As noted on the latest open thread, the BBC has now issued internal guidance on how to report climate change.
Editorial staff have been briefed, among other things, that they "do not need a 'denier' to balance the debate":
- Man-made climate change exists: If the science proves it we should report it. The BBC accepts that the best science on the issue is the IPCC’s position, set out above.
- Be aware of ‘false balance’: As climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate. Although there are those who disagree with the IPCC’s position, very few of them now go so far as to deny that climate change is happening. To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken. However, the BBC does not exclude any shade of opinion from its output, and with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer, there may be occasions to hear from a denier.
- There are occasions where contrarians and sceptics should be included within climate change and sustainability debates. These may include, for instance, debating the speed and intensity of what will happen in the future, or what policies government should adopt. Again, journalists need to be aware of the guest’s viewpoint and how to challenge it effectively. As with all topics, we must make clear to the audience which organisation the speaker represents, potentially how that group is funded and whether they are speaking with authority from a scientific perspective – in short, making their affiliations and previously expressed opinions clear.
The briefing was announced in an internal email from Fran Unsworth, the BBC's head of news and current affairs. It begins:
After a summer of heatwaves, floods and extreme weather, environment stories have become front of mind for our audiences. There are a number of important related news events in the coming months – including the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Green Great Britain Week in October – so there will be many more stories to cover. Younger audiences, in particular, have told us they’d like to see more journalism on the issue.
With this in mind, we are offering all editorial staff new training for reporting on climate change...
The referee has spoken.
And so has the second referee. Former BBC environment correspondent Richard Black approves:
The creation of this course is welcome news. The BBC was wrong in my view to scrap the science seminars that it set up in 2011 – very few producers and presenters have a science background.
The course will be criticised by some – words like ‘stifling the debate’ – but those voices are decreasingly important in the country. I think the real takeaway from this is that the BBC has decided it no longer cares about evidence-free allegations of ‘bias’. It’s to be commended for putting its mojo on display.Richard, if you recall, rarely worried about putting his mojo on display when he worked at the BBC.
Update: Well, as we're not the BBC, here's a response from the other side - namely Benny Peiser of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (quoted in the Times):
This memo puts in writing what most people have known for the past ten years, which is that anyone sceptical of climate alarmism isn’t allowed on the BBC. They cherry-pick the people who make claims. No one is allowed to counter their own bias.
The BBC is taking a position on a very controversial issue. Climate change is real and humans are contributing to it but it is not as alarming as the BBC very often makes out.