BBC Trust Distances Itself From Executive Who Ordered To Gag Climate Sceptics

  • Date: 23/03/14
  • David Rose, Mail on Sunday

A BBC executive in charge of editorial standards has ordered programme editors not to broadcast debates between climate scientists and global warming sceptics. 

Alasdair MacLeod claimed that such discussions amount to ‘false balance’ and breach an undertaking to the Corporation’s watchdog, the BBC Trust.

Mr MacLeod, head of editorial standards and compliance for BBC Scotland, sent an email on  February 27 to 18 senior producers and editors, which has been obtained by The Mail on Sunday.

It reads: ‘When covering climate change stories, we should not run debates / discussions directly between scientists and sceptics.

Alasdair MacLeod, head of editorial standards at the BBC, has ordered programme editors not to broadcast debates between climate scientists and global warming sceptics
 

Alasdair MacLeod, head of editorial standards at the BBC Scotland, has ordered programme editors not to broadcast debates between climate scientists and global warming sceptics 

If a programme does run such a discussion, it will… be in breach of the editorial guidelines on impartiality.’

Two weeks before the email was sent, Lord Lawson, chairman of the sceptic think-tank the GlobalWarming Policy Foundation, was invited on to Radio 4’s Today programme to debate with Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change Research at Imperial College, whether this year’s storms were the result of climate change.

In fact, as Lord Lawson made clear, he is not a climate ‘denier’ and accepts that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases have warmed the planet – but he believes their effects will not be as serious as some people argue.

However, his appearance sparked protests from green groups, which said that such debates should not be broadcast.

Mr MacLeod wrote that the reason the Trust decided that there should be no attempt by the BBC to give equal weight to opposing sides on climate change was that sceptics’ views were ‘based on  opinion rather than demonstrablescientific validity’.

Last night a Trust spokesman said: ‘We agreed that there should be no attempt to give equal weight to opinion and to evidence in science coverage, but we said specifically that this does not mean that critical opinion should be excluded.

‘We did not specify that the BBC should not broadcast debates/discussions between scientists and sceptics.’

A BBC spokesman added: ‘All viewpoints continue to be given due weight in our output.’

Asked  whether the BBC was prepared explicitly to disavow Mr MacLeod’s email, both officials failed
to comment.

GWPF director Dr Benny Peiser said BBC coverage of climate change has been ‘far too biased for far too long’.

Mail on Sunday, 23 March 2014