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« Davey explains | Main | Keenan does AR5 »
Thursday
Oct312013

Miller light

Intrigued by Andrew Miller having apparently complained about the BBC's giving airtime to sceptics I wrote to the Science and Technology Committee yesterday to find out if this was an official letter from the committee or Miller operating as an individual MP. The reply, from committee secretary Stephen McGinness, was as follows:

There was no letter written from the Chair, or the Committee, about sceptics being given airtime.

A letter was written to the BBC subsequent to their appearance before the Committee seeking clarification on several points.  It was nothing but a list of questions similar to those things we put in Committee session.

I gather that the article is based on our publication of the letter we received in response and, I presume, commentary from the Chair about that letter.

You can see the letter on the website, published as part of our evidence.  We have not published the letter to the BBC but you will easily deduce the questions from the headings.

I would like to reiterate that the Chair has not, as published on your blog or implied by the article, written to complain about sceptics being given airtime.  He has sought further information from the BBC on their coverage of climate and commented on the response.  The criticism he has made of the Andrew Neill show was not about the content of the questions but the manner in which they were made.

In the meantime, Biased BBC has managed to lay its hands on the BBC letter to Andrew Miller that is referred to. The whole BBBC post is worth a look, but from my perspective, I really think we need to see Miller's letter. 

I'll ask the committee if they will publish it.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (41)

Bish could you show what you wrote to Science and Technology Committee yesterday?

Oct 31, 2013 at 8:43 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Here's hoping they don't 'misplace' it.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

"I'll ask the committee if they will publish it." Good luck with that, I suspect a FOI request is the only way.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

It would be more interesting to find out what the committee's attitude is to sceptics. If Miller is trying to influence the BBC in this way does it not imply that he would seek the same degree of 'balance' on the committee? Save the appearance of His Grace, are not most of the witnesses up to their ears in the warmist trough?

( They did put my submission up on the site but I have waited in vain for the invitation..)

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Bish, just to clarify, when you say
"Biased BBC has managed to lay its hands on the BBC letter to Andrew Miller that is referred to",
that document is merely the written submission from the BBC to the Commons STC as part of the inquiry into public understanding of climate, published here by the committee.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Paul

I think this was their response to Miller's questions. My wording was a reflection of the fact that I couldn't find it when I looked for it on the committee website.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I was interested in this quote from Jones' report:

The real discussion has moved on to what should be done to mitigate climate change. Its coverage has been impeded by the constant emphasis on an exhausted subject ...
Either I hadn't seen it before or it hadn't 'clicked'.
It effectively by-passes the argument (pea/thimble!) about the science and provides a veneer of justification for those who want to shut out the awkward views of "deniers".

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:34 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Yes, their website can be a bit hard to find your way around.

Also, the BBBC site has got its timeline slightly wrong. It starts by referring to the Guardian article, written 28 Oct, and then talks of the "BBC reply". But the BBC document was published on the STC site on 14 Oct, so is not a reply to the Guardian article.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Not followed this and just caught up with the last "Windy Miller" piece. I see at the root in the 28 October Guardian article there that Andrew Neil is seen as being in error merely citing criticism of the Cook 97% paper. Nuccitelli, a co-author, who has a privileged blog space on the Graun, is quoted criticising Neil as if that is de-facto evidence of BBC error.

Interesting how that piece of activist pseudo-science has come back to effectively influence UK broadcasting. That fact is pretty disturbing on its own.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:40 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

This is hilarious:

The BBC has come under fire from the chairman of an influential committee of MPs for favouring climate change sceptics in its coverage – and, according to documents seen by the Guardian, replied by saying that putting forward opinions not backed by science is part of its role.

So Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, is clearly implying that the Guardian has access to something mere mortals would have trouble finding - but gives a link directly to a government-published document!

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

By the way, is the entire affair made up by the Gruaniad? The response from the committee secretary seems to imply just that.

Oct 31, 2013 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Leopard

The text of my letter was:

I gather from the pages of the Guardian that Andrew Miller has written to the BBC about sceptics being given airtime.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/28/bbc-coverage-favouring-climate-change-sceptics

Do you happen to know if this was a letter from the SciTech committee (and therefore one that should presumably appear on your website in due course), or was it written by Mr Miller in his capacity as an MP?

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Many thanks Bish, I was just a bit curious by their slightly defensive reply :)

I too would dearly love to see this Miller letter because if Miller's upbraiding of Neil is because Neil quoted criticism of the Cook, Nuccitelli 97% paper then the Guardian implies this following is the context of Miller's letter:

Miller said allowing Neil to air these views as if they were authoritative fact was misleading viewers, because it suggested that the arguments carried as much weight as those of climate experts.


If "climate experts" there means the tree-hut gang at SKS then I think seeing Miller's letter should help bring the 97% paper into the spot light. ;)

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

The disturbing part, to me, was in the submission from the BBC - "It is part of the BBC’s function of holding government to account."
My naïve though was that we elected Governments to hold aberrant parts of the community to account (such as law breakers and broadcasters who hacked telephones).
The unelected BBC is assuming it has rather grandiose powers. Regretfully, it's similar with our ABC.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

"Interesting how that piece of activist pseudo-science has come back to effectively influence UK broadcasting."

I'll admit to not just dismay but a bit of schadenfreude when I see this.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Registered Commentershub

I think the BBC response letter is pretty good actually and BBBC are being a bit touchy and selective in their reading of it.

I note BBBC highlighted this quoted section from Jones as if on its own it was somehow damning and representative of the BBC view...

“The real discussion has moved on to what should be done to mitigate climate change. Its coverage has been impeded by the constant emphasis on an exhausted subject whose main attraction is that it can be presented as a confrontation”.

but BBBC did not include the BBC's actual response to that Jones position

The BBC’s management response noted “… that the treatment of a scientific story will depend upon its nature and context. Sometimes it is appropriate to present it as a debate within the scientific community whereas at others a range of views, including from non-experts, is justified given the social, political and cultural context.”

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

So we discover that the BBC went to Paul Nurse to discuss science reporting! And pray tell me O BBC what does Paul Nurse know about science reporting? It looks like the BBC's default position on everything scientific - default to authority.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterCeed

The Guardian article is cleverly written. It actually says nothing whatsoever about any formal exchange of views. It says that:

- BBC coverage criticised..
- The BBC has come under fire..
- BBC has been slammed...
- Miller took issue with one programme in particular...
- Miller said allowing Neil to air these views as if they were authoritative fact was misleading viewers...
- Miller said this did not fulfil (sic) the broadcaster's public service remit...

but there is no formal statement of any accusation. These are all things which could have been said over the phone to a reporter, or at an Islington dinner party.

In fact, I suspect that the BBC submission, rather than being in response to specific criticisms, was made in response to a general concern from the left wing that the BBC was going 'off-message', and the article was written later to make it look as if the submission was made as a result of a complaint that 'Important People' had made...

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Mike Jackson, you're right. Jones is implying there has been a debate, the result is conclusive, lets stop repeating the debate and get on with the policy implementation. Which is all very well except in the 15-20 years I've been watching this topic unfold, I'm not aware of any debate at all. The warmists simply insisted they were right, criticism was rebuffed by recourse to ad-homs etc, refusal to provide the raw materials for debate was commonplace (Jones to McKintyre - I paraphrase - "Why should I give you the data when all you're going to do is try to destroy 25 years work?") Mann as far as I know as never handed over data to anyone except the like-minded; even 15 years ago the slogan "the science is settled" was around (and that for me was the turning point, anyone coming out with crap of that kind could in no way be seriously regarded as a scientist and accorded due respect); the shoddy science (from a packed field, my favourite is Jones' proof of the non-existence of the UHI effect with reference to Chinese data that he was subsequently unable to locate ...) has never been seriously challenged except by 'outsiders' who are ignored or vilified, and so on and so on. So, BBC Jones, no we have never had a debate so it is absolutely stupid to embark on major policy decisions based on this unexamined science.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Stephen McGinness wrote:

I gather that the article is based on our publication of the letter we received in response and, I presume, commentary from the Chair about that letter.

I think that makes the Guardian article clearer. The comments from Miller in the second and eleventh paragraphs appear to be recent and the ones in between are from the letter from the committee.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Hmmm....

Well, I suppose that one shouldn't be overly surprised a "Science and Technology" committee that co-opts David Tredinnick exhibits other aberrant behaviour...

as to the BBC... well just look at their record.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Registered Commenter shub

This is one reason why it is important to see Miller's letter, I think if Cook et al is even slightly being used as a lever to curtail the state broadcasters remit there, then I feel sure the recursive attention it would bring upon itself should destroy its credibility and strand all those who sailed upon it ;)

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I was just looking at the Green Party policy on the BBC.

Green Party Manifesto 2010 - 3. Citizens and government

Keeping information public

"We would promote broadcasting to high standards by:
Maintaining the BBC as the primary public service broadcaster, free of Government interference."

So, perhaps Andrew should be asking for the support of Caroline Lucas MP as her party manifesto clearly states the BBC must be "free of Government interference", which must include climate change reporting.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterFay Tuncay

@Oct 31, 2013 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

I think that makes the Guardian article clearer. The comments from Miller in the second and eleventh paragraphs appear to be recent and the ones in between are from the letter from the committee.

Good point it does seem that Miller has made most of these complaints in the interview to the Graun. Which would mean nailing down what exactly Miller thought was in error by Neil harder to know since that allows the Graun to cite their own resident self-promoting activists as back up, rather than show the specific words of the government committee rep Miller.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

When you think about the BBC and the Guardian you are really looking at two cheeks of the same arse , which helps to answer the question how does this poorly selling newspaper have such an influence? Its a crashing irony that the Guardian is part of the very 'establishment' it riles against. While for the very people it claims to care so much about , such as the working classes , its of very little interest they prefer the papers such as the Mail, which the Guardian hate.

So the lock step of the BBC and the Guardian over 'the cause ' is just normal practice.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

The more I re-read the Guardian article, the more convinced I am that there was no letter from Miller to the BBC.

Fiona has simply interleaved comments from Millar with extracts from the BBC submission and implied that they are in response the a letter from Miller. But the dates show otherwise.

This is Fiona at her worst, inventing a storyline from bits and peices and perhaps a call to Miller to fill in his opinions. Nothing to do with the committee.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

The letter will be published in the report - see update to post.

Oct 31, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Just a reminder on the historical background of climate reporting bias at the BBC in a detailed report entitled : The BBC And Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal by Christopher Booker, dated: 07/12/11, downloadable from

http://www.thegwpf.org/category/gwpf-reports/page/3/

Oct 31, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Fiona Harvey, who wrote the Guardian article Andrew Miller is complaining about, is of course one of the people chose, in its wisdom, to give oral evidence to the inquiry!
One hopes, probably forlornly, that this may cause Miller and the rest of his committee to give the evidence provided Fiona the attention it deserves.

Oct 31, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"the BBC’s function of holding government to account"

As with Dr David Kelly? That went well...

Oct 31, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"The letter will be published in the report.."

Just as soon as the ink's dry... :-)

Oct 31, 2013 at 1:23 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

It seems that the BBC's latest report on CO2 has gone the other way:

The report was welcomed by green activist Bill McKibben, who is campaigning for a divestment from fossil fuel stocks and shares.

"It is good news but nowhere near good enough," he told BBC News.

"The solution we need here is dictated by physics, and at the moment the physics is busy melting the Arctic and acidifying the ocean.

"We can't just plateau or go up less, we have to very quickly try and get the planet off fossil fuels."

I note that there are no contradictions from those pesky 'dismisser/deniers' in this article.

Oct 31, 2013 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterChairman Al

(I recognise the photo now) Ah that Andrew Miller who was standing right next to Lord X when he told a whole room full of us a bare faced lie.

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:08 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

RESPECT to BBC depts with integrity
That submission shows that there are some people at the BBC who have some integrity, who know what values should be and aren't going to roll over to a bunch of bullying activists in cahoots with the oldboys with fingers in the green energy subsidy pie.

BBC Editorial Guidelines (www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines) set out numerous considerations for content producers. To ensure our audience is clear about the background and expertise of interviewees on news programmes, content providers must abide by the following guidelines: We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.*
(3.4.12)
We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint **, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made. (4.4.14)
* ** pity frequently these rules are not obeyed e.g. 3 recent editions of Feedback
A Course called ‘Reporting Science’
Extensive discussion with scientists and the scientific community took place during the preparation of the course material. Most notably, we spent an afternoon with the President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate, Sir Paul Nurse, and interviewed him about science reporting, how science works, pitfalls and opportunities and so on.
(but he's a clueless activist !)

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:11 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I imagine I eavesdrop a PR agency :
"Damm, We can't make ground against them. They are always asking too many damm awkward questions.We need to frame them as being like American creationists opposing a "settled science". Brilliant I know a tame geneticist whose wife makes catastrophe specials for Horizon, he'll be up for portraying them as being mad like creationists ..Like all the other experts we get he's got almost zero knowledge of the climate issue,.. We'll get him to front our report telling the BBC to report Climate how WE want !"

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:16 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Ah that unpublished 97%
"If Miller's upbraiding of Neil is because Neil quoted criticism of the Cook, Nuccitelli 97% paper .."
ah well Neil as a no-scientist is not fit to criticise that 97%, cos it's "published science" err sorry it is published isn't it ? Maybe Miller knows something Retractionwatch or anyone else doesn't know. Cos that article still seems to be stuck in limbo land of not being officially published, but not yet retracted (well until that fine upstanding scientist of integrity on the review panel Peter Gleick agrees to that)

Oct 31, 2013 at 10:46 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Intellectual cowardice is fundamental to the AGW community. Thus the tactic of declaring the "debate" over and simply "moving on". The AGW believers assume they are in charge of deciding the debate. They assume they have settled it and can simply ignore the pesky problems skeptics and increasing numbers of scientists keep pointing out. Yet they seem to obsess on communication and most of all spending what is reliably reported as $1 billion per day of mostly public money on this.
More and more of this money seem to be spent (squandered?) on explaining why the failed predictions of AGW are really not failures, or in co-opting those who might otherwise offer skeptical views.
And the climate maddens these true believers by not cooperating...or even worse they don't care what the climate does, because all they really care about is the act of belief itself.

Nov 1, 2013 at 2:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@Oct 31, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Paul Matthews

Fiona Harvey, who wrote the Guardian article Andrew Miller is complaining about, is of course one of the people chose, in its wisdom, to give oral evidence to the inquiry!

That's cosy isn't it!

So it seems the chair of the committee is later interviewed on a subject by one of the people who had given evidence to him and he provides this person with some ammunition to attack yet another entity who had been giving evidence - the BBC. Isn't that just wrong?


This is gelling slowly with me but in the above reply to the Bish the committee say

The criticism [Miller] has made of the Andrew Neill show was not about the content of the questions but the manner in which they were made.

This just strikes me as weaselly since Miller's mate Harvey in the Guardian article implies Miller clearly says something critical about specific "views" in the BBC Neil show, and the link used to illustrate it (preserved in the quote below) is to Nuccitelli's Guardian blog which includes Nuccitelli defending his own 97% paper against the criticisms from Richard Tol:

Neil was accused by scientists afterwards of putting forward partial data and discredited arguments. Miller said allowing Neil to air these views as if they were authoritative fact was misleading viewers, because it suggested that the arguments carried as much weight as those of climate experts


If the criticisms from Tol are now proscribed views in the eyes of the chair of the Science and Technology Committee, how did he come to this conclusion? Was he only informed of the alleged incorrectness of Neil's questions by submissions to his committee?

Or was it later by Harvey or Nuccitelli at the Guardian?

Nov 1, 2013 at 8:07 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

If a letter, ostensibly by Andrew Miller, exists you might wish to enquire whether he actually wrote it, or has just allowed his name to be put to someone else's thoughts or epistle.

I live in his constituency and, on the occasions that I have seen him speak here, he inevitably struggles to put a coherent statement together on any subject.

Nov 1, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian E

- Oops I am mixing up the 2 SkepticalScience papers : Lewandowsky's "NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science" is the one stuck in Limbo land
- John Cook's (New 97% paper) Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature : was published, but was deeply flawed and seems to be a fix (so conveniently re-inforcing the magic 97% number of an earlier bogus survey).
- It was well deconstructed by Richard Tol, after Tol noticed straight away that it misclassified his own papers, and other peoples too : and that is what Andrew Neil repeated
- Introduced by notrickszone, Explained by Prof Judith Curry
.. Latest from Jo Nova

Nov 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

stewgreen

Regarding the '97%' paper and your query as to whether it is published science, I think you were half right - while it has been published, it very clearly is not science by any definition I am aware of - getting a bunch of your mates to offer a subjective rating of abstracts of papers with regard to their position on AGW? Good game for down the pub, but not scientific research.

Nov 1, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan Blanchard

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