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« Climate Dialogue | Main | Hiding the Decline available in USA »

A blank from Bridcut

Autonomous Mind has contacted John Bridcut, the author of the BBC Trust's report - the one in which they made the original claim about the nature of the attendees at the seminar.

He seems a little unclear on the origin of the idea that they were scientists.

I cannot now recall the origin of that phrase, and you are the first person to have raised it with me. But if you wish to take issue with the report, I suggest you take up the matter with the BBC Trust.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (60)

I have to agree with John Bridcut. The quote in context changes the central takeaway. That is to say, the out of context quote is misleading. Although, the quote remains a very strong statement and misrepresents the seminar.

Nov 14, 2012 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Nobody here has given the quote undue importance. It was the six BBC lawyers that gave the quote ALL of its importance.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Paul: I can't agree. The phrase concerning AM, and the rest of us who are interested, is that the advice on where to put the weight of reporting by the BBC came from " the best scientific experts" . As we have long suspected, it didn't.

The fact that the BBC have spent what is likely to be several thousands of pounds of public money hiding the names of these so-called "scientific experts" from plain sight suggested dirty work at the crossroads ,which, to my mind, has been proved by these actions.. If their intentions were whiter than white, and the original article said precisely what they intended, why the secrecy?

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Mmmmm. Notwithstanding I think Mr Bridcut may be being slightly disingenuous here, the point is that on the basis of this seminar the BBC has gone on pretty much to do exactly what Mr Bridcut has said they ought not to do...i.e. close down the debate.
I would be very surprised that the origin of the phrase was not Mr.B's own, coined on the basis of what he was told by others, either directly or implicitly. However, I do not think there is much traction to be gained by holding Mr B too much to account for this. If the seminar had indeed been what it has been held out to be the paragraph is entirely laudable and I would have difficulty in finding any fault. Care should be taken that we do not get involved in some kind of witch hunt of our own.
I note that His Grace has remained non-committal on the subject and I suggest others do to spare future blushes.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Thank you for your further communication. I was not privy to any specific information about the guest-list at the seminar, but I am baffled by the attention you are devoting to that clause, since it seems to me it contains the least important words in the paragraph.

Weasel words.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I think this episode will not bring much attention directly on the climate coverage of the BBC while the news is focussed on the McAlpine/Savile affair but having these exchanges documented is just fine I think.

When the later rhetoric comes back to the justifying of sceptic marginalisation by "integrity" laden journalists, we shall have this grubby underlying pusillanimous dissembling to point to.

I mean, John Bridcut comes across as a fine fellow forthright and honest dontcha think? /sarc

You can almost see his sanctimonious eyelids fluttering up as he tries to waft the nasty little "denier" from his inbox using patronising Sir Humphrey-ish sophistry.

John Bridcut Would you care to comment on this, perhaps outlining where information colouring the assertion you made regarding the ‘best scientific experts’ originated?

When you say that my assertion is revealed to be inaccurate, to which words are you specifically referring?

Ah! you see? No clues for Bridcut there ;)

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

There is another issue, there were at least some 30 invited guests and 28 BBC employees present at that seminar. All will have read Bridcut’s report, all will have followed the 5 year FOI debacle, many will have followed the proceedings of the Tribunal.

All knew the BBC’s public unique-in-peace-time abandonment of impartiality was NOT based on “a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts”, none have had the integrity to correct this disinformation.

Why would anyone trust any of them on anything ever again?

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

On Twitter Richard Black says: "The BBC's stance was not based on these meetings - that meme is pure bull"

Is he justified in saying that in any way?

I thought there was further evidence beyond the Seewsaw / Wagon Wheels document where the BBC said specifically that the 26th January seminar was the point when they decided BBC's climate policy?

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Blofeld

I have no wish to criticise Tony for getting off his backside and pursuing this. Me sitting here behind a Nom de Guerre many miles away.

My opinion is that I do not see putting this correspondence into the public domain at this moment helps the process of holding the BBC to account.

I have written many reports based on being told things in what you believe is good faith. You assess the significance, who is telling you and why ("Why are you telling me this?", is the phrase most often in my mind.)

It shines undue light on Mr. Bridcut, when he is just an actor in the Chorus.

I would have held this info, used it for formulating the next step. Mr Bridcut was under no obligation to reply, and the tone of the requests was certainly of the form that could have been refused had he felt inclined.

So Mr. Bridcut replying in the way he did was actually a positive result and should have been left like that for the moment.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Did Mr Bridcut take a fee for writing this document?

If so, then he has a responsibility to have done due diligence on his work and every assertion in it must be capable of being shown to be true.

So if he baldly states that the BBC has 'held a seminar with some of the best scientific experts', then he'd better have some proof that it did. 'Being told so' is not proof enough for an independent report.

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

He's a liar. It's easy. Say you know nutzing and pass the buck to a big amorphous lump of no response. Done

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The BBC's stance was not based on these meetings, so Black is right. However, the BBC itself has retrospectively linked those meetings with its stance. Just as it retrospectively applied the Chatham house rule to deny the list.

Black now ought to say how the BBC in fact reached its quite extraordinary stance, and why it encouraged programme-makers outside news and current affairs to push a one-sided climate agenda.

Although I don't think climate is the only subject where simillar policies apply. The BBC is at odds with the UK public on a number of other issues which do not receive balanced coverage. Probably for our own good, for Auntie knows best.

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

OK I freely admit that I shot JFK.
However I do not approve of killing people at all. The assassination of political leaders is unacceptable and can have unforseen consequences. I have never ever killed anyone before. My wife knows me to be a good person and would never believe I could kill anyone. I condemn killing and all those who committ such a disgusting act.

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Registered CommenterDung

So, according to John Bridcut the phrase "the best scientific experts" comprises the least important words in the paragraph. Is that an indication of his opinion of the calibre of climate scientists?

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy


>Richard Black says: "The BBC's stance was not based on these meetings"

Of course not. It's just coincidental that they have moved Heaven and Earth to prevent the list of participants from being released. When in a hole, Richard...

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Dr Joe Smith’s and Roger Harrbins thoughts about those seminars:(url above)

“The seminars have been publicly credited with catalysing significant changes in the tone and content of BBC outputs across platforms and with leading directly to specific and major innovations in programming,” – Dr Joe Smith

“It has had a major impact on the willingness of the BBC to raise these issues for discussion. Joe Smith and I are now wondering whether we can help other journalists to perform a similar role in countries round the world” – Roger Harrabin

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

rhoda : Nov 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM
"Black now ought to say how the BBC in fact reached its quite extraordinary stance .... "

It seems so obvious to me that, unless he does this, he is at least being unhelpful: protecting the secrets and not promoting open discussion. Tell me again: what is in the BBC charter?

23. General duties
In exercising all its functions, the Trust must act in the public interest and, in particular,it must—
(a) represent the interests of licence fee payers
(b) secure that the independence of the BBC is maintained
(c) carefully and appropriately assess the views of licence fee payers
(d) exercise rigorous stewardship of public money
(e) have regard to the competitive impact of the BBC’s activities on the wider market;and
(f) ensure that the BBC observes high standards of openness and transparency.

Talk about creative writing!

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Billy Blofeld said:

On Twitter Richard Black says: "The BBC's stance was not based on these meetings - that meme is pure bull"

Is he justified in saying that in any way?

The BBC's initial response to Tony Newbery points out the title of the seminar "Climate Change - the Challenge to Broadcasting", says "The attendees at the seminar were made up of 30 key BBC staff and 30 invited guests who are specialists in the area of climate change. " and the stated aims are clear enough that it was intended to influence editorial polices.

Why else hold them? Why else hide behind the 'journalism' defence from FOI?

And if the meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule 2007 would have been the time to say so.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

@ Jack Savage,

I fully concur with you point about despite what the BBC spokeperson said "should" happen, & then again precisely the opposite "did" happen, thay closed down the debate, sensored or just plain ignored dssenting voices. A similar thing happened with the Climategate emails enquiries. A lot of song & dance routines were on display about reviewing the science when in fact none of the three whitewash es actually did anything of the sort, each preferring to paly the "it was someone elses job to do it" argument! "Oh what a tanlged web we weave when first we practice to decieve" springs to mind! The BBC is all but finished in its present form, or at least it should be. heads must roll & fast, the management is riddled with slime, even John Simpson thinks there should be less managers!

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

While the BBC is quite rightly taking a lot of stick over this (and other) issues we should not forget the role of the legal profession in this scandal. The BBC thought it could buy the verdict with its half a dozen lawyers and it was quite right.

The role of the judge, David Marks QC, was simply disgraceful. He did his level best to prevent justice from being done with his ridiculous and obviously untrue assertion that the BBC is a private organisation. I wonder what he thought when his efforts all proved in vain thanks to Maurizio Morabito (omnologos).

Justice was done not because of the tribunal judge but despite him. It was the sleuthing of Maurizio Morabito that ensured justice in this case.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

The 28Gate meeting was important for Joe Smith and Roger Harrabin. Was even more important for the BBC Trust and then Bridcut considered it important enough to be mentioned.

It was so important in fact, the BBC paid a lot of lawyers for it.

Fast forward a couple of days and the meeting is not important for Richard Black and not important for Joe Smith really and Bridcut says it's a minor thing and the important bit is elsewhere.

Now I know what they mean when they mention Climate Chaos.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:47 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Not sure whether anyone has picked up on this point but in the Bridcut quote there are references to "consensus".

Viz. “The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus."


"Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution."

Which consensus are they talking about? In the context of the whole quote, it looks like the consensus prevailing at the meeting with the best scientific experts despite the virtual lack of scientific expertise of those present. The Bridcut comments suggesting that deniers/sceptics should still have a platform were of course necessary to give the impression of impartiality - he couldn't do otherwise. But, given what we now know, the Bridcut document is an admission that the BBC accepted the consensus view put forward by a bunch of mainly non-scientific activists. The BBC then proceeded to use this as a springboard to promulgate the meme and suppress further debate.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTC

"In this case, the information you have requested is outside the scope of the Act because information relating to the seminar is held to help inform the arc’s editorial policy around reporting climate change. "

-From the BBC, see Gareth's link

This contradicts what Black says.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Registered Commentershub

Who or why or which or what is the BBC? As in 'The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view...' Or Richard Black's 'The BBC's stance was not based on these meetings...' I expect I could search the corridors of Broadcasting House for a long time before I came upon a door marked 'The BBC' and open it to find an elderly spinster quietly knitting.

How does a junior member of the production staff know what the 'view' is? Who sets the 'stance'? Is it the DG or a committee of senior managers? Or do views and stances just emerge from thin air and get communicated by nods and winks?

Who gets the credit when things go right? Who gets the chop when things go wrong?

In short, who's in bloody charge here?

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

I think the real smoking gun is the admittance of the deliberate policy of subtle messaging in wideranging and unrelated programmes, particularly for World audiences, and its toxic threat for continuance of public trust, something the BBC regard as pivotal for their survival.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

I don't know about Bridcut but the emanations from Black are disinformation.

The BBC, for whatever reasons, wants to pretend that impartiality is important to it. It believes it is a brand name.

The notion of 'false balance' was taking root in the BBC higher echelons much earlier than the seminars. It is a fashionable notion that had taken root in many media establishments, not just in the US and UK.

'False balance' and 'impartiality' were therefore bound to clash. One way to resolve the conundrum is the resort to authority - 'we asked the experts and they told us to discard opinions on one side.'

That is exactly what the BBC has done. If not this seminar, an organisation such at the BBC would need *some* basis to marginalise global warming skepticism.

Nov 14, 2012 at 11:14 AM | Registered Commentershub

rhoda's suggestion that the BBC painted themselves into a corner trying to cover for a preconceived agenda prompts the following thoughts:

If the meetings were to shape policy the BBC should have been transparent about adopting a partisan position in support of the 'consensus' and in support of telling stories to effect changes in society.

If the meetings were not to shape policy the BBC should not have been holding them - they are clearly partisan in support of the 'consensus' and in support of telling stories to effect changes in society.

I will also note that Richard Black asserts the BBC's stance was not based on those meetings - how would he know? His name wasn't on the list of attendees.

Nov 14, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

"However, the BBC .... retrospectively applied the Chatham house rule to deny the list."

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM | rhoda

As I have already posted on Climate Audit, to correct the same error, the Chatham House Rule was apparently agreed by the organisers before the seminar in January 2006. In a 2005 paper, just unearthed by Tallbloke, Dr Joe Smith (one of the organisers of the Real World Brainstorm series of seminars) writes:

“The seminars were held under Chatham House rules; hence none of the reported comments or quotations in the text are attributable. See section 2 of

However this did not prevent the IBT, which perhaps did not read the Rule, from publishing the lists of participants in this and the other seminars in the Real World Brainstorm series; indeed the IBT Home page – – still offers a link to such lists



For more information and background about the brainstorms to date, and a list of all delegates … ”

… but the link is broken ….

(and that is perhaps the point at which Maurizio Morabito began to dig into the Wayback Machine).

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

Bridcut Baffled Bewildered Bemused and, it would seem, Blanked-out by the BBC.

The link given quotes some good stuff in his report, e.g.

"Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution. It remains important that programme-makers relish the full range of debate that such a central and absorbing subject offers, scientifically, politically and ethically, and avoid being misrepresented as standard-bearers."

The idea of journalists applying 'hawk-eyed scrutiny' to the promotion of climate alarmism is a nice one, but so often one gets the impression that 'environmental correspondents' and the like are more like conduits for press releases from organisations with vested interests in alarm. I'm thinking here of the printed media in particular. The schemings of such as CMEP and IBT do make me wonder about the broadcasters as well. They all have deadlines to meet and the idea of the hectic newsroom is part of the stereotype that would make the well-formulated press release hard to resist for both sender and receiver.

I wonder if there is any chance that Bridcut might do a follow-up report on the impact of his earlier report on, in particular, the BBC? The five years which have elapsed should be long enough to get some first assessments in on progress being made with the various recommendations.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

CMEP having recived funding from WWF compromises the BBC (as doees Tyndall funding CMEP, Harrabin's Tyndall board position, whilst Tyndall seek to influence the BBC, by funding CMEP!!)

From - Conspiracy in Green - Andrew Montford (only 75p)

Smith replied, copying Hulme. The first thing on his mind appeared to be
money to support the ongoing activities of CMEP:

". . . first wanted to test the ground about whether Tyndall is in a position to support the seminar programme next year (am approaching 3/4 of the current club of sponsors now so that we’ve got time to make other arrangements if need be.)

The only change I anticipate is that we won’t be asking WWF to support the seminars: Roger [Harrabin]particularly feels the association could be compromising to the ’neutral’ reputation should anyone look at it closely. We’ll be asking [British Gas] to make up the difference and would continue to ask Tyndall and DEFRA for £5K p.a." - climategate emails

Here again was recognition that CMEP had been funded by environmentalists, but
also the revelation that Smith and Harrabin were fully aware that this situation
was untenable for the BBC, which claimed to be impartial.

I recommend everyone read - Conspiracy in Green, as most of the background is there.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Yes Cassio that's what happened more or less.

Still no news from Joe Smith on how seminar co-organiser the IBT was clueless about Chatham House rule on not naming participants.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:12 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos


I think Mr Newbry HAS to appeal the outcome of the result if for no other reason than to get the legal ruling that the BBC is a private body over turned.

The last thing we need is for the BBC to be able DVD turn around and start denying legitimate requests because they have a legal ruling that they are a private organisation and are there outside of FOI law.


Nov 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Cassio, past tense from 2005 does not apply to 2006. However, be that as it may, we need better evidence of what the attendees were told.

My tenttive conclusions are as follows:

The BBC reached its de facto policy by nod and wink, by institutional culture, by general acceptance of bien pensant thinking on a noble cause, long before 2006. But no policy was ever stated.

Internal activists noticed a few leaks. Stott vs Houghton for example. They began an effort to make sure the policy was followed explicitly.

But there was no process to justify the policy. When outsiders began to question the bias, a pretext was needed.

The propaganda meeting provided a pretext and were hyped into something having rather more scientific substance than they were ever intended to have.

Somebody presented that story to Bridcut and he believed it and passed it on.

Outsiders noted Bridcut and asked for more detail.

They were rebuffed and went the FIOA route.

The BBC defended the FIOA request because it would set a precedent. They desperately do not want to lose the journalistic purposes cover and be open to all FIOA requests. They did not defend it to keep the list secret. Activists still see no problem with the list or the circularity of the policy/consultation argument.

Now they look bad.

Very tentative conclusion: They should have stuck with the nod and wink and allowed a few mavericks. It was only the attempt by the activists to set a policy at an institutional level that led them into the morass. Chances are that BBC output would still have been mostly one-sided but they would not need to justify a policy position they had not reached by a logical or accountable process. So Black and Harrabin got them into this mess, if mess it is, because IMHO they will pretty much get away scot-free except in sceptical blogs.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Excellent summary and mostly agree, rhoda. The one thing is, once they called the seminar attendees 'experts' and 'specialists' when they were actually not, they have another reason to hide the list.

Nov 14, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Registered Commentershub

As Mr Bridcut says:
"...I was not privy to any specific information about the guest-list at the seminar, but I am baffled by the attention you are devoting to that clause, since it seems to me it contains the least important words in the paragraph."

Baffles me too.

How is giving sceptics a voice supposed to work? Imagine you are a producer with no expert knowledge of greenhouse gasses. Any number of physicists can tell you how the greenhouse effect works. One or two oddballs might be found who can explain convincingly (to you) that there is no greenhouse effect. Who is right? Your general viewers cannot know, yet giving the two views equal and unbiased coverage you delegate the task of deciding to them.

What to do?
1. Give both views equal unbiased coverage as you are told the charter requires and probably mislead your viewers (hardly what the charter intended)?
2. Dedicate most of the program to the accepted science and a tiny part to the alternative in the interest of balance?
3. As 2. but give the viewer the clear impression that most people think the alternative is nuts?
4. Omit the alternative altogether?
5. You could let the oddball argue with the physicist (although for correct balance he should argue with a thousand physicists). But this exaggeratea the status of the oddball and leaves the audience thinking that there is doubt where there is none.

Number 5 would be more entertaining for many people, but number 2, 3 and 4 would be the most educational.

Which option would you choose, or how else would you handle it?

Nov 14, 2012 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB insists on putting the questions this way, but what he is describing is an editorial decision to be left to the editor. It does not need to be decided by policy which takes one side or another. If one protagonist is a nutter, presumably he will not do well in the argument. What is wrong with the BBC is that the policy overrides the editor. And note that it does so at the behest of activists who are funded by a government department which suborns the BBC to pump out government propaganda. The supposedly independent BBC.

Nov 14, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

rhoda Nov 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Absolutely agree. People are getting confused between the nature of the seminar as it was intended to be, and seen by all the participants at the time, and how it was later mis-characterised in order to justify a tendency which was probably never formally adopted but was gradually adopted long before, largely through osmosis and preexisting inclination.

I am sure that there are dozens of similar biases throughout the corporation on matters large and small, important and trivial (and, to be fair at any news operation). These biases don't need diktats from on high or fig leaf seminars - everyone "just knows" what the editorial line is. They are mainly seen as natural, the biases which any "sensible" person has - they are rarely even thought about.
The odd discrete knock-back if anyone doesn't "get it" and the message is clear.

The unexpected problem for the BBC was in this case that they suddenly had to justify a bias. Scrabbling around for something which might pass muster as a proper examination of the subject they lighted on the 2006 seminar.

Therefore examining the seminar as if it was meant to be an examination of the basic CAGW science is to miss the point because it was never that in the first place.

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Gareth's quote from the BBC;

"The attendees at the seminar were made up of 30 key BBC staff and 30 invited guests who are specialists in the area of climate change."

Specialist definition: noun, a person who concentrates primarily on a particular subject or activity; a person highly skilled in a specific and restricted field.

The BBC did not claim that the attendees were either expert, professional or or even if they reasonably covered the diverse set of disciplines 'in the area of climate change'. Their statement matches the disparate set of wannabes that did attend. The tweet of Black can easily be true - the BBC's stance was not based on these meetings. But stance they had, determined internally, and that is their Achilles heel for they were operating outside their charter. Further, there was no due diligence exercised before selling their product which, by their own definition, is their (much prized) impartiality.

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Now that the BBC has been officially declared a private organisation, will it not have to seek its funding elsewhere..?

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

BB, I'd go for (1) although I don't see it as misleading. To quote Piet Hein:

Truth shall emerge from the interplay
of attitudes freely debated.
Don't be misled by fanatics who say
that only one truth should be stated:
truth is constructed in such a way
that it can't be exaggerated.

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:54 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

ssat, artwest, that leads me to the other unstated policies which i believe exist. Bishop, if this is too far off-topic feel free to delete.

Firstly, I want to discuss corporate group thinking, not these issues themselves. The BBC does not give equal time to five issues I have noticed. They are Climate change, the EU, Immigration, multi-culturalism and the war in Afghanistan. Now I understand that the Guardian-reader types employed by the BBC would probably be in favour of the first four. Probably thinking it would be only loonies who dislike the EU and racists the next two. But what about the war? Are they in favour of that? Surely not, but anti-war voices have not been heard since Tony Blair's time. Is it a question of expediency, even the BBC can't be seen to be not supporting the troops? 'Cause all those lefties love a man in uniform, I suppose? Not being able to draw a distinction between supporting the troops and sending them abroad to get shot by the people we are supposed to be helping?

Anyhow, the point of these issues is that they are all to some degree important to real people and that when you chat in the social world you find a number of people, maybe half the population, on the wrong side of the BBC take.

So, how many 'policies' are there? Are they enforced or kind of voluntarily adhered to? How much of the news do they just..leave out?

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Wwhy would the 26/01/2006 seminar in particular be attended by 30 key BBC staff (from the list of attendees many are directors, heads or executives) and by more scientists than any of the other listed seminars if it wasn't important?

Compared to the other seminars in the document that one does look a little different.

Nov 14, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth


Half the population did not watch the funeral of Princess Diana or like Marmite. It is up to the BBC however not to be one half of anything, or worse still, a self-important minority claiming the moral high ground lies directly below their feet.

Nov 14, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Bridcut's response suggests he is what the Japanese define as a 'Salaryman', an employee absolutely in the thrall of his employers.
Journalist - no!

Nov 14, 2012 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

jamesp, thanks for answering and nice quote! But do you really think there is no misdirection? Take another example: of HIV infection. In South Africa, various people in power took the view that HIV could be avoided by taking a good shower after sex or that natural remedies were effective. According to option 1, when HIV was discussed on TV, these people should have equal air time with those who give the scientific view of HIV. The public decides. But the public in SA would not by and large have had the knowledge to tell who was right and yet the prevalance given to the crank view would leave many in doubt - I would say it would mislead them, sometimes into death. The principle in operation is the same, surely? One could think of other examples (MMR perhaps) but one is sufficient to see problems with that approach to 'balance'.

Rhoda and others might say that decisions on balance are a matter for the editors, not for policy. I see this as unrealistic. Editors (producers etc) are expert in program production, not in the science (or whatever) their programs discuss. Some might have a good understanding, but some will have little. How many "disasters" would it take (ie. bad programs, complaints etc) before the management lays down an editorial policy on how HIV can be discussed?

One might argue that HIV in South Africa is an extreme example. It is. But it illustrates the problem of giving 'balance' where none is due. And my example illustrates that decisions on balance are not necessarily best taken by production staff. With AGW, nobody is going to die if they are misled by programming. But programs should not mislead viewers in the first place. By striving for false balance they would undoubtably mislead.

BTW, I find it odd that the exchange of letters with Mr Bridcut suggested that the BBC remained impartial during WWII. Can you imagine a debate during the war between Churchill and Lord Haw Haw, with each given equal time?

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB, if you are able to think of examples where undue balance might cause undesirable results I am able to think of others where balance is absent. The eidtors have to do this. That is what their job is. Not to makwe the scientific judgment but to seek all sides of the argument, assess them, and decide how to structure their program. If occasionally an editor might make an error in that judgment it will be countered by the collective wisdom of the editorial group. Or if not, biased coverage will result and people will complain. That is what once happened at the BBC. Until the day when editors could be sidelined and an all-encompassing policy summoned up from nowhere to justify an institutional bias, covered by a non-existent consensus story agreed at a secret meeting of selected invitees.

I believe you know exactly what is wrong with that behaviour but as it happens to go along with your view of the situation you condone it. The end justifying the means, as they say.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Rhoda, where did I condone the behaviour your describe? Please tell.

I have been trying to determine what readers think is a suitable way of presenting the AGW arguments to the public, not to defend the BBC. My earlier example of how seriously 'slayers' (thanks for the correction btw) should be engaged was intended to encourage readers to consider the suitabilty of 'balance' in the handling of an area of scepticism that they probably don't support. That this failed to elicit a response is unsurprising, as it must make arguments for balance in the general sceptical cause difficult to sustain. In other words you are compelled to accept that slayers (whom nearly everyone considers cranks) should be given coverage equal to that of the warmists, in order to argue that the same degree of coverage should be extended to all other flavours of scepticism (which rightly or wrongly are conventianally viewed as cranky). But extending equal status to slayers is so clearly silly (in the same was that giving equal status to garlic cures for HIV) that it is better not to answer the question.

You will of course not accept this argument, but readers might give it some thought.

Out of honest interest, is there a public (or leaked) document that sets out the editorial policy of the BBC on AGW. I know of the meetings (of the 28) from recent threads, but I haven't seen the resulting policy document.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

We're not talking "equal time". We're talking zero time.

We're not talking "presenting AGW to the public". We're talking "inserting AGW, catastrophism and green living tips in every part of the BBC programming including their Italian lessons".

We're not talking "balance". We're talking "giving greenies unchallenged prime time TV and radio time to air anything they would want to say on any topic".

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:56 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Can you imagine a debate during the war between Churchill and Lord Haw Haw, with each given equal time?

Of course not but that is not necessarily what is meant by impartial. I was not around to hear the BBC in WWII but I was listening during the Falklands Conflict when the BBC was exactly that it never referred for example to "our forces" or the "enemy" merely to British and Argentine. It also notoriously saw nothing wrong with broadcasting operational information to the Argentines about the deployment of British Troops.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

I dug out an example of the funny places where AGW can pop up in the BBC output. Perhaps we should have a competition for the strangest/most unexpected...

Nov 14, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

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