BBC refuse to correct error

The BBC’s mission is to misinform

A few weeks ago, as reported here, the BBC and the rest of the media gave a great deal of publicity to a report from a think tank making untrue statements about climate change. In particular, Martha Kearney, on the Radio 4 Today Programme, read out the following falsehood to her 7 million listeners:

But when you look at the scale of the problems outlined in the report, like the number of floods increasing by 15 times since 2005, extinction rates increasing by a huge rate – are these reversible?

See Alex Cull’s transcript for the full interview. As I mentioned at the time, I filled in a complaint form on the BBC website about this on the same day, requesting a correction and an apology for misleading listeners. Here is the text of my complaint (the system doesn’t allow you much space, so you can’t go into any detail).

At 6:50 today 12 Feb on the Today Programme there was an item about a report by the IPPR. Martha Kearney read out something from the report, saying “the number of floods increasing by 15 times since 2005”.

This is a ridiculous claim, that does not pass the most basic sanity check, and utterly false. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there has been no change at all in floods. “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”

Please correct this falsehood and apologise for misleading listeners, as soon as possible, preferably on tomorrow’s Today Programme.

Eight days later on 20 Feb I received an automated email saying that the BBC “regret that it may take a little longer before we can reply.”

Eventually, on 4 March, I had this response:

Dear Dr Matthews

Reference CAS-5314649-CKX3HP

Thank you for contacting us about “Today”, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 12th February.

I understand you believe Martha Kearney read out an inaccurate figure on the programme.

Martha was citing a figure that was in the IPPR’s report at the time. The report was later amended however. Please rest assured there was no intention to mislead listeners.

Your complaint was made available to senior management and “Today” on our Audience Feedback Report. This report is among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and helps to inform our approach to reporting.

Kind regards


BBC Complaints Team

For such a short letter, it is remarkably disingenuous. Firstly they say that I “believe” the figure was inaccurate, as if that is merely my opinion, but they later acknowledge that it’s more than that, since the IPPR changed their report. Secondly, they imply that it’s all OK because the report was later amended.  As if the 7 million listeners who the BBC misinformed will all have gone to the IPPR website, a few days after the Today programme announcement, downloaded the report, and noticed that the claim about flooding had been changed. Finally we have the statement that there was no intention to mislead. Of course that is not the point and that is clearly not what I was complaining about. The BBC misled the public and should issue a correction, on the same programme, as I said in my complaint.



  1. Sadly, that is how the BBC operates. I have read time and again about people having to hammer away at the BBC to get them even to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong, let along make an appropriate retraction/correction.

    Perhaps you should join forces with Paul Homewood – he seems to make occasional headway, but it appears he has to be extremely tenacious to achieve anything.


  2. You heard this “Is the BBC doing enough to cover climate change?”
    4:46pm item #bbcr4feedback with Shukman & Deborah Cohen, the Science Editor for Radio

    During the item they tweeted this
    How can that not be a POLITICAL advert for Climate Alarmism ?

    There were very few replies on Twitter
    .. as if most of their listeners have deserted them cos of the BBC MSM bubbleworld & its constant agenda pushing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the BBC often quote from unknown/not clear who the sources are.
    they should be made to state clearly for the public, if the info they are giving is from a government dept or a independent org/thinktank.


  4. Sick bags at the ready…

    David Attenborough finally talks climate change in prime time BBC slot

    Global warming will enjoy a rare moment in TV’s spotlight when the BBC airs an hour-long film on the subject on 18 April, presented by David Attenborough (pictured above).

    “Right now, we’re facing our gravest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” says Attenborough at the start of Climate Change – The facts.

    Ahh- the facts 🤔


  5. Alex: “The ironies – it’s difficult to know where to start. Roger Bolton: “Please do keep your comments coming in, and remember – it is your BBC. You pay for it, you own it.””

    I’ve always thought that the BBC is much more conscious of trying to represent diversity of opinion within Parliament than within the general public. Unless there is some sort of public revolt against the BBC, the MPs in the House of Commons are the only people who will determine when the BBC’s current funding arrangement (by the public paying a compulsory license fee) eventually stops. So the BBC is much keener on ingratiating itself with MPs than with the license fee payers.

    Some examples to illustrate the idea:

    On Brexit, the public view is obviously given by the Referendum result in 2016: 52% Leave, 48% Remain. But in the House of Commons, the proportions are more like Leave 23%, Remain 77% (based on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s estimate that there are only 150 MPs out of 650 who actually voted Leave in the Referendum).

    The BBC generally tends to have about three times as many Remainers as Leavers on in programmes that discuss Brexit, and that reflects the parliamentary composition. The BBC’s Brexit coverage will look much less biased to MPs overall than it does to the public.

    To give an example more relevant to this blog, consider the attitude towards Greenery. Lord Ashcroft carried out a polling survey in June 2016:

    Click to access How-the-UK-voted-Full-tables-1.pdf

    In that survey, the UK public’s attitude to the Green movement was that 20% thought it was a “Force for Ill” and 57% a “Force for Good”. The BBC does not really attempt to represent the 20% of the public who think it is a “Force for Ill” at all. By contrast, the BBC puts in a very substantial effort to represent the somewhat smaller 13% BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) section of the public.

    The number of MPs in the House of Commons who think the Green movement is a “Force for Ill” is I suspect far lower than 20%, maybe just a few percent – only five MPs voted against the introduction of the Climate Change Act in 2008. The BBC’s coverage of the environment is much more in tune with parliamentary opinion than it is with public opinion. When you do see the very occasional critic of Greenery on the BBC, it tends to be somebody who is connected with politics that MPS would be likely to notice, like Nigel Lawson, Quentin Letts and Piers Corbyn (Jeremy Corbyn’s brother).

    As a final example, the Ashcroft polling survey in 2016 indicated that 30% of the public thought that multiculturalism was a “Force for Ill” and 47% thought it was a “Force for Good”. Amongst MPs I can’t think of one who has spoken up against multiculturalism (if they do, I suspect they “lose the whip”). Now the BBC’s coverage of multiculturalism is pretty much that nobody in the UK is against it, which might be in tune with parliamentary opinion, but not with public opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Should we always follow the crowd and do what the the majority favours? Should the BBC?


  7. We all await to hear what the wise old sage Attenborough will tell us about ‘climate change – the facts’ next Thursday on the BBC at 9pm. With Walrusgate now hanging over him, it will be interesting to see what the public reaction will be to this prime time BBC program on the dire perils of global warming.


  8. I don’t know if it is representative or not, but the reaction of Gogglebix viewers to the walrus scenes was everything Attenborough could have hoped for.


  9. I wish some people had not weighed into the Feedback twitter thread
    and made basic Climate Change science points
    It clouds the issue , cos basically Feedback, Bolton are all full on metroliberal SJW GW alarmist warriors
    ..they are not going to read your science points cos they have already labelled all sceptics as “deniers”

    It is not the place for rehashing the entire climate debate
    On the day I put I thought about all the Climate Activism I had just bumped into on that day
    It took me 14 tweets to do that
    I am a bit miffed that Twittersphere just ignored me
    Since then I realised 2 things, that there was more when I checked the podcasts eg Beyond Today was entirely devoted to Extinction Rebellion
    Then there was a new BBC Climate Campaign project called Forest 404
    that led me to realise that the BBC has just started 3 actual Climate campaign projects
    #1 The Facebook Chatbot Climate CAMPAIGN
    #2 Forest 404 an “eco-thriller” podcast Climate CAMPAIGN
    #3 Attenborough’s Apr 18th 90 min special Climate CAMPAIGN

    this time I tweeted to Feedback directly again nothing happened

    FFS an ad has just come on TV
    child “I want to live in where there are polar bears” etc.
    It’s another Maxine Peake Smart Meter advert
    …she did the Labour Party PP broadcast the other day.


  10. Alan, if I lived to be as old as Tithonus the idea of watching other people watching TV would still not appeal. (Nor will I be watching the Attenborough program – never mind that he was my hero when I was ten, and I would never have studied ecology but for Life on Earth.)


  11. Jit. I watch Gogglebox because others in my household wish to watch it. You might try it on a trial basis because I often find it informative. The common reaction of a diverse set of people to the same TV fare can be very educational. It seems to show (never forget it goes through an editing process) just how uniform these reactions can be despite wide variations in location or background. You can also see your own remembered reactions mimicked, although sometimes, as in the walrus incident, other people’s reactions seem overly exaggerated. You observe how they (and you) have been manipulated.


  12. I just looked at the Tweets to bbcR4Feedback about 30 people of that 25 seem sceptics
    I checked the R4 Facebook ..nothing it’s just a parallel universe of metroliberal agendas


  13. There appears to be a global response system to criticisms of a state broadcaster.

    “Please accept our apologies for the error and any concern caused.

    Please also be assured this matter has been brought to the attention of the staff involved by ABC News management who have taken this opportunity to remind staff of the need to thoroughly check information before publication.”

    Paul Homewood got an apology from the BBC re Penguins:
    Very similar text to the ABC apology to Tony Thomas


  14. “Should we always follow the crowd and do what the the majority favours?
    Should the BBC?”
    The BBC reflect its audience

    From the 5 BBC Public Purposes stated in its new charter
    “4: To reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom
    5: To reflect the United Kingdom, its culture and values to the world”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.