Category Archives: 28gate

BBC and 28Gate – Follow Up

I was a little foolish when first viewing the BBC 28Gate scandal. I foolishly thought that it would garner some attention. The BBC, as an impartial broadcaster in principle, neglecting to follow those standards would be of interest in the rest of the media. By the time I wrote my post on the subject of 28Gate, I had shifted my opinion.

In particular, I wrote about ‘right thinking’ people, the group mentality of the media that agrees that all right thinking people will agree on point x, y or z. So, there is a real scandal at the BBC, and one that is in its broader implications is more worrying than the Jimmy Saville affair. Nevertheless, the abandonment of impartiality by the BBC makes no news traction. The problem is that so many media outlets are following the same path. All ‘right thinking’ people know that humans are destroying the planet, so the BBC has done no wrong.

In the echo-chamber of right thinking, the actions of the BBC in abandoning impartiality on the issue of climate change is justified. ‘So what?’ is the silent cry. Who cares that they did so on the basis of a meeting largely comprised of activists. They were right, because all ‘right thinking’ people agree, and it does not matter what the source of the justification of the BBC might be. As long as they are ‘right thinking’, that is all well and good. For a couple of days, I scanned the news waiting to see if the story would break. I guessed it would not. It did not. Instead, a few of the usual suspects, and I mean usual suspects in a positive way here, published condemnations of the BBC. Overall, the story has fizzled out.

That is the tragedy. That ‘right thinking’ might see such a story buried. We agree, so we ignore the faults. Never mind journalistic and editorial integrity, as long as it is about right thinking, that is enough.

BBC and the 28Gate Scandal

I am sure that those that regularly follow blogs will have heard about the growing scandal of what has now been dubbed 28Gate (not sure about calling everything ‘gate’ but that is a detail). For those that are unaware of the story, it goes something like this. A blogger, Tony Newbury, picked up on the change in BBC policy with regards to climate change, and that the change was as follows, taken from a BBC report:

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].

Tony was (quite reasonably) interested to find out who attended the seminar, and made enquiries of the BBC as to who attended. After all, this is a major decision on the output of the BBC and an issue that was controversial. However, the BBC declined to provide the information, which is distinctly odd. This all dates back to 2007, and Tony resolved to pursue the information through the UK’s Freedom of Information Act (FIO). The BBC then stumped up something like 8 lawyers to fight the FIO request, which is even more odd bearing in mind Tony’s interest was only in knowing who attended.

To cut a very long story short, the BBC fought tooth and nail to keep the information out of the public eye, and at great expense. The case finally went to an FOI hearing, at which the case was heard by two green leaning individuals, and the case was declined. The key to this is that the BBC is exempt from FIO requests under special rules for their journalistic role. This is the BBC’s distinctly odd justification:

In summary, the BBC considers the derogation protects the journalistic, artistic and literary integrity of the BBC by securing a creative and journalistic space for programme-makers to produce material for broadcast free from interference by those who would seek to influence our output.  Additionally, as also recognised by the Court of Appeal, it allows for a “level playing field” between the Public Service Broadcasters caught by the Act (BBC, Channel 4, S4C, GMS) and their commercial competitors.  In practical terms, the BBC has interpreted this to mean that we are not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities. [emphasis in bold italics is mine]

Keep in mind that Tony was just asking for basic details such as who attended the seminar, and the output was not one about journalism, but editorial policy on an issue of controversy. There is much more detail to the story, but that is the bare bones. However, into Tony’s impasse steps another blogger, who manages through diligent (and legal) Internet searches to obtain the list of attendees. On obtaining the list (follow the earlier link) it becomes apparent that the seminar that changed BBC policy was not as advertised; with a couple of exceptions, it was stuffed with advocacy groups including Greenpeace representatives. In fact, there was nothing in the list which might suggest that any attempt was made to do anything but put a group of people with a green agenda into a room and promote a climate alarmism position.

Why is this story important? The BBC claims to provide an impartial news service, and is highly influential throughout the world. It is not an openly partisan journalistic operation, such as Fox News in the US. In this respect, it stands for many New Zealand news outlets that implicitly promote themselves as balanced. For many years now, there have been complaints of partisan media coverage of climate change, and this has been dismissed by the same media promoting climate alarmism. The BBC case is important because it shines a light on just how partisan the media can actually be. Furthermore, it shows that the partisan approach is not based upon science but green advocacy.

In New Zealand, we could see that very same partisan approach a while ago, when climate alarmist James Hansen was given a free ride to promote climate alarmism, free from any challenging questions. The interview in question was fawning, and asked no serious difficult questions; at times it seemed that the interview was actively encouraging Hansen to issue alarmist rhetoric. As for the BBC, it seems that an editorial choice has been made to encourage climate alarmism. At the very least, there is an institutional culture which is profoundly ‘green’. The miracle is that, in the face of such media positions, that there are any doubts about the alarmist position in the general public. In particular, they are fed an ongoing diet of alarmism, and this extends over all of the major media.

There are exceptions, but these are rare. I forget the date and details, but I found room for praise for the New Zealand Herald when they allowed a skeptical voice to be heard, but that voice sounded out against an onslaught of alarmist stories. The balance, in other words, is heavily weighted towards alarmism. My own alarm is not about the climate, but rather about the dominance of ‘right thinking’ in the media. In the case of the BBC, it is not just climate change; there were also strong pro-European Union biases, where anyone who doubted the benefits of this ‘grand project’ were sidelined as ‘little Englanders’. We can now see the fruits of that project in the Euro crisis, a crisis that was predicted many years ago by those same ‘little Englanders’.

In much the same way, there has developed a mode of ‘right thinking’ in the mainstream media, a set out of values that sit unchallenged, and sit within sterile and unquestioning monocultures. The ‘greening’ of much of the media goes far deeper than climate alarmism, and is evident in much of the output that we see. For example, it is now hard to find a chef on New Zealand television who is not proclaiming the benefits of ‘organic’ ingredients, because (of course) all right thinking people MUST agree that organic is good. Never mind that if the world went over to organic cultivation methods, the world would face rising food prices, starvation and death for the poor, and an ever greater requirement for land for cultivation.

The real lesson in the scandal of the BBC is that there are cultural norms and values that are creating agendas that leave the public with few voices that dissent from those agendas. Those agendas are formed by all ‘right thinking’ people, who are self-selecting and self-replicating monocultures, and do the public a disservice by not holding all to account even-handedly; instead they exclusively feed their own agendas to the public. It is a diet, in other words, derived from those with power and who use that power to shape attitudes and values to match their own. It is very easy to understand climate alarmism in this context. It is an alarm set within institutions that have lost their collective way; they simply cannot see anything unless they stare in a mirror which reflects their own self-referential views and values. Little else gets through.