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The new head of BBC news

Fran Unsworth has replaced Helen Boaden as head of BBC news. Like her predecessor, Helen Boaden, Ms Unsworth was in attendance at the climate seminar.

Readers might also be interested in this transcript of a conference called NewsXchange 2005, which featured Channel Four's Jon Snow and the Guardian's George Monbiot discussing global warming's potential to wipe human life off the face of the planet (I don't remember that bit of the IPCC report, do you?). Fran Unsworth was also in attendance and had some interesting things to say. You can sense the development of some of the ideas that later reappeared in the seminar.


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Reader Comments (39)

Fran Unsworth: "The way to approach it [environmental coverage, specifically global warming] is the way that we have been approaching it, which is to kick it into the realm of other specialisms. We get our economics correspondents to look at what the impact of development in India and China is going to be on the environment. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, our China correspondent, did a piece about how the Chinese are hoping to cope with an increase in energy needs by developing clean-coal power stations. This is the multifaceted approach that you were talking about, which frankly I think the BBC are already doing."

Nov 13, 2012 at 8:38 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW


It's like like Christmas a few weeks early :-)

Nov 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Err... Wow.

There's a kind of group hug at the beginning where they all acknowledge how Hurricane Katrina was so obviously caused by global warming. It's like so obvious, man.

It's downhill from there I'm afraid. 'Denier' appears within a few paragraphs then, bearing in mind it's 2005, there's this fabulous bit of crystal ball gazing from Monbiot.

Jon Snow: Do you think New Orleans has been a determinant factor?
George Monbiot: I think it has been one. Also, the complete collapse of the global-warming-denying argument has been another

Warmists just can't do the whole prediction thingy, can they?

Nov 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Since Fran Unsworth was at the notorious meeting she knew perfectly well that the BBC's description of most of the outsiders attending as scientific experts was untrue. She also knew that the BBC was wasting public money with its opposition to the FOI request.

Is she going to start her tenure as head of BBC News with a public apology to Tony Newbery and the British people in general? If not, why not?

Nov 13, 2012 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

When you read about so many well known and respectable people discussing CAGW in this way, it almost sends you back to check your facts "could I be wrong?". They are so convinced that it is almost convincing, reading this leaves me in no doubt that not one of these people is attempting to deceive us, they truly believe what they are saying.
However even the evil IPCC has gone to great lengths to state that there is no evidence that hurricanes and other extreme weather events are the result of climate change.
Statistical records tell us that extreme weather events are less frequent than in the past, then of course there is the elephant in the room; global temperature has not increased for 15 years, even if the temperature records are true.
That leaves one wondering just how these people arrived at their views and personally I have no idea.

Nov 13, 2012 at 8:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung


It's smug chummy received wisdom dinner party bien pensant groupthink - there was never a debate.

As to how the matter arrived on the agenda - I suspect we have to look at The Guardian in particular in the case of the BBC but as we all know that isn't an exclusive explanation.

It's a problem that many well paid British professionals have - a towering overestimation of their own opinions - without actually thinking too much about how the opinion is arrived at (oh, so and so's far too intense dahling) - some might call it hubris.

Green activists have a lot to be held to account over - their wholesale mendacity in pursuit of power has led them to substitute emotive fables which are rebroadcast(?) by useful idiots and where they can find them - fellow travellers.

Last year I encountered several Danish *science* postgrad students who insisted to me that "thousands had been killed by the reactors at Fukushima" - an assertion that caused me to spend not inconsiderable effort on a campaign of enlightenment....

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:29 PM | Registered Commentertomo

It has been a most extraordinary day!


Nov 13, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Registered Commenterpeterwalsh

"When you read about so many well known and respectable people discussing CAGW in this way, it almost sends you back to check your facts "could I be wrong?"." -Nov 13, 2012 at 8:59 PM Dung

That's the problem exactly. They are convinced. Almost certainly most of them have never heard a sceptic argument in their life. When they do, it's some daft comment by someone we've never heard of or who has a raft of strange ideas. To convince people we need a video of at least the same quality as Al Gore's movie and a way of getting people to see it. The vid on wind power was good but we need one on the general science. An update on the Global Warming Swindle but without the jeering title to polarise people before its been watched.

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

[Not today thanks]

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

All described perfectly in Thomas Sowell's 1996 "Vision of the Anointed"

“This (liberal) vision so permeates the media and academia, and has made such major inroads into the religious community, that many grow into adulthood unaware that there is any other way of looking at things, or that evidence might be relevant to checking out the sweeping assumptions of so-called “thinking people”. Many of these “thinking people” could more accurately be characterized as articulate people, as people whose verbal nimbleness can elude both evidence and logic. This can be a fatal talent, when it supplies the crucial insulation from reality behind may historic catastrophes.”

@tomo Good description: "received wisdom dinner party bien pensant groupthink"

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

"When you read about so many well known and respectable people discussing CAGW in this way, it almost sends you back to check your facts "could I be wrong?". They are so convinced that it is almost convincing, reading this leaves me in no doubt that not one of these people is attempting to deceive us, they truly believe what they are saying" - Dung
That's the way I see it too.
The title of the 2009 documentary film by Ann McElhinney and Phelim
McAleer 's summed it up so well.
"Not Evil Just Wrong"

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

This discussion dates from before the seminar.
Your link brings us to page 2 of the transcript. You need to start at page 1, where Jon Snow introduces the debate by talking about “weather porn”, and saying: “Global warming really does have the potential to destroy the planet.”
This looks like a fascinating document.

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Sad to say I can't share the view that this is an especially positive development. Bring Boaden, Unsworth and all their ilk down such that the BBC is no longer stage-managed by discredited eco-advocacy carpetbaggers and I'll join the celebration.

By the way, Fran, how's that pension deficit coming along, still betting the farm on corporate welfare?

Nov 13, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterchip

Climate Pscience: the gift that keeps on giving.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood

Jack Hughes


It's part of the reason I've absented myself from some social circles where I used to enjoy what seemed at the time like thoughtful comment and verbal nimbleness - without broaching the subject myself - I was appalled to hear people launch into diatribes about lunatic right wing climate deniers - I kept my mouth shut and didn't bother with further invites....

To mangle an apparently fake Mark Twain quote "It's far more difficult to convince somebody they've been fooled than it is to fool them in the first place"

The young Danish guys came as a real surprise - WWF and Greenpeace have very active Danish chapters concentrating on academia.

However - a generous plateful of schadenfreude today - lashings more later I hope.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Unsworth says:

There is now a dwindling band of scientists who don't accept that there is manmade global warming. Our editors and our correspondents have moved on.
and places this sea change in 2004-5, before the seminar.
Monbiot and the CBS journalist agree in attributing the change of attitude to Katrina. Monbiot has no problem with this, though he later shows that he knows the attribution to be false, when he clearly states that no one weather event can be clearly attributed to AGW. He’s happy to remain silent while others dirty their hands poking the fire, while his hands remain clean.
Mind you, he rather spoils the image of sweet reasonableness when he goes on to say: “the Arctic ice is smaller than it has ever been in the whole recorded history of humanity”. Has he read that in the Maya calendars, or did some Inuit appear to him in a vision when he lay fever ridden in his hospital bed in Ethiopia?
Unsworth was already as batty as George before the IBT got to her. Her spoken English is like the ancient Greek written during the later Roman Empire. Scholars call their texts “corrupt”, but they probably really spoke like that, as members of an effete intellectual élite totally cut off from reality in the dying days of a decadent civilisation.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:26 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

How does "Curious George" get in on so many of these love-fests to drip his honeyed bile?

You might think that being an Oxford Zoology graduate he would have a basic knowledge of how science actually works.

But no. Personally I blame falling standards of education at the "Other Place".

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Jack Hughes
I am eternally grateful to you for introducing me to the writings of Sowell. And I say that as a member of the left-leaning academic bien pensant élite he criticises so ably.
One of the enormous strides forward in the last 24 hours has been the number of commenters willing to go beyond the “ two-legs-bad, four-legs-good” level of analysis to consider seriously what’s gone wrong with our intellectual élite.
I consider myself a leftist, and I’ve no desire to see the BBC fall into the hands of some monomaniacal venture capitalist. We need an intellectual élite. I’d even be happy for that grubby gadfly Monbiot to be a part of it. As long as others who don’t agree with him have the right to be heard. Which wasn’t the case in this discussion.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:41 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Lomborg was clearly the only adult in the room. What was he doing there at all?

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Registered CommenterMique

It does leave one wondering how far the purge will need to go before we get down to some objective rational evenhanded news broadcasters. We can take little pleasure in the fact that Entwhistle and Rippon have gone when in the BBC hierarchy it appears it is "turtles all the way down".

Maybe having had their own little private closed warmist seminar we should try to encourage the BBC to have a public open sceptical one, though it is very hard to imagine this will ever happen.

Only 38% of the general public we are told still believe that climate scientists are to be trusted. Nearly all of the BBC elite it appears trust them implicitly, believing I am sure that this proves their own innate superiority. An organisation with this kind of disconnect really should be broken up.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

May an ex-clown vent his frustration? I was naive enough to think the BBC was staffed with somewhat competent people, thoughtful people, above the fray and all that. They made a fool out of this ex-clown, but I am still a couple bells shy of the full cap. In return may I suggest these expansions of the acronym BBC:

Biased Broadcasting Compromission
Badgers' Bollocks Collective
British Blundering Corporation
Batshit Buffoon Combine

(apologies if my offering seems rather harsh, but I never thought the BBC could sink so low - they've nearly reached the level of the US Republicans)

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrusty the Ex-Clown

It seems it only remains for somebody at the BBC to have a really full-on Gerald Ratner moment.

That I'd pay to see.

I skimmed iPlayer's "factual" category recently - the BBC really does know how to abuse that word.

open seminar? - hmm... about the same time as they ask Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore to give The Richard Dimbleby Lecture on "Post Modern Astronomy and its Effects on Gender Bias in Public Broadcasting"

Nov 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Boychicks! You are completely missing it. As usual. You are completely outmaneuvered all the time because you cant bring yourself to become hard and unforgiving. The BBC and Guardian types are laughing at you.

Nov 13, 2012 at 11:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

Nov 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM | tomo

I skimmed iPlayer's "factual" category recently - the BBC really does know how to abuse that word.

No, no, no, tomo ... they haven't "abused" the word; they've simply "redefined" it - just as they seem to have done with the word "impartiality" in their much-vaunted "charter".

So now, it would seem, we need to add "factual" and "impartiality" to the ever-growing list of post-modernist "redefinitions" such as "peer review", "trick", "decline" ... not to mention "experts".

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:08 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Wow!! Handing the baton on at the Beeb is in no way a changing of the guard at this moment in time. The entire mess smacks of Hitler's Third Reich after WWII, who were found to document everything and were so sure of their own everlasting power that no thought was ever given to how useful those same reports could be 'after the fall'. .I suspect that the only way British taxpayers can be sure the Beeb's little messengers are telling the truth is by a coup of some sort, which turns all levels of management over to the 'Top Gear' team.
Geoff Chambers, your characterisation of George Monbiot as 'a grubby gadfly' is a wonderful example of the English language at it's finest!

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Speaking of the frantic game of musical chairs being played at the BBC these days, Entwistle's (temporary) successor, acting director-general Tim Davie, does not exactly inspire confidence.

The Telegraph reports on a SkyNews interview during which Davie stonewalled and shortly thereafter, appeared to walk out.

As I was watching this video, I was reminded of the cocky arrogance displayed by former NOTW honcho, Neil Wallis (highly praised prince of CRU spinners post CG1) and his erstwhile colleague Andy Hayman.

Davie's attitude suggests (to me, at least) that he may have been poured from the same third-rate "journalistic" mold.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

"The BBC and Guardian types are laughing at you."
Think it was always so George but it's only when we stop laughing at ourselves that we should start worrying.

Nov 14, 2012 at 2:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Mr. Twiddle Dumb and Ms. Twiddle Dumb. Who's to care?

Nov 14, 2012 at 3:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

Please do not drag the Republicans into the collapse of a leftist faux news organization like the BBC. That seems inappropriate and hardly worthy of a even a former clown. Republicans are against state sponsored media and long for the return of real journalism. The faux journalism that leads to AGW promotion, and BBC deception and who knows how many other areas of failed journalism is entirely leftist / progressive in nature.

Nov 14, 2012 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

The trouble with these media people is that they are convinced that they are smarter than the rest of us. They think that we "deniers" just don't understand the problem because we are not as smart as they are.

Well, if they are that smart why aren't they doing real jobs?

Nov 14, 2012 at 4:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Dave @ Nov 13, 10:49 PM

Only 38% of the [UK?] general public we are told still believe that climate scientists are to be trusted. Nearly all of the BBC elite it appears trust them implicitly, believing I am sure that this proves their own innate superiority. An organisation with this kind of disconnect really should be broken up.

As a resident of Oz, I think that some goodly parts of the BBC should be retained but that they should be differently funded from more sensible government revenues. (thus probably reducing administration costs and mollifying public anger etc).

In comparison, various polls in Oz fluctuate but it seems that about 50% of us see no credibility in CAGW. However, our cousin of the BBC; the ABC; similarly breaks its charter of impartiality etcetera rather grossly on climate change WRT their statutory duty as defined in the law of the ABC Act.

Here are a couple of extracts from the ABC Code of Practice which is internally published as their translation of the law but that are head-shakingly disregarded by the ABC when it comes to CAGW allegations. (with my bold emphasis in 4.2):

1 (concluding part): …The ABC is conscious that its dual obligations – for accountability and for high quality – can in practice interact in complex ways. It can be a sign of strength not weakness that journalism enrages or art shocks. The Standards are to be applied in ways that maintain independence and integrity, preserve trust and do not unduly constrain journalistic enquiry or artistic expression.

4.2 Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.

Ho hum!

Nov 14, 2012 at 5:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Fernley-Jones

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Regardless of his political views or his management skills; walking out of that Sky interview in the way that he did showed that Davie really does not have the bottle for such a high pressure position in the BBC.

Nov 14, 2012 at 5:45 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Helen Boaden clearly lied her arse off in an tribunal, she knew she was lying by referring tothe membership of the little cabal as scientists. Fran Unsworth was present at that meeting, therefore she knew Helen Boaden was lying, & her creditability has gone west equally because she effectively covered it up by her silence, when if she had any professional integrity she should have spoken out or at least made it difficult for the BBC to argue that line, imho! So the Beeb have replaced someone of dubious competence with another! Well done BBC!

Nov 14, 2012 at 6:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Thanks for the compliment. I do my best, especially where Monbiot is concerned
See Apocalypse Close

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I call the Guardian fellow Monoblot. Him bein' a singular stain don't you know.

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

I'm with Roy and Alan the Brit, amongst others, on this appointment. By staying silent Unsworth was complicit in the great lie that the BBC's policy on climate change reporting was somehow based on scientific advice. She has no credibility whatsoever (the same goes for any other BBC employee present at that meeting who stayed silent and remains at the BBC).

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Marvelous BBC mindset exposed by Helen Boaden in her lecture "Holding Power to Account" here:

The University of East Anglia honorary doctorate holder makes many memorable quotes. This BBC Academy lecture is doubtless a bargain although her current speaking fee rate is not shown by her agent:

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

From a passing lurker on climate blogs.looking for information on past climate so I have no axe to grind.
This BBC thing seems like the Inner Ring -
'"This is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it- this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition,confusion,graft,disappointment and advertisement"

1944 Address by Lewis C.S. in' They Asked for a Paper.' 1963 Geoffrey Bles
lectures by a professor in Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge ( U.K) so it seems it has been around for a long time. You may get it in a secondhand bookshop.:-)

Nov 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered Commentermewood

In view of the many and varied comments on this subject, I am thinking of launching some kind of competition to see how many more (this figure may perhaps reach into the millions or above) observers of climate science can dispute, deny, cast doubt, criticise or simply fail to see what is clearly obvious to the vast majority of people in the UK today. On this site there are comments which range from an almost infinite variety of different theoretical postions - science, anti-science, politics, the old favourite - Conspiracy (a bit of a relic from the old warhorse Climategate this) applied to various positions - eg for the Greens, against the Greens, the BBC is lying, no the BBC is sincere just wrong, the scientists were probably right in 2007 but now they're not, the scientists were always wrong and were secretly conspiring, with the support of the Green movement, to overturn humanity, the scientists are right but their conclusions mean economic suicide for the rest of us so we'd better just ignore them (a common theme at moment & possibly the most dangerous of the above). And yet, most, if not potentially all, of these fascinating perspectives and reactions seems, incredibly, to be borne out of a remarkable lack of understanding of basic science and statistics. - eg the global temperature record has not increased for the last 60 years which casts serious doubt on the whole hypothesis of AGW. When we are considering the concept of 'climate change' (ie change to climate) we need to first of all consider its (climate that is) general definition - the aggregate (ie average) of changing weather patterns for a minimum period of 25 years. The sorts of data which climate scientists have considered as evidence for 'climate change' extends back along a timescale so vast it can be difficult for the rest of us (non climate scientists and non scientists) to truly comprehend - eg data generated from some of the latest ice core studies (2012) concerns a pattern of weather changes covering a period of up to 50,000 years. Now let us go back to the hypothesis mentioned a few sentences ago - no change to the global temperature record for 60 years = either no climate change or serious doubts about climate change. For any non-scientists or non mathematicians reading this post, let us now get out the calculator and compute what an unbelievably, microscopically tiny proportion of 50,000 is 60 - a figure which, therefore, is, or should be, quite obviously even to someone with the tiniest amount of statistical knowledge, completely, totally and utterly insignificant. This 'concept' (ie man made global warming) is a given, a fact of science universally acknowledged by the vast majority of people living in the UK today (whether scientists or not) - so isn't it time to put the conspiracy theories (as entertaining as they may be) behind us, to put the fanciful ideas of corruption at (delete according to personal preference) the BBC, the Green movement, the IPCC, the UN, the climate change science community, the science community, academia, the trade unions, the media etc - and move on to the far more important, though inevitably less entertaining, subject of what the impacts of AGW will be, how long we have left to adapt to them, what strategies need to be adopted now to minimise their worst effects and, in general, just how we deal with a problem which is, in reality, one of the most challenging and difficult problems we have been faced with in the last couple of hundred years?

Nov 18, 2012 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterleedsjon1

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