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« A foot of hail in Spain | Main | Diary dates: physics edition »
Friday
Jul042014

The BBC and its scientists

The last time the BBC Trust discussed a seminar of leading scientists that had informed their editorial policy they were infamously not telling the truth and, after many years of requests for information and fruitless internet searches, it was finally determined that the people involved were in fact almost without exception green activists or green scientivists.

It's therefore interesting to note this little snippet from the BBC Trust report discussed earlier today:

There was an in depth briefing for key editors and correspondents organised by the College of Journalism ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change, which was published in September. This consisted of a briefing from senior members of the IPCC, a panel discussion involving three climate change scientists representing a range of views and an internal discussion about the editorial implications for our output. We think this made a substantial contribution to balanced and proportionate coverage of the IPCC report.
So, again we see the BBC taking advice on its editorial content from unnamed third parties in secret. Despite the fact that attendees at similar meetings mentioned in the report are identified, the BBC seems strangely reluctant to mention the ones responsible for climate change coverage.
Funny that.
I think, given previous experience, that we should assume that the Trust are pulling the wool over our eyes again.
My guess is that the senior members of the IPCC would be Pachauri, van Ypersele, and somebody like Trenberth. The three climate change scientists, probably Bob Ward, Caroline Lucas, and Johnny Porritt.
What do readers think?

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Reader Comments (97)

"trust" is a convenient name: I trust them as far as I can spit

Jul 4, 2014 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJBBS

Why speculate? As in North Korea, any idiot will do. Let's hope those were London based idiots, at least we've saved some money.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

The "range of views" wasn't awfully wide then.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

BBC = The Evil Empire
BBC Complaints Dept = The Evil Umpire

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas

Thank you Richard Betts for sharing with us. Were you privy to the briefing from the senior members of the IPCC and are you at liberty to disclose their identities?

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

Transcript please Richard Betts.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

BBC Truss = An elaborate contrivance to prevent anyone at the BBC spilling their guts.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas

Mike Hulme is not technically a scientist but a geographer; he also seems to see himself as an amateur psychologist of the 'deniers are usually right wing' variety. See 'Why we disagree about Climate Change'.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Richard Betts: "The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself."

I think that's just cheating!

How do the rest of us have a chance to guess if you just blurt out who it is.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself.
Jul 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM | Registered Commenter Richard Betts

Did Myles bring his loaded dice with him?

Thanks for sharing Richard, but as a BBC license fee payer (and tax-payer who also funds the Met Office) I'd also like to know what was said. It seems that two geography professors from publicly funded universities, and your good self from the publicly funded Met Office, had a confidential meeting with BBC, after which the BBC decided to perpetuate their editorial policy to keep sceptics off the air?

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:54 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Philip: "Mike Hulme is as an amateur psychologist of the 'deniers are usually right wing' variety."

I may be wrong but it seems to me all the pause deniers are left wing - usually public service, often with no science of engineering qualifications.

Jul 4, 2014 at 8:54 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

I have given a short account of how the conventional plan of climate salvation is failing and how this failure has led to this new exploration of an ancient idea. I have given some token arguments of how the individual virtues of wisdom, humility, integrity, faith, hope and love have relevance as we comes to terms with the condition of a prosthetic climate and I have connected these to the collective projects of civic virtue and virtue ethics. Finally, I have suggested that the cultivation of virtue is a very practical ambition and one which can draw upon religious tradition and resources, which themselves can be partly replicated in secular contexts.

From a recent Mike Hulme paper - this is what the BBC means by a 'range of views'. Scepticism is not in that range.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-0787/3/3/299/pdf

- from a post by 'Santa Baby' at WUWT:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/04/respectful-debate-and-skeptical-voices-do-make-a-difference/#comment-1676079

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Seems the BBC continues to act both judge and jury in its own court. They don't seem to understand we know when we are being lied to. Defence from inside the bubble is deaf to outside opinion but it keeps the salary cheques flowing. Met Office I assume the same. What is interesting is the opinion of those of us that have no financial dog in the fight. I know BS - I can smell it, no amount of Grantham deodorant can conceal it.

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterLondonCalling

Little wonder the air got cleared with Lew.

Now I don't mind people consorting with the KKK but it's mysterious what makes them interested to communicate to us negroes.

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:20 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

The BBC has fallen into some deep doo doo by not listening to multiple warnings from the public. It’s telling that they’re trying so hard to repeat history.

Hopefully Profs Richard Betts, Myles Allen and Mike Hulme pointed out that climate has a great many questions that cannot yet be answered by scientists, let alone Bob Ward, Greenpeace or Prince Charles. What is important, is that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is spoken by scientists or anyone else. Lies told in favour of AGW should be no more tolerated than untruths from sceptics.

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I didn't see the briefing from senior IPCC figures, as I travelled up from Devon that morning and arrived in time for my own panel, but I know Jean-Pascal van Ypersele was there because he stayed on and we had a chat afterwards. Jonathan Lynn (IPCC Head of Communciations and Media Relations) too.

Myles, Mike and myself were asked to give our perspectives on current climate science and also on the debate about the future of the IPCC (disband, re-organise, keep unchanged). Then we took questions from the audience. Myles didn't bring his loaded dice, but he did bring his lumps of coal!

Omnologos, your ability to see connections where there are none never fails to astound me, and neither does your ability to lower the tone.

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:53 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts

" The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself. ."

Thanks Richard, how did you get the gig? Who made the selection and why?

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:54 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Whilst some MetO scientist got distracted, he was made part of the great bbc concoction of a reason never to invite the very host of this blog ever to talk about any topic even laterally touched by the ipcc. My representationless taxation is being used to scare the public and subdue science and the pursuit of knowledge...my tone is more than subdued compared to that.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:03 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Were requirements of the fanfare and media campaign endorsing the Met Office planned replacement supercomputer for 2015 handed over during this BBC Trust Met Office session?

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Green Sand

The BBC invited me. I have no idea how they decided who to invite, but I have been interviewed by the BBC many times so it's not surprising that I am on their radar as climate scientist and IPCC author who is prepared to talk to media audiences.

Paul in Sweden

Met Office supercomputing was not discussed, this was about IPCC not Met Office.

Omnologos

This meeting happened before the release of IPCC AR5, and hence before the various BBC interviews with our host and Lord Lawson.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

No Richard the meeting happened long after the bbc got caught fabricating stories about adviser scientists that weren't actual scientists after all.

Such a profound issue doesn't make you uncomfortable to advise the same organisation. Likewise it's all ok now with a guy who thinks it's scientifically demonstrated the people you've now communicating with are deranged conspiracy theorists.

It's like getting a job as a cook in Sun City in the 1980s and wondering why the friends back home react in disgust.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:40 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

As a Finn I can tell you that Jean-Pascal van Ypersele is the most hilarious name I have ever heard. Beats Monty Python's Biggus Dickus hands down.

With the first name referring to a crude version of the word "taking a dump" (paskal') and the last name having uncanny similarity to both crude form of the word meaning "buttocks" (perse) and a common curse word meaning "satan" (perkele), the combined effect is something that a Finn who really hates Belgians might invent as a mockery, if he was really witty.

But someone actually having a name like that... :D

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilarious

Richard B.

Thanks for advising you participated.

The BBC Trust report states "....panel discussion involving three climate change scientists representing a range of views."

Would you advise whether that 'range of views' covered the entire spectrum of opinions, or, just one particular end of the spectrum?

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

It sounds more like the briefing was from Moe, Larry and Curly.
What maroons.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Richard Betts,
You could have pointed out the actual problems and concerns and problems of the consensus, counseled the BBC on ending its bigotry and spinning of news. Instead, more of the same.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Jul 4, 2014 at 9:53 PM | Richard Betts
Myles, Mike and myself were asked to give our perspectives on current climate science and also on the debate about the future of the IPCC (disband, re-organise, keep unchanged).

Richard, would it be a safe assumption that neither Myles, Mike nor yourself endorsed the disbandment of the IPCC?

Where could we find the most current 'Myles, Mike & Richard' perspectives on the future of the IPCC (disband, re-organise, keep unchanged) and could you point out the diversity between the three of you?

Then we took questions from the audience.

What were the most pressing questions from the key editors and correspondents?

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Richard Betts

"The BBC invited me. I have no idea how they decided who to invite, but I have been interviewed by the BBC many times so it's not surprising that I am on their radar as climate scientist and IPCC author who is prepared to talk to media audiences."

Thanks Richard, that is as expected, lets face it you are "on their radar" as a safe pair of hands. There is an old saying "If you might not like the answer, don't ask the question". The BBC have now elevated it to an art form!

Under "uncertainty" did you advise them to actually talk to the "sceptic community"? The likes of our host?

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:54 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Is factual evidence allowed to be reported by the BBC?

Is the inaccuracy of climate models newsworthy?

Are the normal disciplines of proper science allowed to be reported or are we simply to be informed about post-normal science?

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRCS

Try and follow this lot- sorry it gets a bit mixed up, but you will get the general idea.
The BBC is not to be trusted.
[snip: unfair]

YOUR COMPLAINT:
Complaint Summary: Editorial bias with regards to climate change.
Full Complaint: Dear Mr. Webb, your response (Reference CAS-1838513-HXKZD7) does not in any way address my concerns. I am well aware of the FOI (EA/2009/0118) case, which found in favour of the BBC, however the names of those attending the 2006 seminar are now in the Public domain. The vast majority were NGO activists with vested interests in promoting climate change alarmism. In June, 2007, the BBC Trust published a report written by Mr. John Bridcut entitled “From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel: Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st Century”. That report, which is fully endorsed by the BBC Trust, contains the following statement (page 40): “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." This statement, which refers to the 2006 seminar, forms the basis for the BBC’s decision to change it’s editorial policy and abandon impartiality on the subject of climate change and hence breach its Charter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-editorial-values-editorial-values/) Finally please explain how Mr. Bridcut’s specialist knowledge of English 20th Century composers, in any way qualify him to pronounce on matters of science, or scientific expertise?
Dr. D. Keiller.

Thank you again for contacting us.
BBC Complaints
NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.
BBC Complaints - Case number CAS-1894266-J8738S
To the BBC Trust.
Dear Sir/Madam.
I have just received this wholly inadequate reply to a complaint that I made about a breach of broadcasting standards. My particular concern relates to the BBC Trust’s unquestioning acceptance of the Bridcut report, commissioned by the BBC Governors and the BBC Executive and which informs the current BBC Guidelines which state that, "Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item”.
My first concern, which the BBC Complaints response does nothing to address, is the credibility of Mr. Bridcut’s conclusion that the Seminar included 'some of the best scientific experts'. I have yet to hear a credible explanation of how Mr. Bridcut’s specialist knowledge of English 20th. Century composers in any way qualifies him to pass judgements on science, or whether those who attended (see list below) are “some of the best scientific experts”. In fact the vast majority on this list are not scientists, rather activists and campaigners from organisations that promote climate change alarmism and indeed, stand to profit from it. Furthermore the few scientists present are from the “alarmist” camp and do not in any way represent the true range of scientific opinion on the issue of climate change. Even more disturbing, several of the BBC attendees have since been compromised by the Jimmy Savile scandal- a scandal that raise serious issues about their judgement.
Furthermore Mr. Bridcut cannot in any way be considered “independent”, having previously worked for the BBC for 12 years.
In short the conclusions of Bridcut report are seriously flawed, by virtue of the author’s lack of scientific expertise. Hence, by extension, BBC editorial policy, which derives its legitimacy from this report must also be flawed.
The rest of the response is an “appeal to authority”. Just because the Royal Society makes a statement, does not make it true. They have proved fallible in the past and will, no doubt, prove fallible in the future. The observation that political parties agree with the current, fashionable theories on climate change is irrelevant.
Yours faithfully,
Dr. D. Keiller

Dear Dr Keiller,
Thank you for your email.
I note your further comments. I am afraid there is little I can add to my previous response other than assuring you that ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust; it is essential to its independence that the BBC retains the public’s trust as an impartial purveyor of news and programming. The BBC is required to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality. The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC fulfils this obligation.
Certainly it would be wrong for the BBC to suppress sceptical theories and ideas and that is not what the BBC's Editorial Guidelines support. In the 2011 impartiality review into the BBC’s coverage of science, the accompanying report encouraged the BBC's programme makers to look deeper into the scientific literature in sourcing stories. We hope this will improve the BBC's programme makers’ access to the best and widest evidence as it arises and changes - an inevitable aspect of science, as you rightly point out - allowing them to report important stories as accurately as possible.
With regard to your specific concern about the 5 Live interview, I should explain that the Trust’s role in the complaints process is at the final stage, hearing complaints on appeal. The process requires that the BBC’s management have an opportunity to respond to complaints in the first instance. Therefore, if you would like to make a complaint about this specific instance you can do so online at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints or by writing to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington, DL3 0UR or calling 03700 100 222.
Yours sincerely
John Hamer
BBC Trust Unit

Dear Mr. Hamer.
I am in receipt of your reply, on behalf of the BBC Trust, to my letter detailing my concerns about the BBC’s lack of impartiality with regards climate change.
You appear to place great confidence in the Bridcut Report, commissioned by the BBC Governors and the BBC Executive. You state that this was “independent”, whilst carefully omitting to mention that Mr. Bridcut had previously worked for the BBC for a period of 12 years, in a variety of roles. Such an omission does not inspire confidence.
Neither do the qualifications of Mr. Bridcut, who concluded that the Seminar included “some of the best scientific experts”. Please explain to me how Mr. Bridcut’s specialist knowledge of English 20th Century composers, in any way qualify him to pronounce on matters of science, or scientific expertise?
Then you make the dully predictable “consensus” argument and “appeal to authority”. In this case, the Royal Society.
Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels. It is a way to avoid meaningful debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator, who happens to be right, which means that he, or she, has results that are verifiable by real world data and experiments. In science consensus is irrelevant. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
The historical track record of scientific consensus is nothing but dismal. Many examples can be cited, here are a few:
Nicholas Copernicus experienced the effects of the prevailing consensus when he advanced theories that planet Earth was not the centre of the Universe.
Lord Kelvin (the first UK scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords and President of the Royal Society) uttered these immortal words, just 5 years before Einstein upset the Newtonian apple cart. “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement"
Finally, probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had, indeed, drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology, until 1961. It took the “consensus” fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.
Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=MC2. This is a theory that has been repeatedly tested in real world experiments. Unfortunately the same rigour has not been applied to Climate Change theory, much of which is “supported” by unverifiable computer models, rather than real World, observational, science.
Finally with regards to the BBC’s pro-environmental bias. Only today BBC 5 Live interviewed committed AGW alarmist Bob Ward (Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change) for several minutes unopposed. Naturally Mr. Ward was less than enthusiastic at the recent developments with regard to fracking.
The presenter then said she'd read out a 'few of your texts that have come in'.....before stringing off 4 anti-fracking messages in a row, with not a single pro-fracking text to compare to.
Biased BBC strikes again.
Accordingly you need to reconsider your misleading and shallow reply to me.
Yours sincerely,
Dr. D. Keiller

Dear Dr Keiller
Thank you for your email to the BBC Trust. I am responding as a member of the BBC Trust Unit which supports and advises the Chairman and Trustees.
I note your concerns about the impartiality of the BBC and in particular the recommendations of the Bridcut Report of 2007.
I can assure you that ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust; it is essential to its independence that the BBC retains the public’s trust as an impartial purveyor of news and programming. The BBC is required to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality. The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC fulfils this obligation.
The seminar to which you refer was held on 26 January 2006 under the Chatham House Rule. It was organised in partnership with the Cambridge Media and Environmental Programme (CMEP) in conjunction with BBC News and BBC Vision. It pre-dated the Trust and was not a BBC Trust event. I understand that the Seminar was a one-day event focusing on climate science and the possible implications for businesses, individuals and international diplomacy looking ahead to the next 10 years and exploring the challenges facing the BBC in covering the issue. The event brought together 28 BBC representatives and 28 external invitees including scientists and policy experts including representatives from business, campaigners, NGOs, communications experts, people from the 'front line', scientists with contrasting views and academics. It is important that, in order to achieve an understanding of where due weight might lie in an argument, the BBC establishes what the prevailing consensus on an issue is and I understand that the seminar was part of that effort.
The Bridcut Report itself was commissioned by the BBC Governors and the BBC Executive but was an independent report by Mr Bridcut. He concluded that the Seminar included 'some of the best scientific experts'. His report was presented to the BBC Trust, which accepted the report, agreed the principles outlined within it and approved the recommendations for the Trust.
You have quoted from the Bridcut Report on the seminar but you will also be aware that the Report went on to make the following point: "But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC's role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as 'flat-earthers' or 'denier', who 'should not be given a platform' by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space."
New editorial guidelines were published in 2010. The current BBC Guidelines state that, "Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item. Instead, we should seek to achieve 'due weight'. For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus."
The Trust's Editorial Standards Committee has explained its position in some of its findings on the subject in recent years. The Committee decided that its position was that there is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is definitely happening and laid out some of the reasons for reaching that decision, which included the statement by the Royal Society that, "Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming". The Committee also noted that all three of the larger British political parties, as well as the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, have accepted man-made climate change as a reality.
However, if you feel there are specific instances where the BBC has not met expected standards of impartiality then you can of course raise them using the BBC complaints process. Details of the process are available online at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.
I hope this is helpful.
Yours sincerely
John Hamer
BBC Trust Unit

Dear Mr. Hamer, thank you for your reply.
Unfortunately it is entirely unresponsive to my main criticisms, namely that;
(1) you stated that the report was “independent”, whilst omitting to mention that Mr. Bridcut had previously worked for the BBC for a period of 12 years.
(2) the qualifications of Mr. Bridcut, who concluded that the Seminar included “some of the best scientific experts”.
You have not made any attempt to explain how Mr. Bridcut’s specialist knowledge of English 20th Century composers in any way qualify him to pronounce on matters of science, or scientific expertise?
In relation to these two complaints it is significant that the BBC declined to name these "experts", defending this position in court at great Public expense..
What is absolutely clear that the BBC has acted in a less than transparent manner and has failed in its statutory obligations to the Public to be impartial.
Once again, I ask you and the BBC to justify its position on these matters.
Rest assured, I will not let this matter rest until I have received a satisfactory reply.
Yours sincerely,
Dr. D. Keiller

Ref: 1803332
Dear Dr Keiller,
Thank you for your email.
I note your further comments. I am afraid there is little I can add to my previous response other than assuring you that ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust; it is essential to its independence that the BBC retains the public’s trust as an impartial purveyor of news and programming. The BBC is required to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality. The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC fulfils this obligation.
Certainly it would be wrong for the BBC to suppress sceptical theories and ideas and that is not what the BBC's Editorial Guidelines support. In the 2011 impartiality review into the BBC’s coverage of science, the accompanying report encouraged the BBC's programme makers to look deeper into the scientific literature in sourcing stories. We hope this will improve the BBC's programme makers’ access to the best and widest evidence as it arises and changes - an inevitable aspect of science, as you rightly point out - allowing them to report important stories as accurately as possible.
With regard to your specific concern about the 5 Live interview, I should explain that the Trust’s role in the complaints process is at the final stage, hearing complaints on appeal. The process requires that the BBC’s management have an opportunity to respond to complaints in the first instance. Therefore, if you would like to make a complaint about this specific instance you can do so online at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints or by writing to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington, DL3 0UR or calling 03700 100 222.
Yours sincerely
John Hamer
BBC Trust Unit

Dear Dr Keiller
Thank you for your email to the BBC Trust. I am responding as a member of the BBC Trust Unit which supports and advises the Chairman and Trustees.

I note your concerns about the impartiality of the BBC and in particular the recommendations of the Bridcut Report of 2007.
I can assure you that ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust; it is essential to its independence that the BBC retains the public’s trust as an impartial purveyor of news and programming. The BBC is required to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality. The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC fulfils this obligation.
The seminar to which you refer was held on 26 January 2006 under the Chatham House Rule. It was organised in partnership with the Cambridge Media and Environmental Programme (CMEP) in conjunction with BBC News and BBC Vision. It pre-dated the Trust and was not a BBC Trust event. I understand that the Seminar was a one-day event focusing on climate science and the possible implications for businesses, individuals and international diplomacy looking ahead to the next 10 years and exploring the challenges facing the BBC in covering the issue. The event brought together 28 BBC representatives and 28 external invitees including scientists and policy experts including representatives from business, campaigners, NGOs, communications experts, people from the 'front line', scientists with contrasting views and academics. It is important that, in order to achieve an understanding of where due weight might lie in an argument, the BBC establishes what the prevailing consensus on an issue is and I understand that the seminar was part of that effort.
The Bridcut Report itself was commissioned by the BBC Governors and the BBC Executive but was an independent report by Mr Bridcut. He concluded that the Seminar included 'some of the best scientific experts'. His report was presented to the BBC Trust, which accepted the report, agreed the principles outlined within it and approved the recommendations for the Trust.
You have quoted from the Bridcut Report on the seminar but you will also be aware that the Report went on to make the following point: "But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC's role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as 'flat-earthers' or 'denier', who 'should not be given a platform' by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space."
New editorial guidelines were published in 2010. The current BBC Guidelines state that, "Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item. Instead, we should seek to achieve 'due weight'. For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus."
The Trust's Editorial Standards Committee has explained its position in some of its findings on the subject in recent years. The Committee decided that its position was that there is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is definitely happening and laid out some of the reasons for reaching that decision, which included the statement by the Royal Society that, "Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming". The Committee also noted that all three of the larger British political parties, as well as the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, have accepted man-made climate change as a reality.
However, if you feel there are specific instances where the BBC has not met expected standards of impartiality then you can of course raise them using the BBC complaints process. Details of the process are available online at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.
I hope this is helpful.
Yours sincerely
John Hamer

Dear Dr Keiller
Please find attached a letter from the Senior Editorial Strategy Adviser in response to your appeal to the BBC Trust.
Yours sincerely
Christina Roski
Complaints Adviser

BBC Trust Unit
I am writing to state that I disagree with your decision and would like the Trustees to review it.
The reasons are simple. They are encapsulated in my reply to Mr. Hamer on December 12, 2012 (see below).
My primary contention is that Mr. Bridcut is unqualified to make any judgement with regards to matters of science, or scientific expertise.
I have yet to receive any explanation of why this is not the case.
The only “explanation” was in Mr. Hamer’s reply which stated that;
“The seminar to which you refer was held on 26 January 2006 under the Chatham House Rule. It was organised in partnership with the
Cambridge Media and Environmental Programme (CMEP) in conjunction with BBC News and BBC Vision. It pre-dated the Trust and was not a BBC Trust event.”
Essentially what is been said “it didn’t happen on our watch, so there’s nothing we can do”
That the time of the seminar predated the BBC Trust may indeed be the case, but it does not absolve the Trust, as editorial decisions are still being informed by this seminar.
Yours sincerely,
Dr. D. Keiller

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

omnologos

Maurizio, your ongoing theme of disapproving who I talk to is getting rather repetitive. I don't have to agree with someone in order to talk to them, whether it's editors at a national broadcaster or an academic whose paper I criticised (and still disagree with), or indeed commenters on a blog. Exactly the same silly argument of 'engagement=endorsement' gets used by Green activists who tut when I post here.

But you seem to want to have your cake and eat it - you criticise the BBC for not having enough scientists at the other meeting, and now when a scientist attends a more recently meeting you don't like that either.

Paul in Sweden:

would it be a safe assumption that neither Myles, Mike nor yourself endorsed the disbandment of the IPCC?

Actually that would be a completely wrong assumption. Mike thinks the IPCC has had it's day, and said so. Myles said it should abandon the blockbuster assessment report. I said I felt the assessment reports were still valuable, perhaps more so for WG2 & WG3 than WG1 at this time (2 and 3 are just now finding their feet, in my view). My understanding is that Mike also thinks the standard view of climate change being a 'problem' requiring a 'solution' is out-of-date and not useful, indeed possibly harmful, whereas Myles seems quite clear on his view that there are solutions which can be largley science-led (I steer clear of that kind of thing - too close to policy comment!). So yes a range of views.

The most pressing questions were things like 'How has the scientific literature moved on since AR4 - won't AR5 just be more of the same?' and for me one question was about the differences between WG1 (physical science) and WG2 (other natural sciences and also social sciences), since I've been in both. They were trying to figure out whether there would be any new angles for their coverage.

And yes we did discuss uncertainties. Don't remember anybody specifically recommending talking to sceptics, but that kind of question wasn't one of the topics - it was more on science and IPCC process, rather than communication & audience.

Hilarious: funnily enough I'm off up to London to see the Monty Python show tomorrow, so I'm off to bed now - wouldn't want to miss the train in the morning….!

Goodnight and thanks for the discussion.

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:34 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

I've never made a point about whom Richard TALKS to...rather the disappointment is in seeing this inability to understand the various issues are not sealed out of each other.

The sleep of scientists produces climate change monsters.

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:49 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I don't object to who you talk to Richard.
I object to what you say.
As do many folk here.
Much of it has little scientific justification - e.g this;
http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/4-degrees-and-beyond-international-climate-conference

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Good effort Dr Keiller.

The BBC are as balanced as a two wheeled tricycle.

PS Keep up the good work - we plebs are right behind you.

Jul 4, 2014 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterNumber 7

Thanks for taking the time to comment here on the proceedings, Richard.

Jul 5, 2014 at 1:52 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

@ Richard Betts

I realise that you would not want to disclose what you discussed, but I would ask one question.

Did you form the view that your (BBC) audience were sufficiently well informed - and sufficiently intelligent to take in that information - so as to be capable of deciding where the "balance" should lie?

Jul 5, 2014 at 4:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterWFC

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

IMHO

(1) The BBC Charter was designed, after a great deal of deliberation by some of the most sophisticated brains then available, (1) to protect it from pressure by pressure groups, and (2) to be answerable only to the Trust who were to represent the public.

With reference to (1) above as is pointed out above by someone we all love, we have less than 100 contributors and espouse views that differ from those that the vast majority of the climate science profession find it profitable to espouse in public. We are therefore, as she says, a pressure group, and the BBC is not required, or worse, is required not to include mention of us or our views in its output, except, perhaps, dismissively.

With reference to (2), in practice, relationships between management and the Trust seem to have become unduly cosy and management are now able to use the terms of the Charter to isolate it from such criticisms as it chooses without fear that the Trust will interfere.

Probably the underlying cause is cost. As with other public bodies, costs of the BBC's senior management have risen disproportionately. Meanwhile the Trust is under comparatively close public control and it has been starved of funds and, as a result, now lacks staff to give it the clout it needs to confront the heavyweights in management. (As Don Keiller's exchange of letters amply demonstrate.)

However, notwithstanding the very considerable effort put into its formulation, it was recognized that the Charter could not be expected to remain effective for ever and it is to be reviewed next year. Accordingly, it would seem appropriate to make those responsible for this review and for renewal of the arrangements for public broadcasting (selected MPs?) aware of the complaints that have been made and of the failures of the responsible bodies to amend their ways.

Thus, while I see no likelyhood of profit in complaining to the BBC or the Trust, I am hopeful that complaining to those who will be in a position to enforce discipline in the future will be crowned with success.

Jul 5, 2014 at 6:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

I wish I shared your positive worldview, Uncle. Unfortunately the fact that relationships between management and the Trust seem to have become unduly cosy is most likely the manifestation of a common trait among large independent British public and quasi-public bodies.

Just look at the neverending series of NHS and Police scandals, where time and again the organisation circles the wagons and protects itself. They represent themselves, not the public's interests. And they remain basically unanswerable to anybody.

It'd be far better if their top echelons at least were democratically elected and had to keep the pretence of caring for us all.

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:08 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

'Three climate change scientists representing a range of views '

Is that in the same way three catholic priests have a 'range of views ' ?

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Good work Don,

Sorry you didn't get very far though.

Isn't it fascinating how there is a singular refusal to comment on the science-worthiness of Bridcut? Just completely ignored that I can see, almost as if the query is beneath them.

Is it possible, just possible, that they truly believe they are being impartial?

Andy

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

You can TRUST the BBC

Rolf Harris, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall were BBC employees?

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Wagstick

I have just read the well researched and footnoted paper in PDF: "Christopher Booker: The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal", linked from the GWPF website. After reading this nothing surprises me about the lengths to which the BBC will go to maintain the groupthink of the organisation in this case about Climate Change. They fervently believe in the cause and will do anything to prove they are right.

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered Commentersouthern girl

It was good of Richard Betts to share his perspective with us on this meeting which transpired prior to the "official" approval of WGI's contribution to AR5 last September.

I wonder if, during the course of this gathering, any mention was made of "The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate" a (so-called) "independent" group which launched itself on Sept. 24, 2013 - and which will oh-so-conveniently reveal its (expert, of course!) Report on "The New Climate Economy":

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate is a major new international initiative to analyse and communicate the economic benefits and costs of acting on climate change. Chaired by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón [and co-chaired by good ol' Lord Nicholas Stern of Stern Report fame or infamy, depending on one's familiarity and/or perspective -hro], the Commission comprises former heads of government and finance ministers and leaders in the fields of economics and business.

The New Climate Economy is the Commission’s flagship project. It aims to provide independent and authoritative evidence on the relationship between actions which can strengthen economic performance and those which reduce the risk of dangerous climate change. [my bold -hro]

in conjunction with Ban Ki Moon's September 2014 Climate Summit:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to the Climate Summit this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. The Climate Summit provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.

Unfortunately, as I write this comment, the "Programme" is still in a state of "Coming soon". A state which, ironically, seems to parallel the state of so many "climate change" related indicators (not the least of which is the much dreaded increase in global average temperature!). But I digress ...

Back to The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and the (still under oh-so-transparent wraps, as far as I have been able to determine) New Climate Economy report. There are more details in my recent post but what really jumped out at me was the following from their otherwise remarkably unsurprising "Approach":

The New Climate Economy’s starting point is the perspective of economic decision-makers: government ministers, particularly ministers of finance, economy, energy and agriculture; business leaders and financial investors; state governors and city mayors.

For such decision-makers, climate change is rarely a primary concern.[...] Yet their decisions powerfully influence the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. [my bold -hro]

And, as we all know, the "trajectory" of "greenhouse gas emissions" (particularly CO2) has far exceeded the so-called "expert" opinions that the rise in the dreaded demon CO2 will result in any still-to-be seen (except in climate models of increasingly dubious reliability) disastrous effects.

The mileage of some may vary, but ... well, that's the view from here :-)

Jul 5, 2014 at 7:49 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Richard Betts finds it useful to talk to sceptics. Did he advise the BBC to do the same?

Jul 5, 2014 at 8:24 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

You can TRUST the BBC

Rolf Harris, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall were BBC employees?
Jul 5, 2014 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Wagstick


It's not merely that Savile was employed by the BBC.

It facilitated his access to children and young people for many years, even though BBC middle management knew perfectly well what he was up to. The BBC should be charged with complicity in sex crimes. Why has that not happened?

Jul 5, 2014 at 8:28 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

How many people passed by when the sex predators were "at work" at the BBC and kept quiet because nobody asked and it wasn't their problem?

In other news... "We've thought a lot about the morals of it a lot," claimed Brian May at the time, long alleged to be one of the cleverest men in rock, "and it is something we've decided to do. The band is not political - we play to anybody who wants to come and listen." "Throughout our career we've been a very non-political group," said bassist John Deacon (aka The Other One). "We enjoy going to new places. We've toured America and Europe so many times that it's nice to go somewhere different ... I know there can be a bit of fuss, but apparently we're very popular down there ... Basically, we want to play wherever fans want to see us."

The cloth-headed, deluded, impossibly arrogant nature of these pronouncements hardly needed mentioning. from http://www.theguardian.com/music/2005/jan/14/2

Jul 5, 2014 at 8:34 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

The three climate scientists were Myles Allen, Mike Hulme, and myself.
Jul 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM | Richard Betts

And the senior members of the IPCC were.... or have I missed something?

Jul 5, 2014 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Whilst BBC bashing is generally good fun, I was actually surprised and pleased that they interviewed Judith Curry twice as part of their coverage of the release of the recent IPCC reports, once on radio 5, and once on BBC Scotland radio.

Sadly there is no UK scientist willing to emphasise uncertainty.

Jul 5, 2014 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

I received this when I complained. BUT the word we need to focus on is - 'consensus'

"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. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC's role to close down this debate. Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution."


Perhaps the BBC need to define what the CONSENSUS actually is. Because as far as I'm aware, I'm part of it, so is Andrew and Lord Lawson. I'm in the 97% aren't you (to quote andrew a while back)

WHAT is the consensus? CO2 a green house gas, the earth has warmed last 150 years man puts CHG's into the atmosphere and contributes to GW - yes, yes, yes, yes...

the issues debated withing science is how much, and how much more...

so keep those people that don't believe that off the airwaves

now if they mean policy consensus, there isn't one...

Jul 5, 2014 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The three stooges. Would expect any real honest from any one of them ?

Jul 5, 2014 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

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