BBC admits ‘we get climate change coverage wrong too often’ – Declares: ‘You do not need a denier to balance the debate’
By Damian Carrington
The BBC has accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”
In a briefing note sent to all staff warning them to be aware of false balance, the corporation has offered a training course on how to report on global warming. The move follows a series of apologies and censures for failing to challenge climate sceptics during interviews, including Nigel Lawson.
The briefing note, obtained by the website Carbon Brief, was sent on Thursday by Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs. It includes a statement of BBC editorial policy that begins: “Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often.”
It then states: “Manmade climate change exists: If the science proves it we should report it.” In the section warning on false balance it says: “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. The referee has spoken.”
The Guardian revealed in October that the BBC had apologised for an interview with Lord Lawson on the Radio 4 Today programme after admitting it had breached its own editorial guidelines for allowing him to claim that global temperatures have not risen in the past decade. The regulator Ofcom subsequently ruled the BBC had breached broadcasting rules.
The Today programme was also censured by the BBC complaints unit for an interview with Lawson in February 2014 and has been criticised for failing to implement fully the findings of the BBC Trust’s 2011 review into the “accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science”.
The four-page briefing note sent by Unsworth starts with a blunt statement on the science: “Climate change IS happening.” It also covers the implications of global warming: “There is a general consensus that it could be devastating in many different ways.” It ends with “common misconceptions” used to deny manmade warming, including that “not all scientists think manmade climate change is real” and “climate change has happened before”.