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December 20th 2012 print

Tony Thomas

Pharisees and pieties at the ABC

Thank heavens we are not as other national broadcasters, proclaims Aunty, pointing a righteous finger at the BBC's now-exposed conspiracy to gag climate-change sceptics. Really?


It was perfectly OK for ABC Science Show presenter Robyn Williams on November 24 to draw analogies between pedophiles, crack-smokers and climate sceptics. That’s the ABC’s official view, put by an ABC spokeswoman to The Australian. The ABC added re-assuringly that it did not “equate” sceptics to pedophiles.


Maurice Newman, the ABC’s previous chairman no less, had lodged a complaint about Williams’ analogy, and the ABC was telling him, politely, where he could stick it.

The topic has more angles than a dodecahedron. For example, on December 19 The Australian contrasted the ABC’s equanimity about sceptic/pedophile analogies, with a new Australian Press Council ruling. The Council ruled that UK polemicist James Delingpole was being unacceptably offensive to compare our local wind farm industry with a pedophilia ring. 

However, I’m inspecting now an angle that no-one has yet remarked on. Namely, the ABC has accused its sister-organisation, the BBC, of bigotry, mendacity, and willful breach of the BBC’s charter for impartiality, in respect of the BBC’s handling of the global warming controversy.

Here’s what the unnamed ABC spokeswoman said: "Unlike the BBC, the ABC acknowledges there are climate scientists who question the core thinking about climate science. The ABC gives them and their views air time."

Both broadcasters are controlled by and riddled with Leftists and warmists. Hence the ABC’s attack was an et tu, Brute moment for the BBC.

British households pay a licence of £147 a year for their BBC, unlike Australians’ amorphous $1.2b in ABC budget funding. Hence Britons have specific hip-pocket cause for indignation if the BBC is conspiring to censor sceptic views, as alleged by the ABC.

The BBC is (and here’s a strange angle) already under attack over both warmism and pedophilia. The former concerns its five-year explicit policy to keep sceptic views off its airwaves, and the latter concerns pedophiles’ activities under the BBC umbrella. Indeed the Director of News Helen Boaden, who implemented the sceptic censoring policy, is also accused of management failures over the Jimmy Savile pedophile scandal.

The BBC said that Boaden and her deputy “were in the chain of command at the time that Newsnight shelved an earlier investigation into abuse claims against former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.”

Boaden returned to duties this month, after stepping down and then getting a rap on the knuckles from the internal pedophile inquiry, which said she should “have taken a more active role” in resolving the crisis. 

In terms of impact on reputation, the BBC’s sceptic-censorship policy is the more startling of the allegations, being institutionalised from the top rather than a matter of individual vice and failings.

This is the same BBC that during the World War II was trusted by friends and foes alike for honest reporting of own-side catastrophes, like the destruction of HMS Hood. This honesty distinguished the BBC from its opposite number in Berlin, which merely broadcast propaganda.

The BBC’s sceptic-censorship policy is now a matter of public record, and I’ll set out the bare bones of it. It is a matter of shock and awe that a once-great broadcasting institution could so nakedly corrupt itself, and then spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of its listeners’ money to thwart Freedom of Information requests and conceal its malfeasance.

This story began with a seminar at the BBC London TV Centre on January 26, 2006. It was run by the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body, and organized by a shadowy green-activist body Cambridge Media & Environment Program (CMEP). In June, 2007, the Trust described the seminar in a public document:

“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].”

The reality uncovered this year is that the 28 invitees were mainly green activists [see the list of 30 names below; maybe there were two no-shows]. Only three scientists attended, of whom two had experience in climate science. Only one of the 28 was a dissenter from the warmist consensus. Other seminars followed, funded partly by activists and attended by BBC top brass, aimed at bringing green storylines into the full range of BBC shows, from science to comedy.

At the time, a sceptic Tony Newbery became suspicious about who “the best scientific experts” actually were, and put in an FOI request. All the BBC disclosed was that the initial seminar was attended by 30 key BBC staff, including Director of News Helen Boaden, and 30 invited “specialists in climate change”, led by Lord May of Oxford, the Australian-born previous president of the Royal Society and an active warmist.

Sleuthing by Newbury and leading UK climate blogger Andrew Montford began to winkle out independently a few names at the 2006 seminar.

The behind-the-scenes seminar organisers had been the BBC’s environmental correspondent Roger Harrabin and a Dr Joe Smith, an environment lecturer. Both were also running the propagandist Cambridge Media & Environment Program, funded by green activist groups and the Tyndall Centre, the UK’s national centre for climate research at the now-notorious University of East Anglia.

Both men therefore had a conflict of interest in terms of their BBC roles. One of their stated aims was “getting global environmental change and sustainability into mainstream [BBC] stories ‘by stealth’”. Mike Hulme, of the Tyndall Centre , emailed, “Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media/Environment Centre to starve this type of [i.e. even-handed] reporting at source.” Phil Jones, of “trick to hide the decline” fame, noted approvingly in another email that the BBC’s reporting of climate stories had become one-sided, with no counter-arguments put.

Damning insights came from the seminar’s lone sceptic attendee, Richard North:

“I found the seminar frankly shocking. The BBC crew (senior executives from every branch of the corporation) were matched by an equal number of specialists, almost all (and maybe all) of whom could be said to have come from the ‘we must support Kyoto’ school of climate change… 

I was frankly appalled by the level of ignorance of the issue which the BBC people showed. I mean that I heard nothing that made me think any of them read any broadsheet newspaper coverage of the topic (except maybe the Guardian, and that lazily). Though they purported to be aware that this was an immensely important topic, it seemed to me that none of them had shown even a modicum of professional journalistic curiosity on the subject. I … don’t recall anyone showing any sign of having read anything serious at all…”

As Montford puts in in his monograph, The Propaganda Bureau, the invited “best scientific experts” now appeared to range  from policy people to green activists. To confirm this, he and Newbury instituted a barrage of FOI requests on any and all aspects of the seminar, with the BBC in fierce resistance against disclosure. Appeals up the legal chain were rejected. At one important hearing, the BBC wheeled out two barristers, four lawyers, and five executives, to oppose the unrepresented Newbury, who is a pensioner, and his wife.

The lay judges on the panel for the hearing included a former civic solicitor who had fought her own battle against FOI requesters wanting details of her severance package, and another who had tweeted his contempt for climate change “deniers”. The judges threw out Newbury’s case in near-record time, ten days, vs the normal four weeks to six weeks.

At that hearing, BBC Director of News Boaden edged closer to the truth, while still equivocating. She conceded that the seminar attendees were from “business, campaigners, non-government organisations (NGOs), communications experts, people from the ‘front line’, scientists with contrasting views and academics.”

A tech-magazine journalist called Andrew Orlowski wrote up the hearing and created a blog-storm in the sceptic community. This inspired another blogger, Maurizio Morabito, to start sleuthing. He chanced upon an apparently dead link concerning the BBC seminar. He looked up the missing page on the internet-archiving Wayback Machine, and there it was, after five years of concealment: all the names of those at the seminar. It also became apparent that someone inside the BBC circle had been actively deleting, ie concealing, online specifics about the seminar.

In the six years since the seminar, the BBC had more or less ceded coverage of global warming to the green activist camp. In late 2011 the press revealed that greens were making TV programs and the supposedly impartial BBC was obtaining them free or near-free and broadcasting them. The BBC Trust had to report on that, and found the charge proved: greenies were being given slots on BBC overseas channels to advance their propaganda.

Montford concludes: “ That the [BBC] should allow itself to be influenced by a group of green activists is bad enough… It was not just news and current affairs programmes that were affected either. The range of BBC executives in attendance suggests strongly that the seminar was intended to inform every aspect of the BBC’s output and that the intention was not only to sideline sceptics in news programmes, but also science, weather, features, special events and education and even comedy, entertainment and drama. Examination of BBC output since 2006 suggests that everything the seminar set out to achieve was realised over the following years…

 “The secrecy that the BBC enforces over all of its activities is like a throwback to the Cold War. In recent years government has increasingly opened its activities to public scrutiny through the introduction of transparency legislation, bringing numerous benefits in terms of accountability and exposure of corruption and graft. But as these welcome developments have started to change the culture of the state, the BBC has battened down the hatches, exploiting its hard-won derogation from the FOI Act to its limit. 

“Amazingly, with the story of the seminars all over the newspapers yet again after the list of names was published, the [BBC] Trust has still maintained its silence. Its only relevant action has been to appoint Tony Hall (now Lord Hall), the man who had authorised the setting up of the seminar series, as the new director-general.

“There can only be one explanation. The BBC is rotten and the Trust knows it.”

Returning now to the ABC spokeswoman’s j’accuse toward the BBC , it seems obvious she had been reading Montford’s monograph and was persuaded by it.  Well done, ABC spokeswoman.

Tony Thomas is a journalist

The "secret" green guest list

Robert May – Oxford University, Royal Society
Mike Hulme – Director Tyndall [Climate] Centre, U. East Anglia
Blake Lee-Harwood – Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace
Dorthe Dahl-Jensen – Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen [Ice core drilling]
Michael Bravo – [Historian] Scott Polar Resarch Institute, Cambridge
Andrew Dlugolecki – Insurance industry consultant
Trevor Evans – US Embassy
Colin Challen MP – Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change
Anuradha Vittachi – Director, Oneworld.net [“Human rights and poverty”]
Andrew Simms – Policy Director, New Economics  Foundation [“Equality, diversity, economic stability”]
Claire Foster – Environmental Issues, Church of England
Saleemul Huq – IIED [LDC Sustainable Development]
Poshendra Satyal Pravat – Open University [“Environmental Governance”]
Li Moxuan – Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China
Tadesse Dadi – Tearfund Ethiopia [Church and Poverty]
Iain Wright – CO2 Project Manager, BP Intl
Ashok Sinha – Stop Climate Chaos
Andy Atkins – Advocacy Director, Tearfund [Church and Poverty]
Matthew Farrow – Confederation of British Industry
Rafael Hidalgo – Tv/multimedia producer
Cheryl Campbell – Executive Director, TV for the Environment
Kevin McCullough – Director, NPower Renewables
Richard D North – Institute of Economic Affairs
Steve Widdicombe – Plymouth Marine Labs [Biodiversity Change Science]
Joe Smith – Open University [also media management on climate]
Mark Galloway - Director , International Broadcasting Trust [Environment and Human Rights]
Anita Neville – E3G [Change Agents, Sustainable Development]
Eleni Andreadis – [Post-grad student] Harvard University [also Green Talk Host]
Jos Wheatley – Global Environment Assets Team [Govt Foreign Aid PR]
Tessa Tennant – Chair, Assn for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia. 

Seminar Attendees : the BBC

Jana Bennett – Director of TV
Sacha Baveystock – Exec Producer, Science
Helen Boaden – Director of News
Andrew Lane
– Manager, Weather, TV News
Anne Gilchrist – Exec Editor Indies & Events, CBBC
Dominic Vallely – Exec Editor, Entertainment
Eleanor Moran – Development Exec, Drama Commissioning
Elizabeth McKay – Project Exec, Education
Emma Swain – Commissioning Editor, Specialist Factual
Fergal Keane – Chair, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Fran Unsworth – Head of Newsgathering
George Entwistle – Head of TV Current Affairs
Glenwyn Benson – Controller, Factual TV
John Lynch – Creative Director, Specialist Factual
Jon Plowman – Head of Comedy
Jon Williams – TV Editor, Newsgathering
Karen O’Connor – Editor, This World, Current Affairs
Catriona McKenzie – Tightrope Pictures
Liz Molyneux – Editorial Exec, Factual Commissioning
Matt Morris – Head of News, Radio Live Five
Neil Nightingale – Head of Natural History Unit
Paul Brannan – Deputy Head of News Interactive
Peter Horrocks – Head of TV News
Peter Rippon – Duty Editor, World at One/PM/The World This Weekend
Phil Harding – Director, English Networks and Nations
Steve Mitchell – Head of Radio News
Sue Inglish – Head of Political Programs
Frances Weil – Editor of News Special Events.