The BBC says manmade climate change is so indisputable that it does not need to invite ‘deniers’ on to its shows for balance.
Ms Fran Unsworth, who is the corporation’s head of news and current affairs, told journalists the issue should be treated in the same way they would report the score in a football match. In a note to staff, she said: ‘Manmade climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it. ‘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.’
Miss Unsworth’s email also directed staff to training materials stating that the broadcaster had too often failed to strike the right balance on climate change. ‘Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often. The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence,’ the materials said, according to the Carbon Brief newsletter. The issue was highlighted last year by a Today programme interview with Lord Lawson, a former Tory chancellor and climate change sceptic. He claimed on the Radio 4 programme that there was no confirmation that extreme weather events were on the rise. He also said – inaccurately – that global temperatures had ‘slightly declined’. Fran Unsworth, who is the corporation’s head of news and current affairs, told journalists the issue should be treated in the same way they would report the score in a football match The Today programme criticised Lord Lawson’s views on air the following day and senior BBC bosses later decided to go further and issue a formal apology. The public display of hand-wringing sparked criticism from climate change sceptics and free speech advocates, who said green campaigners were ‘the book-burners of our age’.
Lord Lawson scored a victory over the BBC in January, when it was forced to admit that it had distorted the facts in a television programme. The BBC2 travelogue, Russia with Simon Reeve, claimed that reindeer populations across the north of the country were ‘in steep decline because of climate change’. However, Lord Lawson pointed out that 17 out of 19 types of Eurasian reindeer were either stable or increasing in numbers. The BBC’s claim is ‘a distortion of known facts and constitutes a serious factual error’, he wrote. ‘Given that climate change is such a controversial subject, extra care should be taken.’ This time the corporation stopped short of issuing an apology – but it did admit it should have been clearer. ‘This programme suggested that many reindeer populations are in steep decline because of climate change,’ the BBC said. ‘It would have been more accurate to say that many reindeer populations are threatened by it.’