Tag Archives: Media Bias

Jo Nova and the ABC

Jo Nova has just posted for the second time on her interview with ABC. For those unfamiliar with Jo Nova, she is the most well known Australian skeptic, and her website attracts considerable attention. As a result, the Australian ABC chose her, and her husband, to represent the skeptical side of the climate change debate. Having seen other skeptics abused in the editing process, Jo asked for an independent cameraman to film the interview as insurance against bad editing. I forget her exact words, but it was something along the lines of ‘protecting our reputations’. Jo has now published the full copy of the interview, and contrasts it with the way that their views were presented by ABC. Jo gives an account of what was used from 2 hours of interview for herself below:

Jo:                Carbon dioxide.

Jo:                There’s some small immeasurable amount.

Jo:                The data says –

Joanne:      (Laughs)

Jo:                The planet is not going to be destroyed.

Jo summarises how they presented their argument thus:

David and I made it absolutely clear that we held our positions because of the evidence (between us we mentioned the word “evidence” nearly 100 times). But this wouldn’t have fitted with the theme later in the show where Smith and Nasht get psychologists to explain that it’s really all about “ideology”, and skeptics are skeptics because they’re old white males. (Like Jo right?) An honest doco would have taken care to at least let David and I explain our position. David showed four pieces of evidence that showed the models are wrong, yet the editors completely removed any reference to three of the four key pieces of evidence. This is despite the graphs being filmed twice, and referred to repeatedly by both David and myself in preps and in the filming. Indeed, I mentioned “28 million radiosondes” five times (a reference to the missing hot spot).  Later, David pointed out that ignoring the poor siting of thermometers is one way the modelers conceal the failure of their models. The editors jumbled these two aspects together with tricky snipping to suggest that the photos of thermometers were one of our “two” key points of evidence for the failure of the models.

That number is important: we clearly presented four pieces of evidence (1. models overestimated air temperatures from 1990, 2. models overestimated ocean warming since when we started measuring it properly in 2003, 3. models predict a pattern of atmospheric warming — responsible for most of the warming in the models — that is entirely missing from copious weather balloon measurements, and 4. models predict outgoing radiation increases with surface rising surface temperature when satellite measurements show the opposite). But they moved David’s words around (by cutting and pasting) to make it appear he said he presented two pieces (which he never said), and to make it appear as if the dodgy land thermometers were one of those two pieces of evidence. Net result: they actively concealed from the audience, by trickery, the evidence that mattered and that we presented four independent sets of data in support of our position.

In looking at the transcript and video, it is very apparent that they were, in no way, presented fairly in the ABC documentary. Indeed, an emphasis on the evidence by Jo and her husband David was the main theme of their argument. In response, the interviewer instead continually pointed to authority (e.g. the IPCC) instead of actually engaging with the argument based upon the evidence, or turned the subject to smears regarding funding. There were a few exceptions, but these simply highlighted the interviewer’s poor knowledge of the science in question.

Overall it is a very shabby incident. For those who are new to the climate change debate, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the video of the interview. It delves into some technicalities which are difficult if you are unfamiliar with the climate change debate, so parts of the interview may be hard going. However, if you can take the time to watch it, note how the debate plays out; the presentation of observational evidence that contradicts the climate models, the refusal of the interviewer to engage with that evidence (mostly), and the switches to appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks. In the final edit for the documentary, the arguments put forward by Jo and David are distorted, and the result is, by any reasonable standard, an extremely biased presentation. If you have any doubts, the transcript of the broadcast can be found as a link at the bottom of the page here, annotated by David.

I highlight this as it is a good illustration of the problems with the portrayal of the skeptical case. There are no startling revelations in the interview, but a presentation of the skeptical case based upon evidence. To those familiar with the debate, there is nothing new, but for those unfamiliar with the debate, it gives an opportunity to see how a media outlet may be in thrall to alarmist arguments, and seek to hide/distort the skeptic view. It is important for this reason alone; for those unfamiliar with the debate, it shows that much of the media cannot be trusted on this issue.

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.


The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme – News

There has been news on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and this is the introduction from a report from the New Zealand Herald:

The soft start to New Zealand’s carbon pricing regime is set to get softer still.

The Government yesterday released a review of the emissions trading scheme chaired by David Caygill and its own preliminary response to it.

The headline for the report is ‘Softer still on climate change’. I like the idea that it is possible to be ‘soft’ on climate change which is rather an odd notion; in particular when there has been no scientific evidence presented to suggest any warming in New Zealand. I do not want to go into the details, but the essence of the story is the implementation of the ETS is being slowed down, such that the costs for business and households will kick in over a longer period.

There is an interesting response to the phased introduction in a TV One interview, in which the interviewer discusses the concept of a ‘climate crisis’ before introducing an interviewee  who has just participated in an alarmist event arranged by Al Gore. Described simply as an ‘expert’ (e.g. the title of the interview is ‘Expert Responds to ETS Changes’), Dr. Rod Oram’s profile on Wikipedia is as follows:

Rod Oram is a New Zealand journalist writing on corporate, economic and political issues. He is a columnist for the Sunday Star-Times and Good Magazine, a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker. He is an adjunct professor in the business school at Unitec in Auckland and he has contributed to several regional economic development projects.

I checked the Unitec staff search facility and was unable to find his details and I am somewhat puzzled as to what, exactly, he is an expert in. Likewise a written piece on the TV One website describes him as follows:

A New Zealand climate change expert says people need a cash incentive to change their habits, and delaying an emissions trading scheme will not help.

This is the definition of ‘expert’ from dictionary.com:

a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority:

I am sure that Dr. Oram is an ‘expert’ in something, but I am at a loss to see how he might be an expert in climate change. Nevertheless, this is how this person is characterised, and it comes as no surprise to hear that he is against the slower implementation of the ETS. My favourite moment was when he suggests that the ETS is not about ‘saving the world from New Zealand’ but ‘about making New Zealand a great deal more efficient in both energy and other terms’. He goes on to give a personal example of how he installed solar power and reduced his electricity bill by 40% and purchsed smaller cars. So there we perhaps have an example of his ‘expertise’; he installed solar power and purchased smaller cars?

This is an example of New Zealand journalism at its very worst. A person with no apparent expertise in a subject is characterised as an ‘expert’, and that person by coincidence is a climate alarmist (as evidenced by his participation in Al Gore’s event). It is all very, very shabby.

In another TV One interview the Environment Minister Nick Smith is interviewed over the phone, and the report cuts to images surrounding climate change, for example showing pictures of wind farms after a picture of a chimney bellowing out smoke. Within this montage there are pictures of burning forests and forest destruction, and there is even an image of a lonely polar bear floating on a piece of ice. I particularly liked the polar bear image as polar bear populations are stable, despite their use as the poster-animal of climate change.

The bottom line is that, during the interview, TV One might as well have added captions while Nick Smith was talking, saying that he was a ‘Polar Bear Killer’, or ‘Forest Burner in Chief’. The use of this footage during the interview was calculated, biased and completely underhand. It is yet another example of biased media coverage.

TV3 offers another example, titled ‘Government’s ETS changes help consumers but not planet’. With a title like this, you know the direction of the piece, and it delivers as expected. The report gets off to a fine start by characterising CO2 as a pollutant, even though it is essential to life on earth, and describes those who emit the gas as, for example, ‘big polluters’, whilst discussing how companies will ‘not have to pay for their pollution’. The reporter’s summary at the end of the piece is of particular note, saying that the government will ‘spend $500 million’ by not implementing the ETS faster. It is not clear how this might be seen as ‘spending’ when it is a tax that is foregone. The reporter goes on to say that the policy will do ‘nothing to save the planet, in fact it just puts it off for another day’. A balanced report – I think not….

I hope that the point I am making is clear. There is an agenda in the reporting in the New Zealand media, and it is not even difficult to see it. It is brazen and shameless, and it almost seems that they wear their bias on their metaphoric sleeves with pride. However, what they are presenting to the people of New Zealand is their own views, and seeking to use the power of the media to shape the views of the New Zealand people. Instead of presenting the facts of the situation, the news media are seeking to manipulate opinions to their own version of events/their own perspectives. Whilst all news media have some degree of bias on most subjects, the issue of climate change stands out for the crass and open way the bias is expressed.

The bias of the media would not be such a problem if it were not for the fact that all of the major outlets seem to be following the same path. At present, the New Zealand public have no alternative to the climate alarmism bias in any major media outlet, leaving them with no option but to be spoon fed the alarmist perspective. In my last post I discussed the self-censorship of the media over the scandal of the scientific fraud being conducted by NIWA. This is the other side of the coin, which is the relentless bias against any view/policy that goes against climate alarmism. It is a very, very sorry state of affairs.