Thursday, November 1st 2012, 3:39 PM EDT
The public-funded broadcaster appeared in court this week to defend its decision to conceal the names of "scientific experts" that attended a BBC climate change seminar in 2006
A six-year Freedom of Information battle between a North Wales pensioner and the BBC’s Director of news, Helen Boaden has revealed the lengths to which the BBC will go to to conceal information that is in the public interest.
The BBC is refusing to disclose the names of ‘scientific experts’ who attended a BBC formal seminar in 2006 titled – ‘Climate Change - the Change to Broadcasting’. In 2007, the BBC Trust, the public-funded broadcaster’s governor, published an 80 page report – 'From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel' which revealed some details as to the nature of the seminar.
The report hinted at the corporation’s tendency to institutional bias and the problem of editorial policy reflecting particular views and not those of the wider public.
“The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus [on anthropogenic climate change]”.
Curious as to whom the climate change experts may be, blogger Tony Newbery filed a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to find out who exactly would be advising the BBC on its scientific view of climate change. He became sceptical stating that he used to watch the BBC’s “coverage of the subject- with growing astonishment”.
The BBC response informed Newbery of the name, date, time, aims, hosts, key speaker and location of the seminar which he could have found out himself from a Google search. But it decided not to publish the list of names of those who attended as participants and/or observers.
“In this case, the information you have requested is outside the scope of the Act because information relating to the seminar is held to help inform the arc’s editorial policy around reporting climate change. The only exception to this is the logistic details you requested…” We've heard something similar before.
In 2007, Newbery referred his application to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for adjudication and in 2008 an investigation began.
“Advising such a body – or in the BBC’s words, providing training – at a formal seminar with a title such as ‘Climate Change – the Challenge to Broadcasting’ can in no way be considered to be a private matter of the kind that could reasonable fall within the scope of the Data Protection Act… It is unreasonable for anyone who embarks on such an exercise to expect to be anonymous”, Newbery said.
On Monday, the court heard that the BBC continues to refuse to hand over the requested information using the following two arguments: refusal is justified for the “purpose of journalism” and that the “attendees of a meeting held under the Chatham House Rule must not be named”.
What nonsense. The case has reached an Information Rights Tribunal – Tony Newbery vs the BBC and the Information Commission.
In Boaden’s words, it has been revealed that the 28 “external invitees” were “representatives from business, campaigners, NGOs, communication experts, people from the ‘front line’, scientists with contrasting views and academics”.
Boaden claimed that it would be unfair to disclose the names and further added: “The seminars bring together individuals who want to share their views but don’t want it widely known that they are there”. This undoubtedly raises the question: why?
It has also come to light this week that the BBC is in for a further grilling over its bias, inaccurate and dishonest reporting – this time from Conservative MP, Peter Lilley.
Lilley has accused the BBC of “systematic bias in its handling of climate change evidence” in a complaint regarding a Newsnight programme Mr Lilley participated in on 5th September 2012.
In the MPs letter to David Jordan, BBC Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, published on The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) website, the MP says; “The BBC cannot credibly suppress the views of those who think the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) too alarmist while promoting those who think it too cautious”.
The member of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee further added:
“The BBC has taken the position that the views of ‘climate sceptics’ will not be given airtime since the science has been settled by the IPCC. Inevitably the BBC lays itself open to the charge not just of inconsistency but of backing the side of the argument which gives ammunition to those on the statist, liberal left persuasion who want to control every aspect of the economy – a position with which the BBC has allowed itself to be associated”.
Lord Lawson, the chairman of GWPF has written to Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust to call for an investigation into the complaint made by Mr Lilley and the wider problem.
Lawson says it is “namely the case for the BBC to migrate from its one-sided reportage and propaganda of the conventional wisdom on climate change and climate change policies to a more balanced and objective coverage of this complex and important range of issues”.
See also: Andrew Orlowski: Who were the SECRET 28 who ended all climate debate at the BBC?