BBC on Freedom of Speech

Paul Matthews,who is on holiday, draws our attention to this article on the BBC site.

I could have added a link under my last article, but it seems important enough to quote in full, and to give it the maximum publicity. Commenters please note, there are now two different though overlapping subjects under discussion: the attempt by the mainstream media and the scientific “establishment” (New Scientist, Brian Cox..) to eliminate non-specialists like Lord Lawson from the debate; and the defence by the BBC “establishment” of traditional values of press freedom.

Some years ago Tony Newbery of the excellent blog Harmless Sky reported a conversation with a journalist friend who stated that the one thing journalists – of whatever political persuasion – couldn’t stand was being told what they could and couldn’t say. The BBC’s response is confirmation of this simple psychological fact. Here it is:

Today, Radio 4, Thursday 10th August 2017


Some listeners complained that Lord Lawson was an inappropriate choice of interviewee to talk about climate change issues, that he made factually inaccurate statements and that we did not challenge him sufficiently on some of the points he made.


The Today programme responds:

“The interview with Lord Lawson was one of a number of items on the 10 August programme about climate change. Before 0700 we spoke to our environment analyst about the science. We had a long interview at 0709 with Al Gore who was talking about his new film, the US Government’s approach and the global effort to tackle climate change and we heard from the filmmaker, Fisher Stevens, who directed the 2016 film ‘Before the Flood’.
Like Mr Gore, Lord Lawson has been a frontline politician and since leaving office he has gone on to take an interest in this area as chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In the interview our aim was to focus on the subsidy regime and Mr Gore’s claim that there are policy makers who do not “join the dots”, and Justin Webb challenged Lord Lawson in both these areas.
The next morning we fact checked the claims around levels of subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels and we ran through the latest scientific evidence on extreme weather events and the links to climate change.

We appreciate that listeners may disagree with the position Lord Lawson takes on this issue, but his stance is reflected, for example, in the current US administration which has distanced itself from the Paris Agreement. As we pride ourselves on hearing opinions from all sides on Today, we are confident that we gave listeners the context and facts to make their own minds up about the views expressed.

The BBC is absolutely committed to impartial and balanced coverage on this complex issue. Our position remains exactly as it was – we accept that there is broad scientific agreement on climate change and we reflect this accordingly. We do however on occasion offer space to dissenting voices where appropriate as part of the BBC’s overall commitment to impartiality.”


  1. Geoff you wrote yesterday that the BBC has rules on who it can interview but in reality it doesn’t. It has preferences that it sometimes applies those fictional rules to. So if it wants to shut someone up, they’re ‘not a scientist’. If they want to hear from them it’s ‘public interest’. If they want to report gossip they quote a newspaper publishing the gossip. It long since stopped reporting news and started making its own.

    The BBC regularly interviews people on the street or at a location the BBC chooses (eg seaside cafe or university canteen) setting up the message it wants to convey. It’s current favourite is that Brexiteers are all ancient dumbos and Remainers are Oxbridge super youths. Most politicians are not experts but they interview them as if their opinion is informed. Even when interviewing scientists the BBC will give equal weight to a non expert scientists if he or she has the preferred opinion (eg the BBC has a soft spot for homeopathy and hates GM foods). You could argue that they seek out famous people but the tv media are the biggest influences on fame around. The BBC offers TV shows to people it thinks shows BBC star quality.

    When the BBC does use the ‘wrong’ people is does so as a weapon. It encourages far right speakers so that people can see how bad right wings views are. They promoted Farage in the hope of scaring off Brexit voters. They did the same with Abbott and Corbyn over Labour. Neither trick worked but it doesn’t mean that the BBC wanted to promote them.

    The BBC will be one of the last institutions to give up on CAGW because it suits the BBC world view so well. I’d expect the scientists to reverse their direction well before the BBC would admit it. It will use the ‘just in case’ argument and/or ordinary pollution.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Read the BBC magazine ‘Focus’. You will see that the BBC never allow any dissenting voice. It is full of global warming ,all caused by human emissions of “greenhouse” gases, which must be stopped at all cost, otherwise we are all doomed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The question is what has changed on the last 20 odd years that has turned so many progressives into anti-freedom intolerant reactionaries?


  4. Tiny. We have argued this point repeatedly: BBC News is very similar to other British TV News outlets (ITV, Channel 4 News and Sky News). So much so that you can spin the dial and, apart from the newscasters, you can hardly spot differences. So it is the British news media that should be is at fault in your eyes, not just the BBC.


  5. I do find fault with the others but I can’t see why you don’t understand that the recipients of a TV tax aren’t a different case. They are no different to a government service but you would at least expect that to reflect the policies of a Tory government once in a while, whereas the BBC are mostly hard left. Being free from normal business pressure hasn’t made them independent, it’s made them differently biased. Their USP is their moral superiority over the other stations. They like to think they’re internationally known for it and while they may be better than the local Russian or Hungarian local news, they’re not paragons of virtue. The size of the organisation allows them to have a massive impact and effectively they become the big dog, influencing the rest of the UK pack. Step out of line and you get a savaging. Can you imagine the BBC response if one of the others TV channels started giving sceptics a fair hearing?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. God forbid that a national TV service become a pawn of the particular government in power at the moment.
    I don’t see the BBC having any superiority, let alone a moral one. In fact I observe an intense competition, with the BBC often losing out to competition in terms of awards. That between BBC and Channel 4 News being particularly intense (and long may it continue).
    Yet the criticism is not equitably distributed. Where are the web sites complaining about bias by ITV? If ITV and BBC news are similat, ITV should come under scrutiny and criticism. Clearly it isn’t. That’s bias.


  7. What you mean is ‘god forbid that a national TV service reflects at least half its audience’. ITV doesn’t feature much here because it’s relatively quiet about AGW. Channel 4 on the other hand comes in for abuse. However, I repeat, the BBC is different due to its international reach and the enforced funding structure.

    As for awards, the other channels complain that they are overlooked because most of the judges are ex BBC.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. No-one’s claiming the BBC is perfect. I see biases that are the exact opposite of those that Tiny CO2 sees, and possibly we may both be right. But it’s important that the BBC has asserted its right to interview anyone it likes. Just how important is revealed by the two quotes in Alex Cull’s transcript linked in his comment above. The comments by Professor Steve Jones (author of the BBC Trust Impartiality in Science Reporting report) and Jim Al-Khalili are pitiful in the level of their ignorance and contempt for truth and logic. Jones seems to thinkk the consensus has grown from 90 to 97% in the past few years, while Al-Khalili thinks scientists are actively trying to combat the consensus (apparently they’re failing miserably.) The BBC’s statement implies that at least the possibility of their views being challenged is not completely closed off.


  9. Not pitiful, Geoff. Jones and Al Khalili were given perhaps 30s to comment, hardly time to give a comprehensive answer. Maybe the quotes were cut from larger interviews, in which case who knows what else was said. And what was quoted was hardly controversial. The consensus, as mentioned, would probably be accepted by all non-crazy sceptics and even by Lawson.


    The consensus, as stated by Jones, and denied by Al Khalili, is a fantasy, since no-one has ever conducted a survey among relevant experts to determine whether it exists or not. Jones and Al Khalili and all the other defenders of the orthodoxy have been quoting the consensus for so long that they can’t admit that it doesn’t exist. Therefore they can never ever allow a discussion with a climate sceptic to take place in important media outlets like the BBC’s Today programme.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Alan,
    You are right.
    I tend to post from a phone, on the fly.
    The question remains:
    What has changed to permit so many people, in so many areas, to become intolerant reactionaries?
    It is becoming worse not better.


  12. Hunter. My guess (for that’s all it is) is that the consensus is stregthening because nature isn’t playing ball, all of the extremist predictions have failed to materialise and the election of Trump has placed an enormous boulder on the consensus tracks. This means the true message isn’t getting through to the great unwashed. So maintain the blinkers, focus, focus, focus, smear and damn any opposition or slackening of resolve and close ranks. The consensus will strengthen not weaken or splinter.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Geoff, back when Cook et al was published I remember that virtually all skeptics claimed to be part of the consensus, maybe you too. The consensus has plenty of things hung on it that don’t belong, but the essentials, as stated by Jones and agreed by skeptics, are pretty uncontroversial. What people object to with Lawson on the BBC, I guess, is that he restates clearly false memes (temps haven’t changed) without sanction.

    Personally, I’d be relaxed about people of many persuasions (on either/whichever side) being interviewed as long as the interviewer has sufficient understanding to challenge falsehoods. The problem is that interviewers don’t understand subjects enough to play a this role properly. Consequently it is easier and maybe better to just say, no; no climate sceptics, no anti-vaxers, etc.


  14. Len – the consensus amounts to the fact that there has been a rise in some rather meaningless and ill-defined global temperature indices over the last 100 or so years, that humans might have made a contribution, and that CO2 might be involved to some extent. As a consensus, I think that few people would disagree with it. It is, however, meaningless and not a basis for taking any action whatsoever. And why are you still denying that there has not been a great deal happening with respect to temperatures for about 20 years?


  15. Before we start another “Consensus” debate, all sides offering an opinion
    should probably start by stating what they believe the “Consensus” is.
    Experience suggests that the definitions fluctuate wildly.

    For instance, when Len Martinez talks about most sceptics saying they
    were part of the Consensus he is talking about the actual data of the 2013
    paper by Cook et. al. not the wrongly publicised conclusions which conflated
    contributing to with causing. Lest we forget, only a fraction (~0.6%) of
    reviewed abstracts were categorized as a ‘greater than 50%’ contribution.


  16. The real consensus (unmeasured) is a very weak beast and not what Cox etc think it is. Rising CO2 = dangerous temperatures = catstrophe are not part of the consensus but I very much doubt that the BBC regulars know it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The news now is that GWPF is admitting they used bad numbers in the BBC interview.
    Any clarifications?


  18. The reason for action is not the consensus, but the risk analysis. There’s a risk of an irreversible bad outcome of we keep emitting CO2. Quantifying these is difficult but, far from being a comfort, that is what makes action sooner rather than later sensible. Such action will produce economic Armageddon say alarmists and those talking their own book, but such folk are safely ignored.

    As for the last 20 years, you are right, there’s been no change over the previous 20; same rate of warming. If you doubt that, look for a change in trend that doesn’t contain a discontinuity (at 1998 or wherever you think the trend changed). I doubt you’ll find one.


  19. Len. What does this claptrap mean?

    “There’s a risk of an irreversible bad outcome [if] we keep emitting CO2.”

    Why would it be bad? More importantly, why would it be irreversible? In the past the Earth’s atmosphere has had many times more CO2 than even the most extreme projections predict. Those times were when the majority of coal and petroleum source rocks formed. Those times were not irreversible, nor has any global climatic condition been so.

    It would be good if supporters of the holy consensus would not be so strident (or wrong).


  20. Why would it be bad?

    The claim is not that it will be bad (although there are scenarios under which it would be extremely surprising if it were not). The claim is that there is some chance that it could be bad.

    More importantly, why would it be irreversible?

    Okay, what I’m pretty sure Len was suggesting that it would be irreversible on relevant (human) timescales. The evidence indicates that at least 20% of what we’ve emitted will probably remain in the atmosphere for millenia and, hence, the changes will be irreversible on human timescales. Of course, we could develop some kind of technology that removes CO2 from the atmosphere, but that seems rather beside the point.


  21. I wondered how long it would be before the internet’s favourite Consensus
    enforcer would appear.


  22. I’m sure Len can speak up for himself and it is true that he may well have meant irreversible of a human lifespan – but that’s not what he wrote. The emphasis of the consensurati on bad outcomes is well known, less well known is the possibility of good outcomes which hardly get a mention. With atmospheric CO2 risen well on the way to a doubling, where are the harbingers of this possible bad outcome? Where are the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events (so much discussed on the BBC); where is the wasting away of our ice caps (oh no, some is caused by newly discovered volcanoes); where is the surge in sea level rise? Is there anything that definitively points to an irreversible (human scale, somehow applied) bad outcome that will affect Len’s and my granddaughter’s future and be caused by my driving my car or taking a plane trip that releases humongous quantities of that pollutant CO2?


  23. The really puzzling argument is to admit nothing much is happening but then claim that proves the need to do a bunch of stuff now.


  24. ..AND THEN THERE’S PHYSICS (16 Aug 17 at 4:00 pm)

    Why would it be bad?
    The claim is not that it will be bad … The claim is that there is some chance that it could be bad.

    I think every single rational sceptic on the planet would agree with you there. There is some chance that it could be bad. But that’s true of any event in the future. Take temperature rise. It’s been said (but is it true?) that the aggregated data showing an incontrovertible rise in global temperature can be broken down into two thirds of data points which show rising temperatures, and one third which show falling. I’m all for democracy, but is it right to spend trillions evening out a few dozen graphs from HADCRUT and GISS if it means risking freezing the balls off some threatened species in one place, to keep the butterflies from fluttering northwards in another place? You can put the same argument in terms of pensioners dying of cold versus heat stroke, or in a dozen other forms, but it comes down to the same moral quandary. You’re trying to reduce the average of a variable when you have no control over the temperature in particular locations. And particular locations are where people live.

    …and, hence, the changes will be irreversible on human timescales.

    Many things we have done to the planet are irreversible on human timescales (increasing and multiplying for one – at least, I hope so.) It only matters if it’s bad, and all you can propose is that there’s a risk it might be bad. So let’s do our best to make sure it’s not bad, shall we?

    As a believer in the scientific method, I’m also a fervent supporter of cherrypicking. It is the duty of a scientist, or a retired pornographer discussing science, to cherrypick – specifically, to choose the example least favourable to his case, and argue it.

    So let’s take Bangladesh. Do you know off-hand how much land has been reclaimed in Bangladesh thanks to the aid of Dutch experts in dyke building? Nor do I, but I could find out if you’re interested. What I can’t find out is how much hasn’t been done because possible sources of financement have been channelled into Oxfam’s campaign to get Bangaldeshi children to paint pictures of global warming, or the British Psychoanalytical Society’s financing of an airfare for a Bangladeshi peasant to come and testify before the assembled eco-shrinks to the drastic effects of global warming on her livelihood. (Her husband was eaten by a tiger, but that’s biodiversity for you, a subject for another day.)
    Gosh, the world is a complex place. If only it was a case of Professor Jones totting up the average temperatures every year, delivering them to Lord Gummer, who could go to the Prime Minister and say: “We must close X coal power stations by the year Y, or else.”

    But it’s not that simple, is it? Or maybe it is for you.


  25. Just checked woodfortrees. About 0.5degC in 40 years. At this rate I will have to use sunscreen all year round in the UK in about 1000 years’ time. I might not still be alive by then.
    Can anyone tell me if the log formula for the relationship between temp change and CO2 has any real physical proof rather than just curve fitting in a lab? Surely a hard science guy like ATTP or dopey Brian would need to work it out before blindly supporting it?


  26. Alan, your pedantry or perhaps deliberate misunderstanding is unbecoming.


  27. Geoff, if changing global climates causes you such a “moral quandary”, the solution is not to change them.

    Also, note that UK coal power stations were closed because, being old and shagged out, they were not worth the cost of bringing up to modern environmental standards – standards that didn’t involve CO2.


  28. Len, instead of insulting me, why don’t you answer the question. What irreversible bad outcome wcould come from our CO2 emissions, and what evidence do you have that indicates the bad outcome is happening. Without the later all you have are bogeyman stories.


  29. Alan,
    You are being very unfair.
    Asking Len to rationally discuss climate in an evidence based fashion is really poor form.


  30. “Unbecoming”, “poor form”. I feel that I’m under attack on all sides from the Rebel Alliance (watched Rogue One last night – might explain my train of thought).


  31. Alan, I made no insult, just gave some friendly advice. You know the issues as well as I, you know the projections and risks. You may choose to ignore the RHS of the probability curve, but don’t pretend not to understand it just to fit in.

    Hunter, I don’t see any evidence based debate here, or did you find a trend analysis without jumps that shows warming has slowed.


  32. Why did I immediately think of Ελληνική δώρα as soon as I read Len’s “I made no insult, just gave some friendly advice”.

    Liked by 1 person

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