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Steve Jones and his research

Felicity Mellor of Imperial College has been mentioned at BH from time to time, chiefly because of her view that media coverage of science is insufficiently balanced. At a lecture at the University of Nottingham last summer she discussed the even more radical idea that there is just too much science reporting in the media, along with many other aspects of science journalism. There was also much discussion of the Jones review of the BBC's coverage of science, for which she did the underlying research.

Along the way (12:00 or thereabouts) she reveals that BBC executives tried to get the output of the report changed to make it less critical of the corporation's reliance on press releases as the source of their stories.

She also notes (28:00) the criticisms in the Jones report of "false balance", making the uncomfortable observation that in the research she did for the report she actually couldn't find much evidence of any balance at all: in only 6% of science pieces did a balancing view feature.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Jones was using the platform given him by the BBC to advance a political agenda in the face of the underlying research.

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Reader Comments (62)

Great find Bish. You seem to have uncovered the balancing voice for Steve Jones. I wonder therefore if the Today programme will interview her.

Dec 27, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The BBC don't put themselves in a very good position to be wilfully balanced because such an approach implies a degree of understanding.

Self-styled climate-change science is really just a science-of-everything, which is probably why it is so often the first thing the MSM reaches for these days. Yet the BBC is, at heart, an organization that doesn't want to employ people who have done science at a high level. And because they don't do it, it still scares them. The feel-comfortable point is that presenters/interviewers/editors/program-commissioners appear to think that environmentalism equating to science is adequate, and all viewers/listeners/readers like animals, right? Especially cute animals that might have furry coats.

To be concerned about a topic does not necessarily equate to competence or even relevance, but the people who are concerned, or claim to be most concerned, get the publicity.

Recall when the BBC was given a dressing down by, heaven forfend, the Guardian. Not only is the BBC not very good at finding sceptical scientists and experts, they are not even very good at finding women.

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermichaelhart

In truth, the BBC aren't really very much good at anything these days, are they?
They've given up doing sport apart from the annual December SPOTY blow-out and what they do is not well covered.
They don't do the arts very well any more apart from music. Their camera angles for the visual arts are an embarrassment, all sweaty close-ups and no context.
Their news coverage is banal and predictable as is current affairs and most other programmes are predicated on the assumption that all the viewers are really interested in is looking at a bunch of celebrities half of whom we have never heard of.
The rest is cheap (un)reality stuff built round cookery porn, house porn and antique porn in several variations.
And they demand the best part of £150 a year from us. Time for some mass civil disobedience, I think!

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Or: the BBC was pushing the agenda and Jones was the useful idiot. Either way round, Mellor has blown the report apart.

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Felicity Mellor chickens out. She says right at that the beginning that her views/ analysis on balance in science journalism does not apply to ... climate change.

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Registered Commentershub

I seem to remember Steve Jones describing himself as a "media tart". He certainly does seem to have a special relationship with the BBC. His wife, I think, makes documentaries and praises the BBC highly for the help they have given her and others.

I also remember feeling sick as I read the proud way a member of the BBC Trust introduced the disgraceful report on the way the BBC reports science.

The BBC has outlived its day as a quality broadcaster and should be shut down.

Dec 27, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The only balance in BBC's climate change reporting comes from Jeremy Clarkson.

Dec 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

The problem is that the BBC has become Reithless.

Dec 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

O/T - I am fed up with BBC bias, so have no shame in passing on this information on how to reduce your licence fee payments, passed to me by an insider.

Never renew your TV licence - instead, after you have received two warnings that your licence has expired (they will never prosecute before this), take out a new licence, paying cash at a pay-point, for your correct address but using an assumed name. This will prevent them from back-dating the license to the original due date. You will then receive your new licence by post - obviously under your assumed name - and you have saved 2 months' fee. In the unlikely event of your being questioned on the assumed name, you say that a relative of that name bought it for you and must have neglected to use your correct name.

I have not tried this yet, but it looks as if it would fool "the database".

Dec 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGummerMustGo

@ GummerMustGo

So much effort, so much running around. There's an easier way, you know...

Dec 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

"And they demand the best part of £150 a year from us. Time for
some mass civil disobedience, I think!"

Mike, why pay at all as you obviously have the internet. Just watch everything on demand as all the channels offer now. I work in the VOD field covering multiple UK broadcasters but I don't even bother to watch any of that either.

Dec 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

O/T - Went off grid several months ago.

I miss some SKY offerings but that's it.

Still figuring out catch up but it seems pretty extensive and remains (for now*) 100% legal whilst tucking that £145.50 away from those who don't now how to use unique funding wisely*.

*Just slightly concerned at the BBC rash of new hires from Purnell up, down and sideways to 'cope' with 'new' plans. Personally I think their trying to sneak in a charge for accessing the internet will be their suicide note, but it's not like they have shown the greatest smarts in much of anything for a while.

Dec 27, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJunkkMale

Comparison with another recent BBC report is in order, isn't it? (In both cases it appears that evidence damning to the BBC was omitted from a report commissioned by the BBC and the report's 'effective' author later confessed to the omission.)

Dec 27, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Relying on Press releases just Lazy Journalism.

BBC interviewing one of those Greenpeace activists .Couple of weeks in a Russian prison still cocky as ever.

Dec 27, 2013 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Bish, you are forgiven for thinking that Jones uses his public platform to push a personal political view. He's been doing it for years, including at the Torygraph of all places. Apart from his snail work he is a committed left-wing activist and should not be allowed as an arbiter of "balance" at a public-funded institution.

Dec 27, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Crawford

Shut down the funds to BBC.
If it can survive on its own that's okay.
If it can't survive on its own why support it?
Why help something that do not want help it's own survival?

Dec 27, 2013 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon

Bish, you are forgiven for thinking that Jones uses his public platform to push a personal political view. He's been doing it for years, including at the Torygraph of all places. Apart from his snail work he is a committed left-wing activist and should not be allowed as an arbiter of "balance" at a public-funded institution.
Dec 27, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Crawford

I guess that would explain why global-warming has slowed to a snail's pace.

Dec 27, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermichaelhart

Genetics also has a history of political bias both from the right and from the left.

This from (which of course itself may be biased !):

Steve Jones (Professor of Genetics at UCL) hasn’t a single peer-reviewed publication in the area of human behaviour genetics, but this doesn’t seem to trouble The Guardian, where Jones (1996) accused Chris Brand (1996) of the ‘elementary mistake’ of inferring between-group heritability from within-group heritability. One problem: it wasn’t actually true. Brand made no such error; see Sesardic (2005). .....
Besides, groups create their own environment anyway! Your environment consists largely of other people’s genes. The Guardian article satisfies Jones’s view, which allows for human evolution only to the extent that it doesn’t contradict his (socialist and egalitarian) political views, it’s also what the paper’s readership want to hear. Nice scientists must learn to deal with their own cognitive dissonance.

Dec 27, 2013 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

I guess that would explain why global-warming has slowed to a snail's pace.

Pause, hiatus and standstill, stand aside, you've met your match: snail's pace it is, not just in honour of Dr Jones but because it bypasses those tiresome debates about whether the graph is totally flat. The tortoise may have beaten the hare but the snail and warmist catastrophe are a fable too far.

Dec 27, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Mike Jackson
Couldn't agree with you more, except that, they don't even do music very well any more (have alook at the Freinds of Radio3 forums). Have a look at tonight's TV schedules (Fri 27th) BBC4, its cultural TV channel, an evening of ABBA - J****s C****t!!!!

I'm a classical music lover and have to resort to finding good music and presentation via the internet - and as for jazz, I have to rely on my CD collection - AND how does the BBC justify broadcasting six 'pop' music station?

To give it some credit there are some quite good science programmes on R4 - sometimes expressing a somewhat sceptical view, and, as a cricket lover, TMS can't be beaten - I always think that makes my licence fee worwhile.

ps I'm a retired BBC engineer so I know it from the inside.........

Dec 27, 2013 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrowcatcher

Not entirely OT, but I stumbled upon this debate from TV Ontario recently; Lindzen at his laconic best:

You'd never see this on the BBC these days

Dec 27, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpillinger

The only person currently with a regular climate brief at the BBC, with in depth climate knowledge, with (as proven by posting history) as close to an unbiased attitude as is reasonable to expect in that place and a relatively catholic moderated debating forum to boot, is Paul Hudson. I strongly suspect Steve Jones is as incensed by the recent Paul Hudson 'Little Ice Age' post as the environmental geologist blog warrier Martin Lack appears to be at comment number 26 in the below

As for the rest of the BBC, and as confirmed by the Felicity Mellor research, their science journaliasm is mainly limited to an unquestioning copy/paste press release robotic regurgitation, with injected innuendo spin in accordance with higher management policy directives.

Dec 27, 2013 at 9:58 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

...make it less critical of the corporation's reliance on press releases as the source of their stories....

Alas. The newspapers themselves no longer do much investigative reporting any more - they just copy what they see on the various blogs they frequent. They therefore manage to get news within a few days of it happening - the BBC follows them and so is usually a week late.

I stopped paying my BBC 'support the luvvies' tax a couple of years ago, and have become vastly better informed, educated and entertained since then...

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Spillinger, as one local hero said:

Just finished watching it - that is probably the most informative show on climate change I've ever seen.

You may have found a recent, working YouTube version, thanks. It is one of Lindzen's best.

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:11 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks Spillinger, a pity Richard and Hadi were mostly agreeing. I also watched part III, with Judith Curry expressing her doubts after Climategate.

Dec 27, 2013 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterharold

When it comes to the BBC and other mainstream outlets and their reporting of the climate change issue, the problem, as I see it, is not so much bias but the way in which the nature of the debate is framed. It is always presented as being a debate between those who accept the obvious truth of climate change as the good guys, and the deniers as the bad guys. In reality the debate is between the alarmists and those who are sceptical of their alarmism.

Dec 28, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

On the subject of BBC reporting. In a news item on Boxing Day, a spokeswoman from the Met Office was asked if the flooding was a result of climate change. She replied to the effect, that this is weather and you can’t confuse weather with long term climate change. Despite constant repeats of the same news – that particular contribution disappeared andI can’t find it any where on the BBC Iplayer.

Dec 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGlyn

Increasingly, self-defined 'science journalists' need to state their collective raisons d'être.
At present many seem to be mere translators of the words of others, causing wonder if they have any reason to exist at all. Who really needs them?

Dec 28, 2013 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

What does the BBC do with all that money, £5.102 billion in 2012-2013?

66% – All TV
17% – National and local radio
6% – Online e.g. BBC websites, iPlayer
11% – Other e.g. transmission and licence fee collection costs*
£3.4 billion on TV which explains why they can afford to send every Tom.Dick and Harriet to South Africa for Mandela's funeral.
£300 million on BBC website, iPlayer
£550 million Other e.g. transmission and licence fee collection costs.

Doesn't explain the lack of new material or live sport, not that the latter worries me too much.

Various world service type broadcasting is not funded by the licence payer.

From the web regarding Sky
The pay-TV giant today reported a 14% increase in operating profit in the 12 months ending June 30 2012 to reach £1.223 million - a record level for the broadcaster. Revenue was up 3% year-on-year to £6.791m.

Read more

So on a similar spend (£6.791m - £1.223 = £5.568 billion) Sky can purchase all those sporting events and, so my family and friends tell me. have excellent high quality coverage, have a website covering news and sport pretty well. Whereas the BBC has nothing new to broadcast and a website based on press releases.

Dec 28, 2013 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

In her talk Mellor refers to a paper by John Keane in the Political Quarterly: “Silence and Catastrophe: New Reasons Why Politics Matters in the Early Years of the Twenty-first Century”
It’s well worth a look. It’s a plea for free discussion of the potentially catastrophic “mega-projects” which are effectively outside democratic control. Keane is thinking of airports, nuclear power and fossil fuel development, but it’s equally applicable to the Climate Change Act and all its works.

Dec 28, 2013 at 10:47 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

@Dec 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM | GummerMustGo

Why so complicated? Simply write to TVLA (aka Capita) and point out that

1. You have no contract with them for goods or services, &
2. You have therefore withdrawn their common law right to enter your property.


Dec 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton


Sky? for Sky Sports 1, & so on. For all other sporting broadcasts, here

Terrestrial -

Sorted. No TV needed ever again. And use VPN if you are wary of being nabbed for whatever reason, you can get perfectly good VPN for well under a fiver a month.

Dec 28, 2013 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

@Jeremy Poynton - many tx.

I think we may have been restricted by running access via the kids' XBox, which is the only current connection to the wall socket ring main router internet signal. I am hoping by my inheriting (Santa was kind to someone in the family) a still very capable PC with HDMI connections I can extend our scope further beyond the BBC's often too unique ariel-bound interpretations of events and narrative enhancing efforts.

Or, of course, getting back to our most trusted national media monopoly, its too frequent editorial by omission. Which can be as pernicious as anything actively concocted in the edit suites they control and broadcast via the transmitters also under their unique care.

For instance, one wonders what world-renowned 'analysis' they may eventually offer (maybe Mr. Jones could be invited back?) on why a Chinese ice-breaker has turned back from a rescue attempt on a vessel apparently co-sponsored by the BBC to research (hopefully I have redeemed this post back on topic now) lack of ice in the area it was dispatched to.

Apparently it was too thick. A not uncommon problem in certain quarters, it may be imagined.

Dec 28, 2013 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJunkkMale

10:47 AM geoffchambers

I think you can/should add Thames Flood defence to that list of megaprojects - especially since the Environment Agency have widely trumpeted and spread much PR-BS about it being "saving London from Climate Change" and its corollary sea level rise - despite being notably reticent about exactly what they are actually protecting London from in detail....

Some years ago (2003?) I traveled to work for a month in a location with only SW radio (no TV / Internet) my only English reading for that time was a copy of that year's BBC annual report. At that time the beancounter section on the back was quite detailed and working back to a net hourly rate for content was do-able on a channel basis. Weekday evening BBC1 programming *content only* was coming out at £250,000 per "hour" - a number that at the time quite flabbered my ghast and triggered a smouldering enmity to most things BBC That enmity was later stoked by meeting an ex-BBC guy who'd supposedly written a book about his career there - which had been purchased from him for a princely sum (+legal gag) owing to the uncomfortable money related revelations therein.

The reputed final line of dialog in the colossal moneypit soap "Eldorado" should be on the BBC's epitaph 'You can't trust anyone these days, can you?' especially in a city of gold......

Past its sell by date and categorically rotten to the core.

Dec 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Registered Commentertomo

This is a must read.

Falsification of AGW theory by 30 years of NOAA data.

Dramagreens and Ecofascists take note.

"The end is nigh!"

Dec 28, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter & Twisted

Yep, jamspid - I saw that interview with the Greenp*ss activists - like they were conquering heroes or something.
They set out to commit a CRIMINAL act - quite rightly got chucked in jail - and should still be there except for Putin getting all warm and cuddly because he feels he's got to show what a nice chap he is on account of the Winter Olympics...

Separately - had to chuckle at the research ship which has got stuck in the Antarctic ice, trying to retrace the route of a previous expedition - but - hey - there's MORE ICE this time..! Due to Global warming, is it - this increase in Antarctic ice..?

Dec 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1


broadcast via the transmitters also under their unique care
sorry to disappoint...

The BBC sold off it's engineering assets to a carefully selected bunch of cronies in a number of "deals" - now National Grid owns / runs the terrestrial transmitter sites. The regional content switching and delivery is also AIUI done by third parties - that part of the family silver also having been flogged to some mates a while back. It struck me at the time as banditry - as I was unfamiliar with the word peculation at that time. The positive furtiveness with which much of this has been done is very telling - send a van around, nobody'll notice it's gone.

The luvvies and the Fatty Pangs are allergic to engineer types and this results in colossal balls ups like that £100,000,000 digital wossit money pit that recently saw the light of day...

The BBC's lawyers are well versed in protecting the organisation - 28gate was just one among may - those "others" that don't attract the obsessive interest of motivated outsiders can be expensively and elaborately scuttled without a ripple....

Dec 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Registered Commentertomo

How is this mysterious derivation of a sweeping conclusion about 'false balance' to be explained? I have the germ of a theory.

Several decades ago, I had a pal who could spot opportunities to wind folk up by changing his views from one day to the next on some political issue or other. When challenged, he would merely mention that he had been listening to Radio Moscow the night before, and that the position was clear and beyond dispute. I wonder what the climate equivalent of such a provider of ‘the correct line to take’ would be in modern times? Real Climate? Desmogblog? E-grams from the CRU or the Hadley Centre? Some agitatsiya propaganda cell deep within the UN? However, and whatever, someone something somewhere got the message to Jones that ‘false balance’ was the line to take with regard to the BBC.

Just a theory. Unsettling nevertheless.

Dec 28, 2013 at 2:24 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The disgraceful BBC was at it again this morning with a Radio 4 programme about ice, the poles and the impact of warming. Being the BBC, they avoided any mention of the fact that the Antarctic shows no sign of warming and appears to be cooling with record low temperatures and near record ice extent.

The BBC is very good at presenting half the story, the part that delivers the message that that they wish to convey. They avoid presenting inconvenient facts that undermine or counter their agenda.

Dec 28, 2013 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

2:24 PM John Shade

Radio Moscow ? - some of the Greenpiece et al crew are obviously unaware of Albania's Radio Tirana ca. early 1980s where melting down and re-casting the "truth" reached truly epic and comical heights (Alexei Sayle built a career off it...).

Since I spend quite a bit of time outside the fug of UK MSM - the jolt when the BBC weasel speak gets onto something I have some personal expertise in and experience of is quite severe - it seemingly goes unnoticed by those boiling frogs immersed in it - but 'pon occasion it's every bit as off the wall as anything emanating from Hoxha era Radio Televizioni Shqiptar I still remember the tune to "With a Pickaxe in One Hand and a Rifle in the Other"

Dec 28, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Christopher Booker calls out one of Steve Jones's false claims here-

Dec 28, 2013 at 10:29 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Season's Greetings to all solitary sceptics tinkering in their 'shops'

'In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government. Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.'

Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation January 17, 1961

Dec 28, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

tomo - I spent the winter of 74/75 in NW Iceland fishing (not for pleasure) and for some reason Radio Tirana was the clearest of all SW. The female presenter spoke perfect English and her voice! If you can equate a voice with beauty, she must have been an absolute stunner. So good you could almost overlook the Stalinist nonsense she was on about.

But informing me that Enver Hoxha received 102.5% of the popular vote in an election was difficult to take. Apparently the populace were so enamored by the man that some managed to sneak in and vote twice, she informed me in the sweetest of voice.

Dec 28, 2013 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

The Christmas lectures (first tonight) were treated to a toe-curling appearance on a bike by Paul Nurse, who pretended to be modest about his Nobel prize, but managed to ensure it got a mention. I switched off at that point.

Dec 29, 2013 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Getting back to Felicity Mellor's talk, I am astonished that the BBC would hire her to do some independent research on BBC output and when they are 'vexed' (her words) by it they present her with their own research to contradict her 'independent' research. Such is the incompetence of BBC management that this research they offer turns out, on a slightly deeper look, to reinforce Mellor's original conclusions.

This is shameful underhand, behind-the-scenes, gerrymandering by immoral BBC management.

I note that Mellor also quotes the wise words of David Whitehouse a former BBC science correspondent. I wonder what would happen if Jones and Whitehouse ever got to debate the BBC

But no, the BBC and Jones himself would never allow that.

Dec 29, 2013 at 2:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterGabby

u want MSM CAGW activism:

6 Dec: SMH: Nicky Phillips: Fairfax Media trip to Antarctica to see the effects of climate change
In Antarctica, the weather controls everything, and nothing is a certainty – projects get postponed, trips get cancelled, flights get delayed, boats get stuck in ice, people get injured.
But global warming is an important story, and the trip will give Fairfax Media a rare opportunity to visit the continent most acutely affected by global warming. Antarctica is climate change ground zero. The data that scientists gather will play a crucial role in future climate models.
We will be down south over Christmas, New Year’s and the station’s annual resupply, a huge logistical challenge…
Colin Cosier:
The highlight of our trip will be visiting the ice core drilling project at Aurora Basin North. Located “deep field”, about 550 kilometres inland from Casey, the site is about 2700 metres above sea level but the air pressure will make it feel more like 3000 metres…

15 Dec: Guardian Teacher Network: Emily Drabble: Antarctica – news and teaching resources round up
The Guardian’s expedition to the Antarctic is a fantastic opportunity to investigate one of the last unexplored regions on Earth. Here are the teaching resources you need to do it in style
The Antarctic is a unique place to monitor the health of our planet and the data collected from Mawson’s trip is some of the science community’s most precious, especially for those studying the extent of global warming. There are opportunities for you and your class to talk to scientists and journalists involved in the expedition, so do follow @alokjha, @loztopham, @GdnAntarctica and @guardianscience on Twitter…

all updates re the M/V Akademik Shokalskiy which is stuck in the ice in Antarctica can be found at:

So much sea ice in Antarctica that a research vessel gets stuck, in summer!

Dec 29, 2013 at 3:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

it's a long tale best understood from the multiple links in comments at WUWT, but this is the latest from the Guardian's Alok Jha on the Akademik Shokalskiy. MSM has attempted to cover this story as simply a ship following in Mawson's footsteps, but it has always been about CAGW:

29 Dec: Guardian: Alok Jha: Antarctic expedition: still icebound – what happens next is anyone’s guess
Like explorer Douglas Mawson 100 years ago, Alok Jha and the expedition he joined face a long wait to be rescued
Since then we have been stuck in pack ice. The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long has given up its attempt to rescue us as ice sheets continue to spread and thicken…
Marine ecologist Tracey Rogers took biopsies and fur from several Weddell seals, material that will help her build a picture of what these animals have been eating for the past few years. Changes in food would be a signal that the Antarctic environment is irrevocably changing. (pat – HUH?)…
What happens to us now is anyone’s guess. If we hadn’t got stuck in ice last week, we would have visited Macquarie Island, an ecological jewel between Antarctica and New Zealand. There, scientists had ambitious plans to study penguin colonies and take geological samples to help reconstruct past climates. However, as we wait to be freed, it is probably a mistake to think about the future: because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my brief time in this desolate, still and intriguing continent, it is that, in Antarctica, you can’t make plans. Here you can only have intentions. And a lot of hope.

listen from 37:20 into the 55 min program, don’t know how long this will be available:

27 Dec: BBC Newshour: Kiribati, mentions first climate change refugee turned down by NZ.
says here is island’s President – has to cut off because wrong tape comes up.
moves instead on to Antarctica & BBC’s Andrew Luck-Baker in Antarctica. says they’re trapped. plays report from a couple of days previous.
Luck-Baker: surveying ice edge East Antarctica. if all this ice melts, sea level would ris, e by 53(?) metres –
***but to be frank, i don’t want to talk about climate change & sea level rise and whatnot…i just want to describe what the place looks like… stunning, etc.
next item: back to Kiribati story:
(Quote from Island’s President)
THEN to Robert McLeman (associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, author of book, Climate and Human Migration) :
McLeman: Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City etc to be uninhabitable.
most will relocate within China, but middle class will migrate externally.
BBC: with tens or possibly hundreds of millions on the move…should people living of higher ground be fearful.
McLeman: if we look at big migrant-receiving countries, Canada, US, UK, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand…we could accommodate this within our existing migration programs…
BBC: strong misgivings in UK about migration.
McLeman: that’s a good point. we have rapidly aging populations so, in 30-40 years, we need young labour migrants just to maintain our social economic well-being. should plan ahead and do it in systematic fashion.
BBC: is it your suspicion that, even if we took concerted effort now to stop global warming to try to reverse or control warming, it’s probably too late, & there will have to be significant migrations, blah blah.
McLeman: u r absolutely right, even if we curtailed greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we’re locked into a certain amount of change in the global environment…
so we do have to deal with the root causes, which is the greenhouse gas emissions in the first place.

Dec 29, 2013 at 3:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

10:49 PM GrantB

Aye ... those were the days...Radio Tirana must have had one of the most powerful transmitters on the planet. Did you ever find out what she looked like? I used to hugely enjoy their addiction to insane contrariness, production statistics and their "joke" pieces which Mr. Sayle seemed to borrow wholesale - sort of Magritte for the ears...

Back to the BBC though - it's simply embarrassing - for hours on BBC "rolling news" I've witnessed geography errors that would've shamed a 12 year old schoolchild in my day being constantly repeated, illogical inanities being prattled to "pad out" a vacuum and fawning PC boiler plate uncritically gushed across most of the rest of the output - in a way that resembles third rate sales pitches delivered from fourth rate scripts espousing a cure-all product reputedly extracted from snakes.

The 28gate episode would seem to epitomise the BBC's bureaucratic approach to providing its audience with a "worldview" - and that ... is clearly not acceptable. Meanwhile - passengers on the gravy train continue to lavishly primp themselves and sneer at the peons (with a few exceptions).

Dec 29, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Registered Commentertomo

oops 2 posts for the price of 1 there....

Dec 29, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Registered Commentertomo

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

I am encouraged that SandyS, 28/12 10.44am found little in the BBC accounts because I had contemplated delving into them before posting. Now I know it will be a waste of time, I am free to regurgitate the fruits of my ruminations unsupported by anything more substantial than the confession that what I write will merely be my opinion and ill-remembered cherry-picked tittle-tattle.


Two quite separate phenomena are responsible for the decline of our beloved BBC.

The first, I fear, was Mother Thatcher, who, while generally being 'a good thing', was wrong over 'culture', the BBC included. In common with the rest of the economy, she insisted that culture had to pay its way. So the accountants moved into the Beeb and started cutting programming costs. So, these days, BBC output has to be cost-effective. The first consequence of this is the pursuit of audience figures. Next, programme quality. Extra expense to seek tip-top quality is not allowed. A consequence of this, of course, is one sidedness over two sided issues, like climate change. If you want to say climate change is happening, is man-made and will cause calamities, say it, and do not waste precious funds on adding that there are some who dispute it.

Secondly, over the years just after the last (39-45) war income disparity between the top tiny percentage and the wage-slaves at the bottom has widened. In addition, the identity of the beneficiaries at the top has changed. In days of yore, they were your industrial baron, your land owner and the recipient of inherited wealth, etc. More recently, land owners and inheritors have been displaced by senior officials of central and local governments, QANGOs, and the like including, of course, the BBC.

When I entered public service as a very junior mandarin in the years not so far removed from the war, expectations were for interesting risk-free work in fields in which I had no training (my conversion to a professional at public expense- whoopee), and an adequate living wage and pension. Getting rich was not a preoccupation and none of us were money-grabbing go-getters.

At management school at that time, we learnt that breadth of responsibility was a prime factor in the determination of remuneration and that a risk successfully taken reaped proportionate reward. At work, however, there were no formal 'management by objectives' or other criteria to measure success in discharging our responsibilities and provided we were good chaps we could count, if necessary, on the benefit of any doubt. And risks, we did not take. So academic teaching as applied to our work environment confirmed our expectations. We would never be rich in public service, but that was fair enough because we were free to enjoy ourselves working for the public good.

Nowadays people in top jobs in organisations equivalent to the one I joined are paid much more. As a result, people who enter the public service now include a minority whose main preoccupations are money and the amount they can divert to their own pockets. (eg: Lord Stern?) And because they pursue this aim while the majority just enjoy themselves doing their job for the public good, competition is low and they emerge where they want to be, at the top.

So now you have money grabbing go-getters at the top of public service bodies including the BBC. And at the same time top pay is rising fast across the wider world. Oh joy, Oh bliss.

"Tell me, Oh ignorant board (trust) member, any good reason why I should not have a pay increase commensurate with that generally paid by successful risk takers in the private sector. No twaddle about less risk here, please, I have the whole of the general public to serve and everybody acknowledges nobody knows anything about how they will react to our offerings. Or that my responsibilities are small: I have overall responsibility for everything, including subordinates responsible for this and that detail. But don't expect me to understand what they do or to fall on my sword if they fail.

"But our income is not rising at the same rate and we cannot afford to pay what you ask.

"Oh yes you can: reduce what you spend on output and pay me instead. Too bad that output quality must decline, I agree, but you don't have any choice, do you?

So, at least in part, the problem with the BBC's climate coverage is a consequence of much more general change.

And another point: the vast majority of the figures for income disparity that I found related to the recent past with one or two only for pre-war times. But history suggests to me that income disparity must have been high in earlier times. Think of the start of the 20th century and the appeal of communism. Accordingly, the post-war figures that form the basis for the thoughts in this post may, in fact, have been abnormally low and the recent rise in the disparity between top and bottom pay levels may be a return to the normal.

Dec 29, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

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