In recent days this blog has focussed attention on the BBC’s policy of arbitrarily rejecting Freedom of Information requests. The corporation has consistently cited a self interpreted catch-all derogation they say exempts them from releasing information, because all the information they have is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’
The focus on this stemmed from a failed attempt by Tony Newbery of the Harmless Sky blog, to get the list of names of attendees at a BBC seminar held in 2006, from which the BBC made the decision to give up any pretence of impartiality when covering climate change in news and current affairs output. In a BBC Trust report on impartiality by film maker John Bridcut, the discussion at the 2006 seminar was referenced and was used by the BBC to declare that the man-made climate change argument was over. It was happening and their coverage would reflect that. In fact it would go further, as Bridcut revealed:
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 [on anthropogenic climate change].
In light of such a seminal moment, the moment the BBC abandoned impartiality on a subject when even during World War II they refused to come down on support of one side, it would not be unreasonable to know who these ‘best scientific experts’ were. They must have offered some solid, irrefutable evidence and cast iron argument to justify their stance that would see licence fee payers effectively funding biased coverage on the subject in contravention of the BBC Charter.
So it was Newbery asked the BBC to name the attendees of the seminar. For years the BBC has doggedly refused to give up the information, hiding behind the infamous derogation they use to bat away any attempt for the licence fee paying public to find out how editorial policy has been formulated and decided. It then spent a small fortune, of money collected via the licence fee, to fund a team of six expensive lawyers to fight to keep the details secret when Newbery dragged the matter before an information tribunal – which we referenced in a blog post here.
In a follow up blog post in which we considered the derogation, the fact it is only the BBC’s interpretation of the FOI Act exemption and that it should be challenged at a tribunal, we asked the obvious question: ‘So what exactly is the BBC hiding?’
Now we know. Information uncovered in the last 24 hours by Maurizio Morabito of the Omnologos blog has confirmed that the BBC lied to Bridcut about the seminar being attended by ‘some of the best scientific experts’ which informed its decision to take one side in the climate change debate. Maurizio later went on to explain why this is important.
Since Newbery’s original FOI request the BBC has conducted a systematic cover up to hide the fact its editorial policy was chosen by a range of 25 environmentalists, eco campaigners, a staffer from the US Embassy, students, someone from the Church of England, an insurance industry consultant, and even a representative from the CBI. In a previous blog post we mused:
The attendee lists and outputs of such sessions are not being held for the purposes of journalism, but rather as a validation of the partial worldview the BBC chooses to hold and propagate via its channels.
How absolutely prophetic this proved to be. The BBC’s favourite activists were gathered together, all possessing an identical worldview and determined to deny those who challenge their claims the oxygen of publicity and an even playing field upon which to debate the issue. The BBC knew what outcome it wanted and engineered it by listening only to those whose views would validate the prevailing worldview within the corporation. It then hid behind the FOI derogation to stop the public finding out. And we only have confirmation of this because Maurizio was smart enough to trawl the Waybackmachine to see if an entity had at some point published the attendee list that exposed the cynical deception. Kudos!
Andrew Orlowski in The Register puts the attendee list in its proper context with, as he says, most…
… coming from industry, think tanks and NGOs. And as suspected, climate campaigners Greenpeace are present, while actual scientific experts are thin on the ground: not one attendee deals with attribution science, the physics of global warming. These are scarcely “some of the best scientific experts”, whose input could justify a historic abandonment of the BBC’s famous impartiality.
The BBC has lied. It has hidden behind its questionable FOI derogation to maintain its lie. That needs to be burned into the public’s collective consciousness. Those who did it need to be held to account and drummed out of the corporation.
However there is a bigger issue here and Orlowski for one is on the same page this blog has been on for a long time; namely that what needs to be tackled urgently is the BBC’s self interpreted FOI derogation.
We know it is completely unjustified, but now that knowledge is backed up with incontrovertible evidence of how the derogation, as the BBC keeps applying it, enables abuses such these to be perpetrated and covered up. It is as many of us suspected. The corporation is rotten to the core and the public has been disgracefully deceived on this issue and perhaps many others. It is time for a light to be shone in those areas the BBC has, without justification, kept off limits to the people who fund the corporation.
If we want to hold the BBC to account we need to focus as one on challenging its FOI derogation and having it stripped away. The message to the BBC should ring out loud and clear, tear down this wall.