The serialisation of Peter Sissons’ new book continues in the Daily Mail today, and the former newscaster turns his attention to the BBC’s editorial approach and coverage of climate change.
Perhaps it is a credit to the bloggers who have highlighted issues with the BBC’s coverage over the years that hardly anything Sissons says is new. However what prove useful are the elements of Sissons’ professional assessment and inside observation of the BBC bias and propaganda, as demonstrated in the sections below:
There is one brief account of the proceedings, written by a conservative commentator who was there. He wrote subsequently that he was far from impressed with the 30 key BBC staff who attended. None of them, he said, showed ‘even a modicum of professional journalistic curiosity on the subject’. None appeared to read anything on the subject other than the Guardian.
This attitude was underlined a year later in another statement: ‘BBC News currently takes the view that their reporting needs to be calibrated to take into account the scientific consensus that global warming is man-made.’ Those scientists outside the ‘consensus’ waited in vain for the phone to ring.
It’s the lack of simple curiosity about one of the great issues of our time that I find so puzzling about the BBC. When the topic first came to prominence, the first thing I did was trawl the internet to find out as much as possible about it.
Anyone who does this with a mind not closed by religious fervour will find a mass of material by respectable scientists who question the orthodoxy. Admittedly, they are in the minority, but scepticism should be the natural instinct of scientists — and the default setting of journalists.
Yet the cream of the BBC’s inquisitors during my time there never laid a glove on those who repeated the mantra that ‘the science is settled’. On one occasion, an MP used BBC airtime to link climate change doubters with perverts and holocaust deniers, and his famous interviewer didn’t bat an eyelid.
Then there is the BBC’s cult worship of celebrity and love of being courted expensively, as demonstrated by their fawning over Al Gore:
Meanwhile, Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice-President and climate change campaigner, entertained the BBC’s editorial elite in his suite at the Dorchester and was given a free run to make his case to an admiring internal audience at Television Centre.
His views were never subjected to journalistic scrutiny, even when a British High Court judge ruled that his film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained at least nine scientific errors, and that ministers must send new guidance to teachers before it was screened in schools. From the BBC’s standpoint, the judgment was the real inconvenience, and its environment correspondents downplayed its significance.
And Sissons provides us with confirmation of the BBC’s determination to present only one side of the story, in wilful breach of journalistic ethics and flying in the face of the corporation’s own claims of impartiality and balance:
At the end of November 2007 I was on duty on News 24 when the UN panel on climate change produced a report which later turned out to contain significant inaccuracies, many stemming from its reliance on non-peer reviewed sources and best-guesses by environmental activists.
But the way the BBC’s reporter treated the story was as if it was beyond a vestige of doubt, the last word on the catastrophe awaiting mankind. The most challenging questions addressed to a succession of UN employees and climate activists were ‘How urgent is it?’ and ‘How much danger are we in?’
Back in the studio I suggested that we line up one or two sceptics to react to the report, but received a totally negative response, as if I was some kind of lunatic. I went home and wrote a note to myself: ‘What happened to the journalism? The BBC has completely lost it.’