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BBC To Reporters: No Need To Put Global Warming ‘Deniers’ In the News

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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  • BBC issued a formal guidance telling reporters not to include global warming “deniers” in news coverage
  • BBC has been trying to crack down on climate coverage since at least 2014
  • Skeptics have criticized BBC, saying its actions are meant to silence debate

The BBC has renewed its crackdown on reporters interviewing skeptics in TV, radio and print coverage of man-made global warming.

BBC’s director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, sent an email Thursday telling BBC journalists there’s no need to include “deniers” in global warming coverage. This is the first time BBC has sent formal guidance on global warming, reported the website Carbon Brief.

Unsworth’s email linked to a “crib sheet” that included BBC’s “position” on global warming coverage, according to Carbon Brief. BBC also asked journalists to take a one-hour “training course on reporting climate change.”

BBC told reporters not to include a “denier” in coverage of global warming in “the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday.” The BBC’s crib sheet says: “The referee has spoken.”

This may be the first formal guidance on climate coverage, but it’s not BBC’s first attempt to train reporters against allowing “false balance” such in coverage. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton’s Reason For Opposing Brett Kavanaugh? Global Warming)

The BBC Trust reported in 2014 that 200 journalists had gone through training on how to not give “undue attention to marginal opinion” when covering scientific issues, including global warming.

Global warming skeptics have criticized BBC and other media outlets for trying to silence dissent on the issue.

BBC did say there were certain occasions where “contrarians and sceptics should be included within climate change and sustainability debates,” including “debating the speed and intensity of what will happen in the future, or what policies government should adopt.”

But even then, BBC told reporters to challenge those viewpoints and to “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.”

It doesn’t seem there are similar guidelines for environmentalists or activists making alarmist claims about global warming or those trying to link every single weather event to greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s what BBC told reporters, according to the email and crib sheet obtained by Carbon Brief:

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.

BBC’s formal guidance comes after the news organization was criticized by U.K. broadcast regulator Ofcom for “not sufficiently challenging” Lord Nigel Lawson in a segment on global warming.

“[D]uring this past 10 years, if anything … average world temperature has slightly declined,” Lawson, who founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said in a radio segment in 2017. BBC apologized for not challenging Lawson.

Lawson previously criticized the BBC in a Daily Mail column in 2014. Lawson accused the BBC of trying to silence the scientific debate on global warming.

“The truth is that the BBC’s outrageous behaviour is nothing whatever to do with whether I am a climate scientist or not. Indeed, it is not about me at all,” Lawson wrote.

“The fact is that, on this issue, the BBC has its own party line (indistinguishable from that of the Green Party) which it imposes with quasi-Stalinist thoroughness,” Lawson wrote of the BBC’s policy.

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