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Talkfest podcast

The podcast of the Talkfest meeting I mentioned the other day is now available. It's really extremely interesting.

I particularly recommend the segment by Felicity Mellor (from 11 min). It's striking that her research, which informed the BBC's review of science coverage, shows that the BBC has rarely sought balancing views in its science coverage. The BBC appears to have concluded from this that even less coverage should be sought from dissenters from the climatologicial mainstream.

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Reader Comments (24)

"The BBC appears to have concluded from this that even less coverage should be sought from dissenters from the climatologicial mainstream."

But of course! - how else does the BBC manage to believe (fool itself) it is the bastion of "truth" (with a very small "t")

May 29, 2012 at 8:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

If the EU has become the EUSSR, the BBC has become the new Pravda.

May 29, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

BBC Radio 4 last Sunday lunchtime news:
"Climate change is happening and it's happening now"
A Was it M Mouse
B Scary eyed woman who leads the Greenshirts
C Beddington Governments Scientific Adviser

You know the answer :-)

May 29, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

"Climate change is happening and it's happening now"

Can anybody tell me, was there a single point in history when the above statement wasn't true?

May 29, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

If you are short of time skip to 17 mins where Dr Felicity Mellor summarises the study she led into BBC science output and found that:

"the BBC hardly ever applies balance to science stories"

"that in the majority of stories, if anyone at all is interviewed, it is only the scientist(s) who did the research, and no alternative opinion is sought"

"no, on the whole... we didn't measure this in such concrete terms... but we had the impression no probing questions are asked of the source of the news, almost never do broadcast news stories say who funded the research, and where an alternative view is in included it is often from a very predictable source..."

This will not come as a surprise to many but it is good to see/hear our suspicions (and the shortcomings) of Shukman, Black et al confirmed.

May 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

It's mostly because journalists have become much more thick and don't have enough insight to ask a useful question or smell bovine excrement.

May 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

geronimo - "Climate change is happening and it's happening now.....Can anybody tell me, was there a single point in history when the above statement wasn't true?"

No I can't, but pick a day, any day after 1 July 2012 and climate change won't be happening. That's because Australia is introducing a $23/tonne "carbon" tax which will stop climate change in its dirty little tracks.

No, seriously.

May 29, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

They're not journalists, they are media people. The object of all television producers, and the News is no exception, is to get extreme closeups of people emoting onto the screen. The only difference with the news is they are real people not actors, which is seen as a bonus. Watch any news programme with the sound off, and time how long it takes for an emoting head to appear.

There is no budget for journalism, the money all goes on things like the Pointless Piece To Camera;
"I'm standing outside a building where someting happened earlier today, answering scripted questions from the person in the studio who has the answers in front of them." Any given bulletin can contain several of these each of which involve a complete OB crew and equipment and time on a satellite link.

May 29, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Oh dear, at 59 mins Dr Michael Brooks suggests that the objective of climate scientists should be to create public outrage, then someone else on the panel points out that James Hansen has done this, where upon they lament that he is a lone figure! Thank feck I have only been listening to this in the background, the panel strike me as well meaning but as usual completely ill-informed about climate science. Hansen has been fraudulently adjusting data to suit his alarmism for years - e.g. and continues to this day (along with NOAA) to make inexplicable adjustments to historical data from Icelandic, Norwegian and other Arctic stations.

Shame also to hear Dr Simon Lewis suggest that Muller's BEST analysis solved all the problems with the Global temperature datasets (at 30 minutes). It does not matter how clever your algorithms are, you can't polish a turd.

May 29, 2012 at 11:19 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

I get the impression that BBC science journalists do not see anything wrong with failing to challenge the statements of a scientist. And as most of them have little scientific training, there is little reason to expect that they would.

From their viewpoint, we all seem to be asking that everything should be challenged. If the "maths" correspondent was interviewing a mathematician who claimed that 2 + 2 = 4, then they seem to think that the "skeptic" would want this challenged, whereas the BBC journo understands that in such absolute matters, balance is not relevant.

This is highlighted by the recent US study that found, to their surprise, that US citizens with better scientific understanding tend to be more skeptical of CAGW. The less trained will simply assume that the scientists know what they are doing - and as we know, many "environment" reporters are not well trained in the subjects.

We actually get the same with health reporting. Most BBC journos report the health related press releases simply as given. It takes one of the few expert journos, several of whom are doctors themselves, to look deeply into them and challenge the main stream views. But in climate reporting (or science in general) they simply do not have any such experts.

May 29, 2012 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

I've waste enough of my life commenting on the B-BBC, so now for something completely different... (and from the print version of the BBC)

May 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Well, I suppressed my gag response and listened anyway. I wouldn't know where to start with the vast amount of disinformation - about BEST, about the non-existent death threats, about seeing nothing wrong with scientists being activists. They're stuck in a rut with earplugs cemented in place. They haven't a clue. God, it makes me feel depressed.

May 29, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

Looking at the 'qualifications' of Shukman, Black and Ghosh I must say they don't have many of them. I also wouldn't say any of them are impressive broadcasters either, especially Ghosh who has sounded for years as if he's a beginner! Has anyone in BBC News ever had science qualifications - none on the shortlist for BBC Science Editor that I saw here. If anyone came to the BBC with proper science qualifications then I expect they would have a hard time, and not last very long.

May 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMillsd

How much 'less' coverage of AGW skeptics could the BBC have as its not possible to have less than nothing it could only mean more of the full on and blind support ‘the Team’s’ BBC bag man , Mr Black , is well know for .

May 29, 2012 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

josef goebels is alive and working for the BBC.

May 29, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commentergrahame

Eric Blair's experiences working for the BBC enabled him to write a couple of books that the Labour party seem to have used as a guidebook.

May 29, 2012 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Dr Felicity Mellor proposes that if science journals put out a press release about a science paper they should also issue the peer review report so that journalists (and everyone) "have a clue about what the weaknesses of that study are". (22.30) It would be interesting to see exactly how some of the questionable scientific papers on climate science were reviewed.

Richard Black recently wrote an article on "a new six-nation initiative aimed at curbing climate change by tackling short-lived warming agents including methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)".

He quotes two reports that agree with this. He then refers the article back to carbon dioxide, stating:

"The essential takeaway sentence from the entire paper on the relationship between tackling CO2 and tackling the short-lived agents must be this: "Implementing both substantially reduces the risks of crossing the 2°C threshold".

For "balance" he turns to our old friend Myles Allen for a comment:

"Given that we don't have any prospect of a credible plan to reduce CO2 emissions, the suggestion that immediate cuts in methane and black carbon will reduce the risk of dangerous long-term climate change is pure fantasy,"

Black concludes in typical BBC fashion:

"But emphasising short-term warmers in the absence of meaningful action on CO2, to some observers, smacks of short-term politics and an unwillingness to get to grips with the main issue."

So we start off with an initiative which could bring health benefits (unrelated to climate change) and end up as usual with "dangerous" CO2.

May 29, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermfo

Here are some of the points (I hope the timings are correct):
00:27:30 Simon Lewis
00:29:39 discusses BEST: Muller came up with identical results (but no mention of
. being misled by the hockey stick!)
. there is a new set of rules after becoming the establishment (after gaining
. government funds for windmills etc)

00:42:30 Steve Cross
. Cheer leaders need to question for whom they are cheer leading.
. There is money in cheer leading and less in opening up the scientific process.
. Cheer leading isn't wrong but you (and others?) do need to know the role that you
. are playing.

General discussion
00:59:00 Promote public outrage to make it a political issue to get anything done.
. (and James Hanson is a good example (of what?))
. Be a friend of a policy maker and you are in.

01:07:00 Death threats in Australia?
01:09:30 After 192 UN countries signed off IPCC report we all agree!
. But scientists do not have a single view on the solution
. Public distrusts the politicians, and we are not engaging the public

01:23:00 a twitter: If the RS are so worried about climate change, the no FRS's should be flying

May 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Dr Simon Lewis claims the Climategate emails were mainly about a dispute over the reliability of the global temperature graph. He goes onto claim that Richard Muller's review concluded the existing graphs were accurate and therefore any concerns raised by Climategate have now gone away (from 30 - 33 min).

"Around that result, there's no debate now...the sceptics, contrarians, deniers, whatever you wish to call them, or professional campaigners, they've moved onto other things. That's done now."

May 29, 2012 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood


"They're not journalists, they are media people. The object of all television producers, and the News is no exception, is to get extreme closeups of people emoting onto the screen."

Apologies for being completely OT, but this approach has taken over sports coverage too. Sport isn't about sport any more, it's about human interest stories. I'm dreading coverage of the Olympics. "Tell us how you feel, what this means to you," is generally the first question to someone who has just won something.

Actually my eyes were really opened recently to just how fictional supposedly "factual" TV shows are. We've had a few TV crews around where I work and it generally goes like this:

They decide that they want to interview person A. And they think it would look good if he was doing task B while being interviewed. And they want to film it in location C. EVen though person A never does task B, task B doesn't need doing, and it never gets done at location C.

So then the presenter is filmed walking in to loaction C, where person A is doing task B. It's filmed to look as though this is all just a happy coincidence. The camera just happened to be there as the presenter walked in. Then comes the really fake bit - they only have one camera, so first they film the long shot of the presenter walking in to the room. Then they cut, and move the camera in front of the presenter, and film him talking to person A for a while. Then they cut, and move the camera in front of person A, and film the whole conversation again, from the begining. So the "conversation" that you see on the screen is actually two conversations edited together.

Seems obvious when you think about it. But I'd never thought about it until I actually saw them do it. (How many cameras do Top Gear actually have when they film those comedy "races" from 75 different positions? They must have to stop and move the cameras an awful lot. So was there actually a "race" at all?)

My favourite episode was when the local TV news said that they wanted to film an event where I work, but they couldn't be there at the time - so would it be possible for us to re-create the event later for the cameras?

May 29, 2012 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

They can't make factual programs without introducing false jeopardy in the most contrived ways. And why when an artisan task is involved do we have to watch the celeb presenter making a mess of it instead of the expert doing it properly?

One of the great giveaways that what you are watching is contrived is when the presenter knocks on a door which is immediately opened by someone who was clearly standing behind it waiting for his cue.

This is sort of on topic as it illustrates why its pointless to expect accuracy from the broadcast media - to them the message is unimportant, they are only interested in the medium. They are not interested in AGW or anything else, other than as a pretext for getting an argument on TV or radio.

May 29, 2012 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Marshall Macluhan (sp?) had it right all those years ago - 'The medium IS the message'. Many years ago, when that book first appeared, a tutorial group I was a part of did a survey of one weeks 'news' from a variety of (NZ) newspapers. About 75% of stuff reported as 'news' was, in fact, nothing more than speculation. I suspect nothing much has changed over the years.

May 29, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

The BBC has lost any objectivity. However this "we know we are right attitude" is very common.

Back in the 1980's there was a “consensus” in the Medical profession that excess stomach acid and stress cause stomach ulcers.

The rise, setting in stone of this theory and its eventual fall is a object lesson for CAGW.

In 1982 two Australian scientists, Warren and Marshall, had the temerity to suggest that ulcers are, in fact, caused by an infective agent, Helicobacter pylori. Marshall sends an abstract of his work to the Gastroenterological Society of Australia. They reject Marshall's abstract, deeming it in the bottom 10% of papers submitted.

Marshall and Warren then submit a paper to “The Lancet” and it is published, however many reviewers dislike the paper and it "sinks without trace".
In desperation at the lack of attention to his results Marshall intentionally consumes H. pylori and becomes ill. He takes antibiotics and is relieved of his symptoms.
The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia start to take notice and now funds Marshall's research into H. pylori.

Warren and Marshall are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2005 some 20 years later.

Pity CAGW is still going........

May 30, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

If you read Dr Jones report on BBC's science reporting, all these facts, that Felicity Mellor mentions, are there. They are all there in the general part of his report. Somehow the BBC manages to accept the report but ignore the criticisms included - certainly as far as climate science goes anyway. This probably because Dr Jones himself manages to completely forget these findings when he comes to his climate science section.
As I am saying elsewhere, I do not see him tackle factual scientific output of climate science findings at all.

May 30, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered Commentermiket

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