Row Over BBC Climate Change Seminar ‘Cover Up’

  • Date: 12/01/14
  • Graeme Paton, The Daily Telegraph

The BBC is dragged into a row over its coverage of climate change after spending thousands of pounds trying to keep details of an “eco conference” attended by top executives secret.

The BBC has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle to keep details of an executive conference about climate change secret.
The BBC has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle to keep details of an executive conference about climate change secret. Photo: PA

The BBC spent thousands of pounds over six years attempting to “cover up” a climate change seminar credited with shaping its coverage of the environment, it emerged today.

At least £20,000 was paid out by the corporation battling a Freedom of Information request about the conference that featured lectures by green activists and scientists, it was revealed.

Almost 30 of the BBC’s most senior executives – including the head of TV news and future director-general – attended the event in 2006 which was funded with a grant from the former Labour government.

According to the Mail on Sunday, a senior official admitted that the “seminar had an impact on a broad range of BBC output”, including news reports and a three-part series on the environment and global warming.

The disclosure is likely to fuel claims of a lack of balance surrounding the corporation’s coverage of the issue.

Tony Newbery, 69, a climate blogger, who led the campaign to uncover the details, said: “It is very disappointing that the BBC tried so hard to cover this up.

“It seems clear that this seminar was a means of exposing executives to green propaganda.”

But the BBC insisted the conference was just one of a series of seminars staged about topical issues.

It also said that the battle against FOI disclosure was made in line with a policy to keep “information relating to the creation of journalism” out of the public eye.

“Seminars do not set editorial policy,” a spokesman said. “We encourage journalists to attend events aimed at hearing a range of perspectives, from business, science, experts, academics with contrasting views, and people on the front line of issues, as they can help inform wider understanding, as these seminars did.

“There was no agenda from the organisers who recognised the BBC’s rules on impartiality.”

The BBC spent some £20,000 in barristers’ fees over the case although the final total could be much higher.

Scientists speaking at the event included Lord May, former president of the Royal Society, Blake Lee-Harwood, then head of campaigns at Greenpeace, and Ashok Sinha, former director of the group Stop Climate Chaos.

Full story