BBC Accused of ‘Institutional Alarmism’ on Climate Change: Report

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The watchdog Net Zero Watch, which scrutinises climate and decarbonisation policies, has accused of world’s largest broadcast news organisation of bias over climate change.

The report outlines criticisms that the BBC has been forced to correct false claims in climate-related coverage after receiving public complaints in recent years.

Furthermore, critics say the BBC’s lack of opposing perspectives means it is now promoting a “green ideological view of the world.”

Accusing the broadcaster of “institutional alarmism” and “persistent exaggeration,” the report (pdf) highlighted that BBC’s own investigations department upheld investigations about its climate reporting.

‘Persistent Exaggeration’

For example in October 2020, the National Farmers‘ Union complained about a BBC documentary “Meat: A Threat to our Planet,” which made several unsubstantiated claims about meat production. The complaint was brought to the British broadcaster regulator OFCOM when the BBC failed to provide a timely response.

The complaint was upheld and the documentary was removed from BBC’s iPlayer.

Report author Paul Homewood said that “there can be little doubt that the cases documented in this report are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other such inaccurate news or false information are broadcast by the BBC without being noticed or complained about.”

In April 2022, the BBC upheld two complaints against its climate editor Justin Rowlatt. Both concerned an episode of Panorama, the BBC’s flagship current affairs documentary programme, which aired in November 2021, called “Wild Weather: Our World Under Threat.”

Rowlatt wrote at the beginning of the programme that “the world is getting warmer and our weather is getting ever more unpredictable and dangerous. The death toll is rising around the world, and the forecast is that worse is to come.”

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) found that “BBC News accepted the wording in the programme was not as clear as it should have been,” noting that “the number of deaths caused by such disasters has fallen because of improved early warnings and disaster management.”

It was also found that Rowlatt’s claim that Madagascar “was on the brink of the world’s first climate-induced famine” was presented without qualification.

Bias

The paper has been submitted to the government’s upcoming mid-term review of the BBC.

“We are not expecting much from the BBC, but we are expecting the government to deal with bias. We would expect taxpayer-funded institutions to represent the public with a balanced and accurate way of reporting things,” Net Zero Watch Director Dr. Benny Peiser told The Epoch Times.

In 2018, Carbon Brief posted a crib sheet that included the BBC’s “editorial policy” and “position” on climate change.

“Be aware of ‘false balance,’” wrote the BBC. “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,” it added.

But Peiser said that it was inevitable that bans of any critics or skeptics would lead to “exaggerations of issues.” “There’s no scrutiny,” he said.

Hoping for a government response, Peiser said he believed there are people beginning to realise that the BBC is a “problem to publicly funded journalism.”  “We need radical reform, ” he added.

Green Ideological View

Environmentalism skeptic Ben Pile, co-founder of the Climate Resistance blog, told The Epoch Times that he believed the public has been “denied debate.”

“The BBC abandoned debate and impartiality on environment and climate change as a matter of editorial and institutional policy in recent decades, first refusing to allow people seemingly outside of the consensus to appear on shows, and later in reframing its mission to be an active participant in politics, a campaigning organisation which used its vast resources to promote the green ideological view of the world,” said Pile.

Pile said that as late as the mid-2000s, the BBC did host interesting debates between opposing perspectives that were informative and educational, which was its “original remit.”

“But individuals within the organisation, and the management took it upon themselves, albeit after pressure from the broader movement, to align themselves with the green agenda, and the government and Westminster consensus. The public have been denied debate and it has to be remembered that the BBC is a state broadcaster and the projection of ‘soft power’ at home and abroad has always been its real core mission,” he said.

Pile added that the BBC “may occasionally clash with the government but it has always been the instrument of the broader political establishment.”

“The problem for the BBC is that, as it has taken on an even more political function, it has only been able to find zealots to serve as ersatz ‘journalists,” said Pile, recommending that for this subject, people should find out “what the debates are, and read around the subject, rather than taking either side, consensus, or sceptics at face value.”

The British former chancellor Lord Dominic Lawson founded Net Zero Watch and the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The group has been accused of climate change denial.

“For example, according to Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, the global warming dissenters are, without exception, ‘wilfully ignorant’ and in the view of the Prince of Wales we are ‘headless chickens,’” wrote Lawson in a report called The Trouble With Climate Change (pdf).

“Not that ‘dissenter’ is a term they use. We are regularly referred to as ‘climate change deniers,’ a phrase deliberately designed to echo ‘Holocaust denier,’ as if questioning present policies and forecasts of the future is equivalent to casting malign doubt about a historical fact,” he added.

As of publication, the BBC has not responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.



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