BBC Scotland Respond to BC Criticisms on Coverage of Climate Strike

Last week we reported on how the BBC Scotland flagship news programme The Nine breached its own guidelines on reporting climate change by inviting Andrew Montford, the Deputy Director of the notorious climate science denial propaganda unit, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) to be part of the show.

Last year the BBC was forced to introduce new guidelines after repeated criticism over the past decade for enabling “false balance” on the topic of climate change, as well as for failing to fully implement the recommendations of the BBC Trust’s 2011 review into the “impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science”.

As a result of the invitation all of the Scottish climate campaign groups withdrew from participation in the programme.

We contacted BBC Scotland with two questions:

1. Why did you break your own guidelines by inviting Andrew Montford of the GWPF onto a news programme?

2. Can you also clarify how many of your editorial team have undergone the staff training on reporting on climate change as issued by Fran Unsworth last year?

We received the following response from a BBC Scotland spokesman:
“We regularly try to set up items on a variety of topics which sometimes don’t get to air for one reason or another. As happens with live TV, running orders change and on this occasion we ran the story as a straight news item.”
Stating the obvious the response completely fails to address the questions asked.
The Nine has been widely praised and people have been surprised and pleased with it, despite teething problems. People are broadly in support of the new channel new programming and attempts to improve things, while recognising that the funding is inadequate. It’s also apparent that there is a swathe of talented and innovative staff and researchers behind much of the new channel, and we support the efforts to make better output.
But one of the issues that BBC Scotland has to deal with is not just an improved quality and ambition of news output, but also issues of transparency and trust. Responses like this – when the programme is clearly in breach of its own guidelines do nothing to improve that.

Comments (6)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Daoh, the others pulled out, hardly EBC, Scotlands fault on this occasion, you need at least one other opposing view to have a proper discussion otherwise it becomes a ‘propaganda’ speel for one side or the other. Maybe they should just have shown the bairns showing-up the rest of us and left any discussion out. You know the old saying, “Satisfy some of the people etc, etc…………………………………………..”

    1. This is the BBC’s own guidelines.

      Did you read the article?

      1. Chris Connolly says:

        The BBC (British version) also invited a representative from a right-wing extremist group on to Newsnight to discuss the terrorist outrage in New Zealand.

        Charles’ rules, as posited above, would also include inviting flat-earthers, paedophiles and serial killers into the studio to put their side of the story in a discussion with scientists, social workers and the police. I think there are somethings we should sensibly be able to take as read, and the validity of the scientific consensus on climate change is definitely one of them.

  2. Alastair says:

    The point here is that the BBC’s (very sensible) new guidance accepts that climate change is a fact, and that there is no need to create false balance by bringing on a denier every time the issue is discussed. The Today programme had been rightly pilloried for constantly inviting Nigel Lawson (also of the Global Warming Policy lot) in order to spread his nonsense.

    The guidance makes clear that deniers’ appearances should be exceptional, and enabled only when there will be proper challenge. Bringing one on the very first time the BBC’s Nine tackles the topic hardly meets the spirit of ‘exceptional’. It’s a clear case of attempting false balance.

    It’s a shame that the team fell over on this one, because on the whole I think they’ve made a promising start. Is it just me, or does the format hint ever so slightly at the one in ‘Borgen’?

  3. Robert says:

    “on this occasion we ran the story as a straight news item.” — What are they referring to? I watched the Nine and there was nothing on it about the School Strike.

  4. Jim Bennett says:

    The climate challenge strike was my thirteen year old’s first political action. She sat avidly through news programmes looking for the funniest placards and seeing if she had been filmed with her friends. Needless to say, she had her first lesson in how the media is used to sweep activism under the carpet. A lesson learned early has been learned well.

    I disagree with your generous view of The Nine. I think it’s pretty shite.

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