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Orlowski - why 28gate matters

This is a must-read article. Oh yes.

Besides the furore over bungled BBC journalism, 28 Gate - the Beeb's refusal to name the "scientific experts" who convinced the broadcaster to take a firmly warmist position when reporting climate change - is far more profoundly serious than the BBC and its critics yet realise.

What a humble freedom-of-information request has exposed, and called into the question, is the conduct and judgement of the BBC Trust itself. The trust is the BBC's governing body; it's essentially the old Board of Governors given a Strategy Boutique-style New Labour makeover when Auntie's royal charter was rewritten.

The trust is the BBC's firewall: when things go wrong at the Beeb, it could always promise to step in, with talk about new brooms and fresh starts. But when the trust is found wanting, there is no place to go except into the arms of the state or a regulator.

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Reader Comments (70)

The BBC is dominant in the provision of news and current affairs which shape public opinion. I have seen the figure of 75% as an estimate of its influence within the media in the UK. This is why BBC bias and propaganda can never be tolerated.

The madness of our energy policy and other green taxes is partly due to the BBC output providing a one-sided view of the climate change issue. The constant alarmism drives the concerned public demand for action and the need for policymakers to be seen to be acting. More balanced reporting would have produced a less reckless result.

The BBC, over many years, has caused huge damage to our country. It is biased in other ways, too, but that is not for discussion here.

The BBC Trust has not just condoned the bias and breach of the charter, they have reinforced the policy with the ridiculous report commissioned from their poodle scientist, Steve Jones.

The BBC Trust is not fit for purpose and must be disbanded. The question is how to achieve this. Our useless politicians seem unwilling or incapable of doing anything.

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The solution is very simple. We do not need a state broadcaster or publisher.

1) Split off the magazine publishing business and float it.

2) Make subscription to the BBC voluntary

3) Regulate it via Ofcom.

What's the problem? If its so great, everyone will subscribe - unless they get royally annoyed, in which case the company will change till they come back.

We do not need a state broadcaster getting special treatment and immunity from regulation that applies to everyone else. We do not need to make everyone subscribe to one broadcaster by law if they want to watch TV. Any more than we need to make everyone buy the Guardian or the Times or the Sun to have the right to read any newspaper.

I would subscribe by the way, immediately - I'm not particularly a knocker of the BBC, though it has lost its way lately. I just don't want to make everyone in the country have to pay for it in order to be allowed to watch any TV. Its not right, and its bad for the BBC as much as anyone.

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

The whole reporting charade at the BBC, Savile, climate, the Newsnight program that led to the naming of an innocent man in a paedophile ring is symptomatic of an organization that has lost its way. It needs a reduction in size and many new brooms to sweep aside the Harrabins et al who seem to rule the climate roost with their deception and lies.

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

I agree with Schrodinger's Cat . For decades I have seen the anti-industry anti-engineering, anti-commerce ethos of the BBC destroying industry, engineering and commerce in the UK ... except for the few sectors like the city of London, which I presume stems from the fact they all went to pretty much the same schools.

I used to accept that "industry was dead" and "the service sector is the way forward", until I saw what happened in the wind industry whereby a Danish wind company became the world leader in this "new" technology. The disproved all the BBC nonsense about engineering and industry being "the past".

But of course, the BBC pro-academic, anti-industry attitude meant that it was OK for government to spend huge amounts of our money on buying these bird mincers, it was OK to waste 10s of millions on "research", but we got none of the benefit of jobs from producing these things as the academics and wind developers scoffed the money and there wasn't the manufacturing base left to build them in the UK (after the BBC cheerleaders of government sponsored destruction of UK manufacturing - sending it all to China ... where they emit the same CO2 ... just they add the CO2 from shipping as well!!)

So, having the BBC, it s a bit like an all TV ... yes we want TV, but it would be much better for us all if we had the will power just to switch it off!

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Break it up, sell it off, shut it down.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Behold BBC News! Ye cannot serve Truth and Mammon!

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"We do not need a state broadcaster getting special treatment and immunity from regulation that applies to everyone else."

It's simple

... either the BBC is "our" broadcaster and it is run by us (we elect the board of governors, or perhaps we have a randomly selected panel). In which case it is answerable to us on all policy.
... or it is run by the government. In which case it is paid for from taxation and subject to FOI on EVERYTHING except the particulars of individual stories.
... or it is run by the BBC staff ... and they can buy it from us and run it as a co-operative marxist venture (until it fails)
... or it is floated off. (And not subject to FOI - which is the quite illegal position which it tries to sustain at the moment through shear force of lawyers)

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

It's a good article, except for those of us physicists who don't accept

It's a fact that greenhouse gases, predominantly water vapour, keep the Earth from being hostile and cold; that CO2 albeit in trace quantities is also a greenhouse gas and therefore helps keep the planet warm

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

You have to accept diversity of provision. The right structure for it would probably be a cooperative, or a charity with the right constitution. There is no need, and its probably the wrong thing to do, to privatise. It does have some unique strengths associated with its place outside the private sector and immune from shareholder pressure in the usual way, and people will probably want to find a way of preserving these.

The problem is partly caused by its being too far inside the public sector and financed mainly or solely by government. This is what creates the pull to be a lobbyist for state enterprises and a large public sector. So you need to find something closer to private, but not profit driven, and regulated on a par with everyone else in the industry. John Lewis comes to mind, or the Coop. You need to find a way that its admirers, and generally I am one, can support it.

People are used to subscription TV i the UK, and the sale of the magazines would be a nice starting endowment. I think it would do fine. It would be a bit like the Guardian, but in broadcasting - the Guardian is a trust of some sort isn't it?

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

The BBC has long since lost its way. It has become a self serving billion dollar industry (£3.5B to be exact) and with a guaranteed income at that. It no longer caters for the public but the various groupds within the BBC.

The BBC Trust was never the overseer and place of the BBC. Whenever a viewer complained about bad programming the BBC Trust helped sweep it under the carpet. If the BBC is to survive it must be brought under OFCOM and the BBC Trust disbanded.

Broadcasting is changing by the month and the BBC is now a monolith which is being left behind. The only reason the BBC survives is through a massive public payment (the biggest in the world). It has proven to be unworthy of public trust - i.e. Saville, tax avoidance, climate change bias to mention the more important issues.

I believe some form of publically owned TV is important but it must be affordable and held to account. I think the current licence £145 is far too high and it should be reduced to £100. The BBC should be halved in size (£75 per licence payer) and a new initiative for public and private broadcasters to work together (£25 per licence payer) to develop new technology. Getting rid of the BBC Trust will save a lot of money.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Has there been any recent BBC scandal not stemming from its News department not doing its job properly?

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I guess interspersed with man love for the BBC and hatred for Fox News, which apparently the guy has swallowed the line that reporting anything that the rest of the Obama leg humping MFM won't report on is the new race hate crime (probably lucky it's not illegal to criticise gods...just yet) is some pretty powerful stuff.

I just wish reports like this could just cut to the chase without the need to pander yo lefty liberals or a need to avoid hurting their feelings.


Nov 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

One side effect of the BBC's approach is that by presenting only one side of the story and, I'm sure, editing interviews to ensure strict orthodoxy is that it has polarised the debate. I'm a 50 (natural)-50 (anthropogenic) man, and some peer reviewed papers are starting to present a similar point of view. If that is the case, then the conclusion is that anthropogenic climate change is real but its effect will be much less than the IPCC and it acolytes project.

If the 50-50 view does represent scientific truth it will be difficult to get heard. Those who have made careers (and in some cases fortunes) pushing the catastrophic effects of climate change will be happy to have confirmation of the anthropogenic element but disappointed that their dire predictions will not come to pass. On the hand, sceptics, will be happy that the projected effects will be less but unhappy with the idea of a sizable anthropogenic component.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRon

Ongoing business Mutual Society Owned by Subscribers.
Sell off back catalog to fund BBC's FSS pensions deficit. Any left over to be given to taxpayers as dividend.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Break it up, sell it off, shut it down.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Martin A

Whilst I cannot subscribce to the entire sentiment, I fully concur that the BBC should be reduced in size, those parts that can be sold off should be, but not shut it down. It still has a place in public broadcasting, but the Trust (or should that be unTrust) needs radical overhaul, as does the BBC management require decimating in the traditiaonal sense of the word! As Christopher Booker pointed out the other day, the lowest common denominator here is the word "trust"! The Trust also needs to look into the BBC pension investments, & should there be significant (subjective I know) amounts of investment in green industry, then they should reinvest it elsewhere as it is most unethical & professional for such an organisation to importune its destiny by doing so!

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

When there was a consultation on house of Lords reform, I led a group who wanted to see a panel of ordinary people (chosen at random) appoint the upper house. Even with almost no publicity, something like 10% of all responses endorsed this option.

1. It was not mentioned in the government report (for obvious reasons as they intended the government to control the appointments panel)
2. But much worse: It was not mentioned by the BBC

So, throughout the whole debate on lords reform, there has not been a single mention (as far as I know) of the various options involving ordinary people:

- a house of ordinary people (chosen at random)
- a house appointed by a panel of ordinary people (chosen at random)
- some other way to select people who are more like ordinary people (there are several).

Like Global warming, the BBC had a house policy of denying any mention of the alternatives to the public. Like global warming, it was impossible for the opposition to get a hearing on national TV, Broadcasters, etc. And like global warming there was a proven grass roots movement that the BBC actively tried to repress.

These are just two areas I know about, where the BBC have distorted not only public opinion but even the constitution of the UK by preventing any kind of debate.

So, if anyone says: "I don't think a trust formed from ordinary people is a good idea" ... just ask yourself: "how much is this view just a reflection of the propaganda bias of the BBC against ordinary people having any real say in modern Britain?"

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

BBC = Bungling Bloated Cows

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterUranusIsaGasGiant

The BBC remains capable of producing programmes that the British public very much value. Since the BBC employs mostly British people, or people culturally akin, who know what the home audience will like, it is no surprise that it makes such programmes, given its budget (which is actually taken and not given).

What's more, since the BBC has an audience that repeatedly says that programme such and such is 'worth the licence fee on its own' then pay-per-view is the obvious way to go. It does not require coercion and guarantees independence for the BBC - if not the numbers employed and the pay packages now enjoyed.

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

stunning piece by Orlowski. when Orlowski reported earlier on Boaden & the Insurance Industry Rep at the Tribunal, it piqued my interest because the CAGW/Insurance angle is one i like to explore; however, we didn't know at that time it was Andrew Dlugolecki and i wasn't thinking of the Boaden connection when i started digging and discovered his CRU connections. this issue alone begs the question, where on earth is the MSM on 28 Gate?

a tale concerning canada's so-called centrist Liberal Party:

15 Nov: VIDEO: Macleans Mag, Canada: Bob Rae steps up to defend carbon pricing
Bob Rae (interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada) was in Toronto today to deliver a speech on energy policy. Included in that was a defence of putting a price on carbon:
Do you know who’s providing the leadership today on carbon pricing? The province of British Columbia. And the province of Alberta. They’re not afraid to talk about carbon pricing. They’re not afraid to use market mechanisms to force innovation and more conservation. They’re not afraid to send the right messages to markets. They’ve done that. They’ve moved ahead of the game. The Conference of CEOs, under the leadership of John Manley, has said exactly the same thing. We have to send a signal to the markets about the price of carbon going forward and we have to do it in a way that, once again, will force producers and force the industry to become more innovative. And that’s a more effective way to do it than, and this is really ironic coming from a so-called Conservative government, the kind of centralized, command-and-control regulatory approach which now seems to be the vogue in Ottawa...
Now, you and I both know our shared experiences as a country in trying to have a national conversation on this question of carbon taxing or cap-and-trade—either technique, either method of trying to create a signal to the markets about price. But I’m here to tell you that if we don’t send a signal to the markets about price, the market won’t take us seriously when it comes to conservation and the market won’t take us seriously when it comes to greening the economy and the world won’t take us seriously when it comes to those things.
What’s more, the industry itself is asking for this. Talk to a CEO of any major energy company in Canada and they will tell you we need to know what prices are going to be and what government policies are going to be in order for us to make and justify the investments to our shareholders that we know we have to make. Two projects right now on carbon capture, two separate major projects on carbon capture, have been put on hold by two major companies for the simple reason that there is no signal to the market. That’s wrong.
But I know full well that anyone who steps up to the plate and says this is something we have to do and at the same time provide for tax cuts to lower and middle income people, provide for real cuts in income taxes, make sure that regions that are badly effected are helped and not hurt, it’s quite possible to do it, but anyone who suggests it will immediately have their head blown off. But, having my head blown off many times, I don’t mind...

Bob Rae's brother, John, is Executive Vice-President of political powerbrokers, Power Corporation. btw Wikipedia states the Liberal Party held power for 69 years in the last Century:

Wikipedia: Power Corporation
A U.S. investigation into the UN Oil-for-Food scandal determined that Power Corporation had extensive connections to French bank BNP Paribas, which was selected in 1996 to broker the Oil-for-Food program. Power owned a stake in Paribas through its subsidiary Pargesa Holding SA...
The Desmarais family and Frere are also the largest shareholders in oil company Total SA, France’s largest oil company.Total was the subject of a formal investigation by the United Nations in February 2010 for bribery charges concerning oil deliveries from Iraq during the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein...
Additionally, the company has long been a close ally of the Liberal Party of Canada, although former or current members of other Canadian political parties have also worked for Power Corp. A brief summary of the connections between Power Corp. and those with political power in Canada is below...
Former Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, was hired in the 1960s to work for Paul Desmarais, Sr. by Maurice Strong...
John Rae, the brother of former NDP Premier Bob Rae, currently serves as Power Corp.'s Executive Vice President...
Former member of the Liberal Party of Canada Maurice Strong became President of Power Corp. by his mid-thirties. He had a role in the creation of the Canadian International Development Agency and in 1976 he was appointed to run Petro-Canada. He later worked for the United Nations...
Power Corp.'s international advisory board has featured individuals such as former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former head of the US Federal Reserve Board Paul Volcker, and the previously mentioned former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau...

Nov 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Mike Haseler
Re your last point. It's a mind-set. The BBC, like most arts-based organisations, is peopled by individuals who are convinced of their own self-worth and see themselves as superior to the man in the street. They have 1st Class Arts degrees and inhabit a tightly-knit self-reinforcing intellectual community. There are a few broadly similar communities with which they feel able to identify or with which they are happy to be associated because (pace what I just wrote above) deep-down they are not really as convinced of their own self-worth as they like to believe!
Have a look at TinyCO2's post from 11.49am yesterday on the 'Booker on 28-gate' thread.
So they take no account of anyone outside these groups. Hence your suggestion that ordinary people could or should be involved in any major decision-making process is so far from their own world view as to be a 'non-sense'. Much as if you had simply recited a collection of vowels and consonants that superficially had the appearance of words but were in fact gibberish.

This analysis by Orlowski is probably one of the best I have read, and not only because it re-iterates arguments that I have been making for years in particular that our grandchildren are not going to thank us for trying to use our (comparatively) limited resources and our current technological knowledge to solve their problems.
I've always thought the argument that we must not use our precious resources but must save them for future generations ("so that they can then not use them, either" always being the sub-text) has more holes in it than a piece of Emmental!
The BBC's current stance with regard to climate change isn't even honest by its own standards. While a decision to take the position that the science is settled and therefore giving equal exposure to those who disagree is like giving air-time to flat-earthers may, I repeat may be defensible, refusing to provide balance within that stance is not.
The best example is the state of the Arctic summer ice. The phrase "since records began" requires to be balanced by the information that the records referred to only began in 1979 while it is also accepted within the mainstream climate science community that weather conditions, not simply temperature, bear some responsibility for the annual variation.
Others could no doubt find other examples.
The bottom line is that as far as climate change is concerned the BBC has abandoned not just balance — which it has claimed it is entitled to do — but honest dealing.

Nov 19, 2012 at 12:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The Blake's Progress: Greenpeace to the FCO to the DFID.

When the UK government decided to take a global leadership role in tackling climate change it needed to mobilize several parts of the civil service to deliver on an ambitious plan. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office – the diplomatic service for the UK – took on the role of influencing other nations through ‘public diplomacy’ by engaging non-state stakeholders such as the business community, faith groups, environmental NGOs and the media. The FCO recognized the value of the ‘campaign approach’ to communicating a complex subject like climate change and sought an individual who could apply the principles of ‘campaigning’ to the specific context of a diplomatic service. Blake was invited to help as a consultant with the FCO’s plans and over a period of 18 months organized a global programme of workshops and training materials which inspired, informed and supported UK diplomats working on the climate change brief. As a result of the successful project at the FCO, Blake was invited to work with the Department for International Development (DFID) on shaping an international advocacy programme around development and climate change issues.

From Blake Lee-Harwood's cv at

Nov 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

What a brilliant piece Mr Orlowski. Love it.

BTW, there's a few typos in it. If you'd like me to proof read it then just let me know. :)

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Has there been any recent BBC scandal not stemming from its News department not doing its job properly?
Nov 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM omnologos

Entwhistle's lottery-win pay-off.

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I'm a 50 (natural)-50 (anthropogenic) man

If this was true then natural climate change would be doubled each and every year. It quite clearly is not true. 50/50 man/natural is just not possible. CO² cannot warm the climate significantly and land changes are minimal in comparison to changes in the oceans.You really should be nearer 99.9% natural and 0.01% man.

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

pat asks:
“Where on earth is the MSM on 28 Gate?”
Nowhere. Google “Maurizio Morabito BBC" and you get 280,000+ hits. Limit the research to news outlets and you get five.

Orlowski is excellent, as usual, and far more hardhitting in his treatment of the Jones report for the BBC Trust than two of its victims, Montford and Newbery, have been.
Jones deduces from their interest in the names of the participants in the seminar that “The factual argument, even for activists, appears to be largely over”.
His treatment of Montford and Newbery, who had offered to help him in his work, was stupid, mendacious, and rude. He and the BBC Trust should apologise.

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Well done Andrew, a nicely balanced article about the unbalanced BBC!
We all need to keep shouting about the non-existent cAGW issue. Before our government follows the Aussies with a crippling & unnecessary carbon tax. We all know how a government loves a new tax.

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarpetDM

"Maurizio Morabito" BBC with the first bit in quote returns 9,900 hits. Then we have the misspellings...

Nov 19, 2012 at 1:53 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Orlowski asks if the BBC is even aware of what it has done, and how far it has strayed from impartiality and good science reporting. I heard that before he left the BBC their science correspondent David Whitehouse tried to tell them, but was ignored. Would an FOI request obtain his emails?

Nov 19, 2012 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterHardoldD

The AGW supporters will tell you that BBC's decision to exclude the 'flat earthers' and the 'total deniers' fron their coverage was justified by the need to include only balanced debate. However, it was also used to shut out any considered opposition to the AGW meme, which was the intention, leaving the 'consensus' view as the sole officially approved line, from 2006 onwards.

This policy had the major effect of leaving BBC's reporting on AGW and climate change stuck at the level of 2006, with all subsequent revelations, actual climate observations, and viable counter-evidence, formally ignored. Thus, new information on cosmic ray cloud theory, the failure of climate models, the lack of global warming, the exposure of Gore's propaganda, IPCC errors, the pressure group driven nature of the IPCC, the increase in Antarctic ice, the fact that Polar bear populations have risen fourfold and they are not endangerred, the phenomenon of individual websites providing providing higher quality information than BBC, and even the full facts on Climategate, have passed by BBC viewers.

This is a major failure for a compulsorily funded broadcaster. This same process of deciding upon an official line for a topic and subsequent wilful ignoring of counter developments, must manifest itself across other spheres. BBC should make it clear where this has been done, who decided upon it, and how it can be reviewed. Otherwise we could not trust BBC to provide us with balance on any topic of our interest, whether it is climate change, defence, the EU, healthcare, industry, politics, immigration, transport, education, food safety, or even environmental matters.

Nov 19, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Bancroft

It was emails from Newsnight producer Merton Jones to peter rippon saying that the bbc's reputation would be damaged if newsnight did not run the Saville feature. Are there emails from David Whitehouse to the BBC management saying the same thing about the BBCs reporting of climate change, and if there are how did the BBC respond to criticism from its most senior science journalist and climate realist?

Nov 19, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldD

David Whitehouse IIRC has been the only actual scientist-journalist reporting science at the BBC in a long time...

Nov 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Edward Bancroft:

The AGW supporters will tell you that BBC's decision to exclude the 'flat earthers' and the 'total deniers' from their coverage was justified by the need to include only balanced debate.
If they say that, they’re going against the BBC’s own official view on impartiality, expressed in their “Seesaw to Wagonwheel” report, in which it was said:
“...these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as ‘flat-earthers’ or ‘deniers’, who ‘should not be given a platform’ by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: foras long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space.
Are we expressing our views coherently and honestly? I think so.


Then we have the misspellings...”
Wait till they start pronouncing your name on the radio. (The BBC used to have a full-time employee telling journalists how to pronounce foreign names, but he/she had to go to pay for the salaries of the Saviles and the Entwhistles).

Nov 19, 2012 at 3:45 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Only just catching up here. But here's my take. With this article Andrew Orlowski has become one of the most important journalists of our generation.

Nov 19, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

"The broadcaster has a long history of courageous reporting. It know hows to tell a rich and complex story without interference. By doing that again and again it can build the public's trust brick by brick."

Orlowski's piece is a good one - picking up, as it does, on some of the psychological aspects underpinning climate alarmism which have long been discussed on Ben Pile's blog. However, we might ask why Orlowski wants the BBC to "build the public's trust brick by brick" - and what will the corporation do with that trust were able to rebuild it. What sort of relationship is Orlowski himself hoping to re-establish with the BBC that he needs the corporation to rebuild his trust for?

It's worth wondering if, and why, a distrusted BBC might be better than a trusted one? What new responsibilities and resourcefulness does a distrusting public find itself with that a trusting one doesn't?.. and what can a trusted BBC get away with that a distrusted one can't?

Orlowski and the BBC may both be yearning for the return of an old parent/infant relationship - and simply differing in their views on how to force it... here, we might ask what the difference is between 'trust' and 'unquestioning compliance'?

The BBC's contribution to the undermining of trust once placed in it may simply be an evolutionary step towards the public leaving the corporation behind and finding something better to do. Whether the BBC is able to be a part (and only a part) of that new dynamic, is largely up to itself.

Nov 19, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Just did a goggle search for any Harrabin statements or articles in the last week or so.

I did not see any. Has anyone else heard anything from Harrabin recently?

Has the secretive manipulating champion of non-open science been gagged by his masters?

Is Roger Harrabin, the biased dog that isn't barking? Muzzled champion of censorship? That would be ironic.


Nov 19, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Geoff Chambers:

Are we expressing our views coherently and honestly?

Honestly yes. Coherently is more difficult. One problem with the gross over-simplifying of the debate that Orlowski rightly fingers as even more important than outright bias is that it assumes a univocal sceptic community. The example that springs to mind at once is not from the BBC but the one-day Science and Technology committee's hearing on Climategate on 1st March 2010. Nigel Lawson and Benny Peiser were fine but they were nothing like enough. Steve McIntyre was desperately needed because he had a different - and much more informed - perspective in the areas of concern. Ross McKitrick would have brought something different again. None of us are alike and that's not simply that we're all bloody-minded contrarians to a man. It's because of the irreducible complexity of the subject.

Which brings me to Philip Bratby:

It's a good article, except for those of us physicists who don't accept

It's a fact that greenhouse gases, predominantly water vapour, keep the Earth from being hostile and cold; that CO2 albeit in trace quantities is also a greenhouse gas and therefore helps keep the planet warm

But the full paragraph from the article is:

It's a fact that greenhouse gases, predominantly water vapour, keep the Earth from being hostile and cold; that CO2 albeit in trace quantities is also a greenhouse gas and therefore helps keep the planet warm; and that industrial society increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is largely unquestioned.

I think the 'largely unquestioned' is fair. The fact that AlecM and a myriad of similar-minded nyms are bound to disagree I'm not certain adds much light. As for Mr Bratby, there are few people on Bishop Hill that I would willingly give my life for but he's one.

And then there's the great Martin A:

Break it up, sell it off, shut it down.

Here my own view is far from coherent. I like to think I am in a quantum state of agreeing with both Martin and Orlowski/McAlpine on the future of the BBC at the same time. Other observers would no doubt see it as total confusion.

But on such details we can disagree. What we are all longing for is deep change, that pays the UK people the compliment of believing we can cope with the complexity of climate.

Nov 19, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

State owned media is incompatible with free speech and free press. Even when as carefully crafted by sincere people as undoubtedly created the BBC or the CPB in the US, it cannot work by its very nature.

Nov 19, 2012 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

Peter S
Your questioning of the concept of trust, which has been so central to this story, should be enlarged to cover the MORI annual poll on trust and the professions, which has shown over the last twenty years or so a fairly consistently high level of trust in scientists and doctors, and an abysmally low level of trust in politicians and journalists. (The results are full of incoherences; news presenters are trusted, while journalists are not, for example. This doesn’t mean the polls are useless, but that they require careful interpretation).
These polls are a major factor behind the CAGW story I think, as politicians and journalists try to acquire some of this precious commodity by associating themselves with scientists.
This analysis will take us far beyond the problem of the BBC and its failings, and into the realms of social science. I trust my doctor and my garage mechanic because I know them (though the relation is not one of “unquestioning compliance” as you suggest). I distrust my plumber for the same reason. Politicians, lawyers, policemen, scientists, I hardly know at all. Should I trust them as an article of faith, because society works better when we trust each other? Or should I not trust them, because a certain dose of healthy cynicism is both fashionable and useful for survival?
These are deep questions, best explored in the company of profound thinkers on social questions - people like Marx and John Stuart Mill, but also Juvenal and Evelyn Waugh.

Nov 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

State owned media is incompatible with free speech and free press. Even when as carefully crafted by sincere people as undoubtedly created the BBC or the CPB in the US, it cannot work by its very nature.

Nov 19, 2012 at 4:35 PM | lurker, passing through laughing

- - - - -

lurker, passing through laughing,

If one identifies that government has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force in a society, then one might have profound doubts about the wisdom of a government owning a news media. I have fundamental doubts about the wisdom of it.


Nov 19, 2012 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

@Mike Jackson

The BBC's current stance with regard to climate change isn't even honest by its own standards. While a decision to take the position that the science is settled and therefore giving equal exposure to those who disagree is like giving air-time to flat-earthers may, I repeat may be defensible, refusing to provide balance within that stance is not.

Actually, it's a bit more recursive than that. If you think yourself back to 2005 - look at woodfortrees, for example - it was still possible to argue that the Earth's temperature was tracking the model predictions. In other words you COULD argue in 2005/6 that 'the science was settled'.

The problem is, the science didn't STAY settled. In the real world, the temperature diverged. But in the BBC world, having 'settled science' was a marvelous excuse for refusing to listen to ANY suggestion that the base science was wrong. It had been defined as 'RIGHT' and could not be changed...

Nov 19, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer


These polls are a major factor behind the CAGW story I think, as politicians and journalists try to acquire some of this precious commodity [trust] by associating themselves with scientists.

And yet Helen Boaden was actually persuaded in January 2006 not by anyone calling themselves a scientist but by an insurer - albeit one from UEA, which further muddies the waters. Still, there's no evidence that Boaden knew the UEA affiliation and she only mentions the insurance one. Where do insurance experts come in the polls on trust? That's a totally serious question, even before we call in John Stuart Mill and their ilk for consultancy help.

Here's the full passage from Orlowski on the subject, because I think it might the most central of all:

Two weeks ago, I listened to the BBC's Helen Boaden testify in a court room that one of the most persuasive speakers she had heard on that day, at that fateful seminar, in January 2006 was an insurance man. It had helped convinced her that climate change was having real world impacts. As we noted:

>The BBC's director of news said she was particularly impressed by the testimony of a representative of the insurance industry at the 2006 seminar. For Boaden, this attendee's belief that cost of climate change will increase carried enormous weight. This is an odd statement: since profit-seeking insurance companies pocket revenue from premiums, they materially benefit from the higher premiums that accompany predictions of catastrophic climate change. Without the warnings of catastrophe, there is no need for higher premiums, so it's not an impartial observation.

It was an extraordinary thing to say. An accomplished and experienced factual editor, Boaden has first-hand experience of large corporate lobbying, and works for an organisation suspicious of big business. Yet for that moment, she suspended her judgement. It was the climate virus attacking, once again. Insurance company Munich Re set up a climate division and published some wildly alarming material before being disbanded this year.

And now we know who the "insurance man" was. He was actually a former insurance man called Andrew Dlugolecki, who was attached to the Climatic Research Unit at the Univesity of East Anglia. Tyndall director Mike Hulme described him as a lone gun: "An independent consultant close to the insurance and investment communities." In 2002 he was promoting climate work sponsored by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the IPCC's parent, at the BBC.

Nov 19, 2012 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Oops, that was meant to be a 'Preview Post' not a Create. What I was going on to say is that the role of insurance companies in all this is well worth the scrutiny. What Andrew writes is all very fair comment but I think it's worth asking one further question: does the insurance world, which deals every day with questions of risk, really believe that the risks of climate catastrophe are being accurate reflected in increased premiums? If they are sincere believers but wrong then we pay higher premiums than we need to and they make a profit that is undeserved but none of that is premeditated. And there is the other possibility. Does is make me a rabid conspiracist even to mention the other possibility?

We can extend this Helen Boaden herself. Was she really convinced by the insurance 'expert'? Here I'm inclined to believe her. As Andrew points out it seems a strange mistake for someone from the BBC to make, given its apparent suspicion of big business. But dig a little deeper and the BBC's antipathy isn't to the bigness of business but its independence of mind. When a massive industry like insurance seems to provide backing to a progressive cause all healthy scepticism disappears. The same with big banks and carbon trading or massive agri-businesses and biofuel subsidies. There are too many examples for Boaden's reaction the day of the Climate 28 to be considered an exception that proves the rule. The BBC is in the habit of backing big business - but only when its bigness is built by backhanders and bailouts by government and there's a fashionable progressive robe it can appear to wear at the same time. What it instinctively hates or at least disdains is the independence of a Montford, a Holland or a Newbery.

Nov 19, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

BBC bias is attracting attention from the self-declared 'leftie' Dan Hodges in the Telegraph. Although the subject is Israelies-Palestinians, the concluding sentence goes to the root of the problem;

Many people reading this will violently disagree. But if they’re working for the BBC, perhaps they could manage to keep their views to themselves.

It will be the bias that gets them, not the subject of it.

Nov 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

I happen to agree with Black Smith & Harrabin - it'd be very strange for the BBC to change its min in a seminar or two. This brings up the tantalizing possibility, however remote, that the BBC trust and the lady at the witness stand have told made up stories.

Nov 19, 2012 at 6:44 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos


I have also seen at least two (satellite) BBC News reports on the violence where the presenter was speaking with a background graphic displaying the headline "GAZA ISRAELI VIOLENCE"

Nov 19, 2012 at 6:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Will Harrabin's self defense be something like 'I was under orders' coupled with 'I disagreed with what I was ordered to do' ?

Or rather will his self-defense be 'I never did that stuff'. The BBC higher ups are lying when they say I did to mislead' ?

I rather think his self defense will be 'everyone else does it in the MSM so it's OK' .


Nov 19, 2012 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Dodgy Geezer
I agree with you, as I do with Edward Bancroft who makes pretty much the same argument.
The main reason I've avoided that aspect is that I haven't yet found a coherent form of words that allows me to say it in a short enough space that everyone else on here can read without falling asleep before they reach the end.
So thanks to both of you for doing it for me!
The BBC's coverage of climate is preserved in aspic at 2006 regardless of subsequent developments. Sooner or later they will simply look ridiculous.

Nov 19, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


It will be the bias that gets them, not the subject of it.

Good point but I think it will be both.

The violent abuse of the defenceless over many years by Jimmy Savile, to the deafening silence of its renowned teams of investigative reporters, has I'm sure has done more damage to public trust in the BBC than anything else. The apparent response of cavalier and cowardly defamation of Alistair McAlpine, relying on the ignorant and ill-informed on blogs and Twitter to do their dirty work for them, has hardly repaired the damage. The point being that these are very specific biases that have perhaps holed the great supertanker below the waterline. (Note the allusion to Big Oil there. Quite deliberate, in line with the presence of our very own BP in the Climate 28.)

The way the good ship goes down and who gets a lifeboat is however important. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union gave way to Yeltsin and the giveaway, in the name of the free market, of gigantic semi-monopolies of natural resources to create a few lucky oligarchs and massive public resentment, followed by the repression of Putin. I'm cautious then about those who say "Good riddance, let it sink with all hands" with no attention to the detail. But your point about bias in many areas is a fair one. The right answer has to be governed on the Internet-driven culture of our children and grandchildren. I sometimes doubt I have the omniscience to compute all the counterfactuals correctly to arrive at the right answer. Some call this pusillanimous timidity. I simply cry to the great creator of us all to help in our desperate need - another perspective not always represented with due care and intelligence by the BBC ruling elite.

Nov 19, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

This is a great article (aren’t all of Orlowski’s brilliant?) but the idea that the BBC can return to its glory days is doubtful.

For those who mutter deeply and darkly that the BBC fails because it’s a state run organisation miss the real problem. The BBC isn’t the tool of any political organisation, it IS a political organisation. It is the unofficial opposition party. No matter who gets in, the BBC is their enemy. If the party in power does something the BBC staff don’t approve of they loudly condemn them. They use many more air time minutes to drag down a policy than the political party gets to support it. If the government does something they like, then they might use phrases like ‘too little, too late’ or ‘cautious optimism’.

There isn’t a policy field the BBC doesn’t have a hand in. Education, unions, pay for government staff, countryside management, banking, etc. They cleverly make it look like they’re advancing the public opinion by getting some useful idiot on the street to voice the point they want made. When they clearly go against public opinion they claim they’re injecting balance and playing Devil’s advocate. One of the reasons we have such wishy washy politicians is because every time one of them pokes their opinion above the parapet the BBC shoots them down. Not satisfied with allowing their world view to colour their news coverage, they now seek to squeeze their ideals into every minute of output. Hence the attendance of head of comedy and children’s TV at the 28gate seminar.

Much though I wish it were otherwise, the BBC can’t be fixed. Like any addict it has to first admit it has a problem and it will never do that.

Nov 19, 2012 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Agree totally that the BBC can not be fixed. To apply a sticking plaster to the problems at the BBC would require that there was only a small problem but there is a huge problem. I would however say that if you could remove the whole management plus everyone in the news sections it might have a chance but there is no way you could fill all those positions. I think subscription and sink or swim is the only way.

Nov 19, 2012 at 8:39 PM | Registered CommenterDung

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