Reading the Biased BBC blog for many years, I've been able to follow the extraordinary saga of the Freedom of Information battle between dogged blogger Tony Newbery of Harmless Sky and the almost-as-dogged BBC over a 2006 seminar organised by the corporation's environment analyst Roger Harrabin.
As is its way (think of the Balen Report), the BBC made a determined and legally costly effort to keep all information about the controversial seminar secret, for its eyes only. The legal battle came to an end last month with Mr Newbery's final victory over the BBC.
The Mail on Sunday reports on the story, and it makes very interesting reading - wherever you stand on the global warming issue.
In particular, it raises important questions about the BBC's impartiality, its links to environmentalists and the influence that the then-Labour government seems to have had on the corporation's output.
The controversial seminar was run by a body set up by the BBC’s own environment analyst Roger Harrabin and funded via a £67,000 grant from the then Labour government, which hoped to see its ‘line’ on climate change and other Third World issues promoted in BBC reporting.
The conduit for that influence, according to the Mail report, was "a lobby group with close links to green campaigners, the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT)" which "helped to arrange government funding" for several Roger Harriban seminars, including this one.
Applying for money from Mr [Hilary] Benn’s Department for International Development (DFID), the IBT promised Ministers the seminars would influence programme content for years to come.
In an internal report, the IBT boasted that the seminars organised with Mr Harrabin had had ‘a significant impact on the BBC’s output’.
The charge against Roger Harriban appears to be this then:
...by teaming up with the IBT, an avowed lobby group trying to influence coverage, and accepting government funds when Labour was advocating radical policies to combat global warming, Mr Harrabin exposed himself to the charge he could be compromising the Corporation’s impartiality.
And what's the BBC's response to all this? According to the Mail:
A BBC spokesman said yesterday the seminar had ‘no agenda’, and that the organisers recognised BBC rules on impartiality, while the IBT’s funding application was a ‘matter for them’.