BBC contact address?
Or is this the wrong Prof Richard Tait?

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterjustinert

As we pay these guys wages via the TV Licence, would it be possible to find out their salaries, and translate that into the number of Licence Fees that have to be paid to keep these guys in "work"

Nov 25, 2010 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

"People hide behind letters and emails,..."

Yes, but emails and letters leave a record. Miss Hughes now stands exposed for sharing instead of giving.

Sometimes organizational process becomes as revealing as any response you would like to elicit from them.

Nov 25, 2010 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Snub - indeed. Depends on what you want to achieve. Do you want to make sure that Prof. T reads the submission? or do you want to have on record that Miss Hughes has been acting as “Gate-keeper” (self-appointed or otherwise)? :o)

Nov 25, 2010 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterH

I hope this will teach Tony Newberry and anyone else who thinks this is a scientific argument or debate . It's a multi trillion dollar corporate scam perpetrated by multi national business and the media. These people are not debating, they are lying. They are bigger than you and they can pretend you don't exist.

James Hansen

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade with offsets", a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

Nov 25, 2010 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smith

This is a fabulous tale, but not for its internal story. This CAGW/skeptic dispute is far less about actual happenings in the physical world as it is about human psychology.
The refusal to pass something on, the refusal to answer a simple question (as to whether "share" is actually, "I gave it to him") is familiar to me through my many years as a technical manager. The inability - it strikes me that "refusal" may not be appropriate here - to face that which is against core beliefs or the moment's ego seems to be behind the climate change arguments. It may be a symptom of the same issue that stops people from running away from advancing armies that slaughter them. Some eventualities are too gruesome or shattering to our worldview to allow into our lives. We will watch the flames consume us rather than admit we are in a fire. Right or wrong is not at stake. How we think of ourselves is.

Humans seem intelligent and progressive. They seem creative and open-minded. But perhaps we are so in only a very limited way. Perhaps that is why we still have national wars. Why we stockpile nuclear weapons, vacuum-fish the seas and make Reality Shows number 1 TV entertainment.

The difficulty seems less to me about facts than it is about getting others to objectively review their hardwon, hardwired positions.

Nov 25, 2010 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

I think it is a terrible mistake to assume anyone at the BBC, Guardian, George Monbiot, climate scientists, even James Hansen actually believe what they write or say. There are ideological and self interested (salary, grants) reasons for exaggerating or just plain lying.

In fact I asume that any science educated individual who believes in a severe danger from CO2 is lying. Before censorship kicked in the Guardian forums, the vast majority of science related individuals were serious sceptics.

Nov 25, 2010 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterE.Smith

"I've copied your satirical take on high level consultations at the BBC over to the thread on my blog. I hope you don't mind." --TonyN

Quite all right, old chap. Honored, in fact.


Nov 25, 2010 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"Do you want to make sure that Prof. T reads the submission? or do you want to have on record that Miss Hughes has been acting as “Gate-keeper”

We do not care if Prof T reads it, but we do want the head of the BBC trust to read it.

Miss Hughes ought not to have played these games with the submission, because the recipient was an official.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Slightly OT, but did anyone else hear John Humphrys interview Vicki Pope this morning? A touch of scepticism crept through, I thought...

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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