Increased Scrutiny for BBC as It Announces Policy to Silence Global Warming Skeptics

July 21st, 2011 2:31 PM

British media mogul Rupert Murdoch has spent the past few weeks facing ethics inquiries as a result of his News of the World phone hacking scandal. Now British-government-owned media giant BBC is being questioned for its journalistic ethics in muzzling global warming skeptics in its taxpayer-funded broadcasts.

Because BBC believes skeptics' views "differ from mainline scientific opinion," the network plans to reduce airtime to the "minority" views. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank that serves to challenge the costly environmental policies countering a possibly fabricated problem, describes the attack on skeptics as "using the 'science-is-settled' mantra as a smokescreen to silence critics of climate taxes and green policies." Coming from a government-funded network, the political agenda the network is trying to push should be making the same headlines the News of the World scandal has created.

Following a report released yesterday [PDF] by BBC and written by Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London, the network should consider the science on global warming settled, and any skeptics or deniers of its accuracy should be categorized as a fringe group in the same realm as believers in alternative medicine or astrology. Accordingly, they do not merit the same coverage as the elite global warming scientists.

A belief in alternative medicine or in astrology and a fear of vaccines or of GM food are symptoms of a deep mistrust in conventional wisdom. Such scepticism should be part of every scientist’s, every journalist’s or every politician’s, armoury. However, mistrust can harden into denial. That faces the media with a problem for, in their desire to give an objective account of what appears to be an emerging controversy, they face the danger of being trapped into false balance; into giving equal coverage to the views of a determined but deluded minority and to those of a united but less insistent majority. Nowhere is the struggle to find the correct position better seen than in the issue of global warming.

While Jones does not want a complete ban of skeptics from the airwaves, he believes their airtime should be limited to match the apparent minority of the population they constitute, as to prevent a "false balance" of coverage. Jones continues his global warming consensus diatribe, insisting,

In its early days, two decades ago, there was a genuine scientific debate about the reality of climate change. Now, there is general agreement that warming is a fact even if there remain uncertainties about how fast, and how much, the temperature might rise.

Global warming and BBC critics see the report as a cover for BBC and the British government to promote an environmental agenda without necessitating a fair debate from skeptics.

An editorial from today's Daily Express explains this isn't the first time BBC has malignly adopted a "consensus" view, which has twice happened in recent years in order to please the metropolitan elite controlling the network's content.

After all, the BBC has been found severely wanting after adopting just such an approach on other major issues.

For years it marginalised sceptics of mass immigration because a pro-migration consensus existed among the metropolitan elite.

Now it admits that it did not cover the issue properly.

Similarly, those who argue Britain would be better off out of the European Union are still marginalised despite a welter of evidence to support their views and polls showing that at least half of licence-payers agree.

A cosy, pro-Brussels consensus among the leaderships of the major political parties and metropolitan opinion formers has stifled debate.

In the face of budget cuts, BBC also plans to begin rerunning expensive programming. Two of the programs on the slate for reruns are the environmental film Blue Planet and the six-part series Nature's Great Events. Neither runs specifically on a global warming storyline, but Blue Planet was narrated by David Attenborough, who has also written and narrated a number films with more overt global warming stances, while the first episode of Nature's Great Events is titled The Great Melt, emphasizing the extent to which melting ice has affected polar bears in recent years.

Lord Lawson, the chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation who works to challenge such environmental programs of the British government, is countering BBC's environmental push, explaining

The BBC is already extremely one-sided on this issue. They have a settled view which is politically correct.

The idea that because scientific opinion falls largely on one side you can't have a debate is outrageous. Because there’s a strong majority in basic science doesn't mean the issue is off the table, yet the BBC says it should be.

By limiting coverage of global warming skeptics, the Global Warming Policy Foundation believes BBC will prevent any real debate on the issue from occurring. Such will lead to extremely one-sided coverage with anthropogenic global warming being treated as a fact, not a highly contentious theory. A spokesman for the BBC Trust defended Jones's report, retorting,

The report is not suggesting that climate change sceptics will not have a place on the BBC in future.

The point Professor Jones makes is that the scientific consensus is that it is caused by human activity. Therefore the BBC’s coverage needs to give less weight to those who oppose this view, and reflect the fact that the debate has moved on to how to deal with climate change.

In the wake of Jones's biased report, many conservative Members of Parliament are seeking to abolish the BBC Trust, the governing body of BBC. Because of BBC's unquestioning acceptance of Jones's findings, its true impartiality has been called into question when determining which ideologies it will fund on its airwaves. The journalistic ethics of the network should be facing even more ridicule and inquiry than News Corp, as BBC is funded by tax dollars, not private money.