As readers may recall from previous posts, the 6 O’clock news on BBC Radio 4 on 18 January started with the false claim that
“The world’s leading climate agencies have said for the first time that global warming caused by humans now dwarfs natural temperature changes.”
This was, to put it bluntly, a lie. None of the world’s leading climate agencies said any such thing. The first sentence of the news story itself, about leading scientists in Britain and America, was also a lie.
I wrote a complaint to the BBC and they responded with a short and nonsensical letter, stating what I already knew, that Roger Harrabin had obtained a soundbite from Peter Stott. Someone at the BBC then twisted this soundbite into the headline about leading climate agencies. Their letter also quite contemptuously said “We trust this allays your concerns”; of course they were well aware that it could not do so.
I wrote a follow-up complaint, reminding the BBC of their charter obligations, spelling out again why the story was completely untrue, and requesting a more serious and honest response this time. However, the BBC response contained even less substance than their first response, failing to address any of the issues at all. In fact, their response is virtually a form letter, showing no evidence that they had even read my complaint. I will of course be continuing with further complaints.
Complaint submitted, 5 March
The BBC’s new Ofcom operating license states that the BBC’s public purposes include
“To provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them: the BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world.”
This was badly violated by BBC Radio News at 6pm on 18/1/18 which began with two blatant falsehoods:
“The world’s leading climate agencies have said for the first time that global warming caused by humans now dwarfs natural temperature changes”
“For the first time, leading scientists in Britain and America say they are confident that the impact of humans on our climate dwarfs that of natural processes.”
Neither of these statements are true. The statements by the agencies (linked in my previous complaint 4752632) said nothing of the sort.
This was a very serious deception of the public by the BBC at the top of a flagship news programme.
I complained to the BBC on 25/1/18 and received a response on 2/2/18 that can only be described as thoroughly dishonest:
(a) It misrepresented my complaint, which was not just about the word “dwarfs” but the entirety of both statements.
(b) It cited Peter Stott’s soundbite, which was pointless as I was of course aware of this since it appeared later in the news.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Peter Stott is not “the world’s leading climate agencies”, nor is he “leading scientists in Britain and America”.
I therefore have two complaints – the original falsehood broadcast on the news, and the dishonest reply to my complaint.
I request a serious, honest response, a full apology and correction live on air on the same news programme, and an investigation and explanation into who was responsible for creating this fake news and distorting the truth so badly.
BBC reply, 16 March
Dear Dr Matthews,
Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate that you were dissatisfied with our previous response and felt strongly enough to write to us again.
We have read and noted your points but don’t consider they suggest evidence of a possible breach of standards. Opinions do vary widely about the BBC and its output, but this does not necessarily imply there has been a breach of standards or of the BBC’s public service obligations. For this reason we regret we don’t have more to add to our previous correspondence, and so will not respond further or address more questions or points.
If you are dissatisfied with this decision you may ask the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) to review it. Details of the BBC complaints process are available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/ where you can read the BBC’s full complaints framework.
If you wish to ask the ECU to review this decision, you should contact it directly within 20 working days of receiving this reply. Please explain to the ECU why you believe there may have been a potential breach of standards or other significant issue to investigate. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Executive Complaints Unit, BBC, Broadcast Centre, London W12 7TQ. Please include the case reference number we have provided in this reply.
Thank you again for contacting us.
BBC Complaints Team