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Sissons on BBC climate change coverage

The Mail has a devastating extract from the new book by ex-BBC newsreader Peter Sissons, showing just how corrupt the corporation has become, particularly on the subject of climate change.


From the beginning I was unhappy at how one-sided the BBC’s coverage of the issue was, and how much more complicated the climate system was than the over-simplified two-minute reports that were the stock-in-trade of the BBC’s environment correspondents. 

These, without exception, accepted the UN’s assurance that ‘the science is settled’ and that human emissions of carbon dioxide threatened the world with catastrophic climate change. Environmental pressure groups could be guaranteed that their press releases, usually beginning with the words ‘scientists say . . . ’ would get on air unchallenged.

Read the whole thing.


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Reader Comments (58)

Quote, Peter Sissons, "scepticism should be the natural instinct of scientists — and the default setting of journalists."

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Yea I posted this here yesterday in the Nurse thread. I found it the perfect antidote to Sir Paul's propaganda piece.

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

It appears that "Climate Change" is losing it cachet in Washington DC. So long Carol, and turn off the lights on your way out.
Carol Browner out

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

This article is particularly welcome because Peter Sissons is a respected reporter. That such views should appear in a mass-market newspaper would hardly have been thinkable two years ago. Slowly the façade of absolute certainty is being removed, and we (the public) are getting a chance to examine the underlying science. It may displease The Establishment to find out that the fat bloke in the pub knows more about physics, chemistry, maths and simple common sense than they had previously credited him with.

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterFZM

Getting too cold to push the hoax anymore ... LOL

The sun wins!!!

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commentertarpon

FZM, "the fat bloke in the pub knows more about physics, chemistry, maths and simple common sense than they had previously credited him with."

I resemble that remark!

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


It may displease The Establishment to find out that the fat bloke in the pub knows more about physics, chemistry, maths and simple common sense than they had previously credited him with.

I think it's more that thanks to the Internet and blogs like this, CA, the Blackboard, WUWT and NoConsensus (RIP) the 'fat bloke in the pub' can educate themselves, if they want. Even while in the pub if they've got a smartphone or wifi. Previously they'd have to get the knowledge from one of the official channels, like a Uni, buy expensive text books or find it in a library. Some scientists still rely on simple appeals to authority, others, like the bloggers realise that engaging with the public educates them and can dispell scepticism. If they're really lucky they may even turn some sceptics into advocates. Old-school PR and relying on trust simply doesn't work any more, especially if there's evidence that trust is misplaced. Does Nurse blog? If not, why not given he seems passionate about his science.

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

"Does Nurse blog? If not, why not given he seems passionate about his science."
Jan 25, 2011 at 3:29 PM | Atomic Hairdryer

Because he publishes peer-reviewed papers, which people can read to see his work and the evidence for it. Anyone wishing to calmly and rationally take issue with any of that work, can then publish a rebuttal. It's a great system.

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

I read the Peter Sissons pieces in the Mail and he came across as someone who could not tolerate PC attitudes; was fed up that editors and managers could not give out 'b*****kings'; and loathed the fact that they insisted he attend 'education' courses, which he refused to do until he was threatened with termination.

Curious that a man with such strong opinions records that when the QM died and he had to announce it on the news, he didn't display that same single purpose of mind to know which of two ties (black or burgundy) to wear, having to defer to his studio manager who made the choice for him.

That said, he's absolutely spot on with his take on how the BBC handle climate change. I bet Nurse's piece last night would have been a different kettle of fish if he'd had to interview Lord Monckton instead of Delingpole - who, by the way, when asked by Nurse if he ever read any 'Peer-reviewed' papers, should have replied: 'Oh, you mean like the ones the WWF submitted for the IPCC AR4?'

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered Commentersnotrocket


Peer review, as we all know, has shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the choir invisible

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Zed[Snip - please don't be rude]

Peer review: asking the trendies already inside the club whether the guy in line outside can come in.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

The subject of this thread is Peter Sisson's article. Please keep on topic.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:18 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

[Sorry, off topic. I realise our posts crossed though.]

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

So an ex-newsreader trying to sell a book and an english literature graduate who stated that he doesn't read the peer reviewed literature, he reinterprets other peoples' interpretations are the people who really know what's going on?


Jan 25, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterLouise

I did as instructed and read the whole thing.

Claustrophobic, Catastrophic, Corrupt old AGW, you are so, so over.

Sissons proves to be one of our great reporters, settling old scores with relish. Even the way Harrabin is skewered is perfectly judged. Roger didn't completely capitulate to Jo Abbess after all. He capitulated a little bit, allowing the lady to scream 'Victory' at the BBC throughout the blogosphere. That was brave.

One picks up that little love is lost these days between the Daily Mail and the Beeb and I can't honestly see this article helping. It's gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets better, venerable state broadcaster. Maybe only when you're much more venerable and no longer state-financed. But we love you too much to let you get away with it any longer.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

That's a pretty scathing anecdote from Sissons regarding Auntie. I've always respected his work immensely and his expectations of journalistic inquisitiveness, as he sets out here, are precisely what I'd expect of an exceptional journalist. It comes as no surprise to learn that his expectations were in conflict with practices at the beeb.

I have to explain to my American friends that "Left", in the UK, is not the same as "Left" in the US. We have a "Centre" here and a balanced perspective is more politically distinguishable.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Louise, you appear to have a problem with a professional journalist earning a living from writing. That's a curious perspective you're grappling with, over there.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

4:19 PM. Louise has it. Despite the framing she has hit the nail on the head. Yes, Louise, that's exactly what's happening. Now explain it. How did we get to such a pretty pass?

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

[Snip - I've asked people to stay on topic]

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered Commenteralleagra

[Snip - namecalling]

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMactheknife

<I>So an ex-newsreader trying to sell a book and an english literature graduate who stated that he doesn't read the peer reviewed literature, he reinterprets other peoples' interpretations are the people who really know what's going on?

Hmmm... like non peer review reports from lobby groups setting governmental policy through the IPCC. What is the world coming to!

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Louise "So an ex-newsreader trying to sell a book and an english literature graduate who stated that he doesn't read the peer reviewed literature, he reinterprets other peoples' interpretations are the people who really know what's going on?"

Louise, you don't have to be a science major to be able to spot non-sequiturs, red herrings, straw man arguments, prosecutor's fallacies, affirming the consequent, petitio principii, and the whole panoply of logical fallacies in peer reviewed literature that passes for 'science', and the stupid remarks made by many climate scientists and activists, and the propagandist behaviour of the media. It's really very silly to suggest that because a person isn't working at the sharp end in science he can't spot glaring fallacies. The problem is, those who indulge in groupthink are the least able to detect such fallacies.

And as I posted elsewhere today:

"One comes to realize that much of so-called science is a social construct - in those days the society was the 'scientific community', nowadays it is the community shaped and funded by all sorts of rabid interests with particular agendas, and a lot of filthy lucre.

It is not at all surprising what happened with the team at CRU...this sort of activity was first discovered by Steve Woolgar and Bruno Latour going on in the 1970s at the Salk Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California, in the laboratory of Nobel prizewinner Roger Guillemin. They published a book called 'Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts', which documents the whole range of activities that went on in Guillemin's lab, and reported that science was deeply associated with what sociologists now call 'actor-network theory' in which you create a framework of allies who, by the time you make your announcement, are already committed to applaud it as good work. Woolgar and Latour argued that the scientific community socially constructs scientific knowledge: they make claims whose 'truth' is determined by pal review and the scientific community standing up approving it. Then they give them the Nobel Prize, which 'guarantees' that what they did was 'correct'. Sound familiar? By the way, their book was published over 30 years ago, when I was doing physics, and things have got a lot worse since."

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Sissons writes well. I didn't realise there was humour in his words until I found myself chuckling.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

ScientistForTruth, fascinating.

Jan 25, 2011 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

I take it, Louise, that you are suggesting that only the privileged few are allowed to have an opinion. Unless I have a degree in the relevant subject I am not allowed to learn about it and then express that opinion.
If that is the case you can perhaps explain why Hansen (an astronomer) is a climate expert all of a sudden. Or Gore, who is notorious for not actually having very much in the way of scientific qualifications at all, is able to pontificate on the same subject.
Or scientists who do have recognised qualifications in related fields such as meteorology and geology and palaeontology are not permitted to hold a view on the subject.

[I assume you're not the Louise who gave us this piece of pointless tripe, are you?]

Jan 25, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic


Go make me a sandwich love, that's a good girl.

Jan 25, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy g

Peter Sissons, Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Neil and Jeremy Clarkson appear to be the only people at the BBC with any integrity. They p**s on PC. How bullet proof are the three still there I wonder. It was good to see Jeremy Clarkson have a go at the (non PC) BBC agism policy now that he too is over-the-hill.

Jan 25, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip - yes but you forgot Stephen Sackur, who did his homework and skewered the retiring Greenpeace chief Dr Gerd Leipold -

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Phillip B - Clarkson's long had it in for the health-and-safety contingent, and I can well imagine that the natterers probably make life quite difficult for TopGear.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

"Peter Sissons, Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Neil and Jeremy Clarkson appear to be the only people at the BBC with any integrity."
25, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Phillip Bratby

You have got to be kidding. You think being right wing and having integrity are the same thing? Words fail me for how wrong that is.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Your Grace - it's your blog so you will do as you feel fit but, with respect, if you're going to snip comments on comments already allowed (as you did with mine), then someone might venture to possibly think you're a mite inconsistent. I would have thought that the status of peer review is very much part of this discussion. If not then why permit the original comment?

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered Commenteralleagra

Another day, another straw man argument from ZDB.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Zed - can you please define what you believe 'right wing' means? At this point you're just making noise.

Sissons, for one, isn't saying anything that wasn't already readily apparent to anyone with a brain. The Beeb does sometimes go into full-propaganda mode, climate change being the most obvious recent example. He's just saying it from the position of a respected, well-informed insider.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM


Those comments appeared before my warning.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:29 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

When investigative journalists stop having scepticism because they support the idea, they in turn stopped being investigative journalists and instead became PR hacks. The old school ,of which Sissons is part, developed an ‘nose’ for BS , sadly the new school types developed a ‘nose’ for telling which way the wind blows to keep themselves ‘on track’. It’s a whole different mindset at work where blind ear eye and deaf ear are readily turned to subjects which the journalist knows the ‘chattering classes’ endorse , in practice it’s the difference between asking ‘why’ an asking ‘when ‘.

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Paxo right wing???

Jan 25, 2011 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

Sissons writing has made for very a very interesting BBC reaction! they are now condemning what is effectively whistle blowing about bad practices in a publicly funded organisation which goes hand in glove with their 'stolen' and 'hacked ' email agenda while at the same time bigging up Assange and his associates who are doing the same as good guys ?? they are quite quite mad !
Zed thought you'd be here today! I spotted the posts on the daily mail so you do spend a lot of time over there? are you naturally drawn to the dark side?

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

We get taken to task, quite rightly in my view, for assuming that AGW=leftwing conspiracy.
When ZDB assumes that we think that integrity=right wing the words pot and kettle come to mind.
There is no doubt that Clarkson is right wing but I've seen very little evidence that Sissons or Paxman or Sackur and it's actually quite difficult (as indeed it should be) to pin Neil down on the political spectrum.
The point has already been made that it is a journalist's job to be skeptical. During my years as a very lowly freelance for a local paper I always tried to be as hard on those with whom I agreed as those wth who I differed.
I am (genuinely) proud of the fact that where I lived at the time very few people knew what my political beliefs actually were. I would have hoped that real professional journalists would not settle for less. Too many are not (in my opinion) journalists, just mouthpieces for whoever has a cause to sell and enough of a way with words to absolve the "journalist" from having to do any work -- or any thinking, come to that.
But I suppose Zed's definition of a "good" journalist is one who agrees with her.

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

I read with extreme interest what Peter Sissons had to say about BBC attitudes to climate change.

After writing directly to Mark Thompson for over three-and-a-half years without the courtesy of a direct reply, Sissons has totally vindicated EVERYTHING I ever wrote.

How good that feels is impossible to express adequately.

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz


"You think being right wing and having integrity are the same thing? "

Who said they were 'right wing'? You did. And you accuse us of making assumptions!

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I liked Sissons before, and look forward to reading the whole book. I'm sorry for the Beeb, but they had it coming.

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

If you go and read the original Daily Mail article, which you can do by clicking on 'Read the Whole thing' above, you get the chance to vote on whether or not you think the BBC coverage of climate change is biased. I suggest everyone goes there and votes according to their conscience.

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeB

Nobody who counts is listening James.

Jan 25, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson


Don't forget Paul Hudson.

Jan 25, 2011 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

"Who said they were 'right wing'? You did. And you accuse us of making assumptions!"
Jan 25, 2011 at 7:27 PM | James P

Sissons, Clarkson and Neil have explicitly come out and said it. Paxman tries to keep it neutral, so that is an assumption of my part. Having viewed him for a long time though, it's not a very big assumption.

Jan 25, 2011 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

@ Mike B

Yes: 84%.

The power of reason!

Jan 25, 2011 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional,
illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream
media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible
to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end."


Jan 25, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

You are perceiving Paxman through the prism of your own bias, Zed.
He is equally hard on both sides in a Newsnight discussion and I would be inclined to say that (on balance) he has been easier on the proponents of global warming over the years than on the skeptics, but there's not much in it either way.
But as usual you are merely trying to muddy the waters like a good little troll. As a general rule the concept of right-wing or left-wing is outdated and if you don't know that then it's time you caught up with the real world. You'll need to find a new set of parameters to explain those who accept the global warming meme mindlessly (and my experience over the last year is that they are fewer in number but much greater in proportion) and those who are questioning a philosophy which has never had much going for it and which is apparently (even after 20 years) incapable of producing any empirical evidence for the claims its protagonists are making.
For sure you haven't produced any. Why would that be, Zed?

Jan 25, 2011 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

[Snip - namecalling]

Jan 25, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

[snip- namecalling]

Jan 25, 2011 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

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