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Booker on the Beeb

Christopher Booker has an article in the Mail ahead of the publication of his report into the BBC and climate change later today.

So distorted has the BBC’s coverage become that I produced a detailed report on the subject for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the ‘sceptical’ think-tank run by former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, which is published today.

My disturbing findings show that the problem began a few years ago when the alarm over global warming was at its height. Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth — a sensationalist documentary warning of the imminent destruction of our planet because of climate change — was packing in vast audiences and being circulated to our schools to show to children.

Tony Blair was putting global warming at the top of his government’s agenda. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) was producing its scariest report to date.

At a secret ‘high-level seminar’ in January 2006, 30 of the BBC’s most senior staff listened as a former president of the Royal Society, Lord May, told them that ‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over, and that the BBC must ‘stop reporting the sceptics’.

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Reader Comments (40)

Shouldn't the second paragraph be part of the quote?

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Bloggsworth

Fixed- thanks

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:03 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I guess many of us saw the BBC's last Frozen Planet episode which laments the disappearance of ice at the poles and Greenland, the decreasing polar bear populations and talks about warming at the poles and the loss of ice because of warmer air. To be fair Attenborough didnt mention CO2 once, but he did trot out a lot of the standard warmist opinions.

Which is why I can't quite reconcile this with his own recent statements, for example from October this year in SAGA magazine:

‘I wish people would stop talking about global warming; it is climate change that matters. Instead of becoming hotter, the air will become cooler, and many regions including Britain could become much colder. I’ve been saying that for years."

Not an opinion that made it into Frozen Planet.

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRB

"I’ve been saying that for years"

But only to himself, presumably.

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"Tony Blair was putting global warming at the top of his government’s agenda."

Yep, if the Nu Labour party were saying it, it must have been kosher and Tony Blair - well, he's next to God isn't he?
Objectivity? @the beeb?............. LEFT scuttling out of the backdoor [again].

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Mrs. Geronimo told me yesterday that the US didn't want the seventh episode and won't be showing it. The way things are going the UK and Australia will be the only countries in the world trying to reduce carbon emissions.

The BBC has a lot to answer for, not only have they suppressed the legitimate discussion of the science, but more importantly, they've suppressed the discussion of how we respond to global warming if it exists.

I believe it should be dismantled, just keeping BBC1 and BBC2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 and the world service. It shouldn't be allowed to advertise vacancies in the Guardian and a more the management and journalists should represent a broader cross section of the community, asthe cast of characters out of Love Actually.

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Sorry, should have read "as it is they look like the cast of characters out of Love Actually in their social make up."

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

The obvious thing about the BBC's position on the matter of CAGW is that they moved from "favourable" reportage to unprincipled activism where the actual truth (oops... the T word) is a strange and alien concept.

Dec 8, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

"..former president of the Royal Society, Lord May, told them that ‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over, and that the BBC must ‘stop reporting the sceptics’..." This is a most disturbing comment from such a senior member of the scientific community. It is almost unbelievable that any professional scientist should argue against his most basic training. I can understand that publicists such as Al Gore would make such a statement, But never an ex president of the Royal Society. What is it about climate science that gets into these people? Of course May's legacy is that the Royal Society is still squarely aligned with the alarmists.

But well done Christopher Booker. You have done a service to every BBC licence payer, and hopefully, to the public at large.

Dec 8, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

I believe that several countries declined to take episode 7 but the story is that there was a lot of Attenborough to camera on it (I haven't seen the series; I couldn't comment) and he's not an especially well-known face outside the UK.
As for which channels the BBC should keep, my preference is actually for BBC4 which is about all I watch these days apart from the News and Parliament channels.
And an intelligent 24-hour news+current affairs channel would be a godsend!

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

I shall be very interested to read the Booker report and see what he has to say.

There is no doubt that the BBC is extremely biased in its reporting on a number of issues and this is largely dictated by its lefty Notting Hill/Islington liberal view that inflict the majority of its staff.

I can accept that editorial decisions may well be influenced by advice received from "a former president of the Royal Society, Lord May, [telling] them that ‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over."
This might justify reporting of truly newsworthy events in which a fairly objective stance is taken but which due to editorial decisions there was a restricted approach given to interviewing scientists holding a skeptical view in response to the newsworthy event (I consider that all scientists should be skeptics). The problem besetting the BBC is that it has gone far beyond the realms of reporting and has taken on the mantle of advocacy. That leap is quite unacceptable.

I agree with observation by Geronimo (Dec 8, 2011 at 8:57 AM | geronimo). It is one issue as to whether the science overwhelmingly confirms AGW. It is quite a different issue as to how we should respond to that and the lack of debate and the failure by the BBC to hold politicians accountable for their response potentially has led to untold damage.

The response is costing trillions of dollars, involving the de-industrialisation of the West, the loss of jobs, the shifting of the economies (rebalance of the economies) of the West from an industrial economy to that of a service orientated economy (particularly towards the financial services orientated economy), the transfer of power from West to East which will have untold effect on the future policing of the world (will China take on the role that America has been doing these past 50 or so years? - in making this observation I am not endorsing foreign policy but merely pointing out that world order may become something radically different), the unnecessary escalation in energy prices which has a knock on effect on the cost of all products and not forgetting that this is pushing people into fuel poverty (in the UK it is estimated that already about 25% of households are in fuel poverty and it will not be long before this figure climes to 40%).. One major reason for the present economic problems besetting the West is the response that it has taken to the AGW issue. This is partly to blame for high unemployment (the loss of industries and the loss of their competitiveness due to red tape and increasing fuel costs), balance of trade deficits and the difficulties that the West faces in creating growth which would allow the West to grow out of the present economic difficulties).

The BBC by shutting down debate on the response has played a not insignificant role in the present woes and difficluties that now beset the UK.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Frozen Planet was an excellent series. The BBC should be congratulated on that. Even the last episode tried to explain but did not preach. Fair enough they left out a few things that contradicts the current stance on climate change, but that was to be expected. But as thing stand we know that the Artcic has warmed, the Antarctic has got colder and the the Antarctic peninsula has warmed due to winds bring warmer water further south.

I maybe be wrong, but I think David Attenborough only said the phrase "Global Warming" once and that was near the end. Just shows how sensitive the debate has become since Climategate, even within the Beeb.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

"..former president of the Royal Society, Lord May, told them that ‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over, and that the BBC must ‘stop reporting the sceptics’..."

This was presumably made at the BBC meeting supposedly held under Charterhouse rules in which the participants were emboldened by ther belief that they would never be quoted.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Mike Jackson
My sky dish gives me access to a wide range of news channels worldwide, with 'France24' (in English) much the best for real news, Fox News is excellent for events from a US perspective, usually debating both sides of any argument, AlJazeera must be checked for Middle East stories and RT (Russian) if you want the other side on any issue.
The great pity is that Fox were not allowed to take over Sky News, which is really what the anti-Murdoch campaign was all about.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Thanks, toad.
I really should be a bit more adventurous in my viewing! I can get all the channels you mention ...

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Pity porr English graduate BBc's Roger Harrabin!

Roger: (extracts)
"I remember Lord May leaning over and assuring me: "I am the President of the Royal Society, and I am telling you the debate on climate change is over."

"Lord May's formidable intellect and the power of his personality may have made it hard for others to find a corner from which to dissent. "The debate is over" was a phrase used in order to persuade Tony Blair that policies were needed to tackle the rise in CO2."

"But what did the phrase mean? Did it mean the IPCC is unquestionably right? Or that cutting emissions 80% is the only way to save the planet? Or simply that it is basic physics that CO2 is a warming gas?"

"Even at the Heartland Institute climate sceptics' conference in Chicago last week most scientists seemed to agree that CO2 had probably warmed the planet at the end of the 20th century, over and above natural fluctuations.

But they did not agree that the warming will be dangerous - and they object to being branded fools or hirelings for saying so."

BBC: Harrabin's Notes - Getting the Message

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

[From Booker's excellent article:]

This bias was soon evident across the whole of the BBC’s output. Not just in the news and current affairs coverage, but from children’s programmes such as Blue Peter —which titled one show Green Peter, with top tips to save the planet — to story-lines in The Archers, one of which involved a farmer planting trees to combat climate change.

Long ago and far away, when I was but a kid growin' up in the U.K., in the days before the interweb was even a gleam in anyone's eye ...

I can remember many evenings in my grandmother's home, when conversation ceased so that we could listen to The Archers. Apart from the fact that I can't believe that there's a generation of The Archers still riding the radio-waves, I'm quite sure that my dear grandmother would be turning over in her grave, were she to learn of this travesty of a storyline on her favourite programme.

Not that she had anything against trees, but blatant propaganda masquerading as entertainment was something for which I'm sure she would have nothing but scorn.

Difficult to imagine how one might even have stumbled across an alternate viewpoint back in those days if - as is the case today - so many institutions had been infected and atrophied by the virus of activist advocacy.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Visions of a BBC producer typing an email to Lord May saying "Now this is the message we want to get over........

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

“Lord May's formidable intellect”

It can’t be that formidable, if he managed to forget all his scientific training at once.

Dec 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

The trouble is, Hilary, that The Archers was originally used (if not actually intended) as a form of propaganda by the Min of Ag to give farmers information.
We stopped listening when it moved from being an "everyday story of country folk" to just another unbelievable soap which reflected more the institutional mores of the BBC. It could have been set in Islington, apart from the accents and the occasional reference to cows.
The BBC mindset is difficult to pin down. A relative of mine works for them. I think he would be best described as pretty close to mainstream 'old' labour, ie he holds his nose when he votes these days, but he and his colleagues "on the shop floor" have no time for what he calls the "self-satisfied ponces" that inhabit the upper levels.

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Will Booker's report reveal that the "secret" BBC meeting in 2006, addressed by Lord May, was held under the Chatham House Rule ?

The Chatham House Rule reads as follows:

"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".

We shall see when it is published later today.

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

I agree with Toad on France 24 and have it on right now.

Sky, BBC and other UK news programs deal with a very limited list of news items.

France 24 on the other hands frequently has very interesting news on parts of the world not covered by Sky/BBC etc.

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Indeed, Mike Jackson. You used to be able to hear the joins where the "Agricultural Story Editor" had inserted the message of the week (I won't attempt to render Loamshire dialect):

"Now Zebediah, do you recall that leaflet on turnip blight during lambing we got from the ministry" before advising some unpleasant procedure that must be followed.

Ah, happy, innocent times.

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Dammers

The trouble is, Hilary, that The Archers was originally used (if not actually intended) as a form of propaganda by the Min of Ag to give farmers information.

Oh, but that's different, surely, isn't it?! My recollection is that it was a soap (although I don't think they called them that in those days before TV!)

From the haze of my memory, it's the "everyday country-folk" aspect that I recall. And I won't even ask what happened to Mrs. Dale's Diary (my mother's favourite)! ... it's all too disillusioning!

Btw ... just spotted this on the GWPF site:

Our new report, The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal, written by Christopher Booker and with a foreword by Sir Antony Jay, will be released today at 3pm. For for a free pdf copy, e-mail [info at thegwpf dot org]

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

@ Barry Woods: Dec 8, 2011 at 10:29 AM |

"Even at the Heartland Institute climate sceptics' conference in Chicago last week most scientists seemed to agree that CO2 had probably warmed the planet at the end of the 20th century, over and above natural fluctuations.

Barry, far be it from me to quibble with the great Harrabin [we are not worthy!].

But, he equivocates and 'clouds' the issue again in the above quoted tract, seemingly being reasonable, he has forgotten [deliberately imo] to mention that: the REAL controversy centres on the postulated impact of mankind's contribution to the CO2 concentrations and it's supposed input to causing an 'increase' in the background warming of the late C20th.

Crafty monkey Roger, so bbc innit.

And as people have already made the point, I also find Professor May's statement quite incredible - how can he make such an assertion? Was he misquoted, or did he just not consider his words closely enough? That type of statement and it's tenor; [‘the scientific debate over climate change’ was over, and that the BBC must ‘stop reporting the sceptics’.] is made only by quasi-religious fanatics.

There is and cannot be a place for zealotry in Science and the Scientific method - only cold, clear and dispassionate objective analysis.

Dec 8, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I was pleasantly surprised by the last "Frozen Planet". There was no mention of CAGW, no mention of CO2, little preaching, simply a report that things were warming up, especially in the arctic.

I noticed something I thought very significant in the part of the program showing the exploration of the hole in the Greenland ice sheet where the surface lakes drain away.

We could see some meters down in to the hole, and the commentary explained that this section covered many years of snow accumulation. What was very obvious was how dirty the top couple of meters were compared to the white layer below, and the blue compacted ice below that.

Since Sir David had explicitly mentioned albedo changes as part of the problem, I would have expected this quite clear dirty layer to have been mentioned, but it was not.

Dec 8, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Funny how around a month ago people were still applauding Steve Jones and pretending the BBC had been too open to skeptic, just as the BBC's own Italian language course was discovered dabbling with climate change...

I just wonder how did Booker manage to report on the BBC bias in fewer than a million pages?

Dec 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

"Was he misquoted"

You have to wonder. Perhaps paraphrased, but either way, it would be very useful if he were to clarify.

Dec 8, 2011 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"I believe it should be dismantled, just keeping BBC1 and BBC2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 and the world service. It shouldn't be allowed to advertise vacancies in the Guardian..."

Agreed! I've been saying the same for a long time. What has happened at the expanded BBC is the equivalent of the whole of Trafalgar Square being handed over to the National Gallery. Would such a move result in a tenfold increase in high quality art on display? No - it would result in ninety percent of the wallspace being filled up with low-grade tat, juvenilia and agitprop ephemera. The institution itself would be left to rely on upholding the folk-memory of its traditional reputation in the face of a reality in which it had sunk to become the both cause and promotor of plummeting standards... a lie it would be unable to sustain for long.

Dec 8, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Just an FYI over at the comments at the DM for the more regular commenter’s here :-

ZedsDeadBed, Truro, UK, 8/12/2011 12:27

It's a shame that nothing will be done as accountability in our socialist society is all about blame and not about accountability, ie this will fall on death ears.

Dec 8, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Great shame that Attenborough has subscribed to this "tripe", when he was controller of BBC2 it actually produced real science programmes.
As a paleantologist there are two things that he should be well aware of :-
first - that if there is one thing that never stops changing it is our climate.
second - that for 90% of the Earth's known geological history the climate has been about 10C warmer than at present with NO polar ice caps.
I am a retired BBC engineer and these days I am ashamed of what the BBC has become - run by talentless, anonymous men in the proverbial "grey suits" (look at what they've recentl done to Radio3).
Back in the 1970s my boss coined the phrase "Know bugger all about anything, become a (BBC) journalist".

Dec 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrowcatcher

Considering it was he who recruited Mad Mizz Worthington to draft the wretched Climate Change Act - we seem to have heard very little on climate, of late, from Miliband E.

Now that Labour have remembered they were always against the Euro and excessive government borrowing - perhaps Ed's spinners are wondering if it's time to remember they were always against against spending money on greenery as well.

Dec 8, 2011 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

Any scientist that claims the debate is over, regardless of the subject, is not a scientist. It really is that simple.

Dec 8, 2011 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones


I have to agree with you about Radio 3. I cannot listen any more to the Breakfast show under its new format. The attempt to interact with the small number of people prepared to text messages on subjects suggested by items in the day's newspapers is pathetic, and it feels as if the music is getting in the way.

Add to that the fact that musical excerpts can only be short (because of the regular interactions and news updates) and unchallenging (because of the target audience) and you have a really dismal show.

Vivaldi's Four Seasons is a very pleasant piece of music, but if I want to hear it every day I'll listen to Classic FM.

Dec 8, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Yes, I migrated to Classic FM - a far superior format, and a more pleasant listening experience altogether. The BBC, in my opinion, are no longer worth a light.

Dec 8, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Shevva - Deadhead? "death ears"? No further comment...

Dec 8, 2011 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

The BBC, it's so good we have to force people to pay for it.

Dec 8, 2011 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterac1

Cowcatcher and Nicholas Hallam

It's so sad about Radio 3. I have listened to it for too many years to count. It used to be a politics free zone. Now we have the headlines - led of course by what The Guardian reports, then The Independent, and the other papers only get a look in if it's anti Tory story. In the afternoons there's often the appalling Katie Derham. It wasn't so long ago I can remember Jonathan Swain idnteifying where a recording was made from the acoustics. How are the mighty fallen. Can it be salvaged?

Dec 8, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

May's head on a stick !

Worse, cut his penshun fund

Dec 8, 2011 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

Off topic - but just in case someone returns here.

A few months ago I had an exchange of views with someone. Well it was more like I challenged their views and got a volley of insults fired at me by someone who does not appear to be very objective about discussing areas of dispute .

I have noticed they are spouting the same (in my opinion) very foolish view elsewhere. It is possible they did not notice that I eventually returned. It may be in their interest to at least have a look at my final post.

Dec 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

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