Unchaperoned views
Oct 6, 2015
Bishop Hill in BBC, Climate: Sceptics

Any sceptic views in the offing?A few weeks back we all had a laugh over Quentin Letts' What's the Point of the Met Office? and the ensuing rumpus. As I noted at the time, it was a fairly trivial show (transcript here), and I had actually made my original posting as a simple link because I didn't think it worth listening to myself. However, the rumpus continues and the latest reverberations were felt today.

Any appearance on the airwaves by a sceptical voice necessarily leads to a formal complaint, and the outraged party this time was one Andy Smedley, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Manchester. The result has been an abject apology from the BBC:

With regard to What's The Point of the Met Office, we do not consider that the programme met our required standards of accuracy or impartiality...it failed to make clear that [sceptics] are a minority voice, out of step with the scientific consensus... we have carried out an examination of the programme's production processes to discover how it went wrong.

This was an unfortunate lapse for which we apologise and we would like to assure you that we remain committed to covering all aspects of the subject in the most accurate and responsiible way possible.

I'm not sure I don't detect a pattern here. Here's my theory.

On live discussion shows the BBC can get the interviewer to introduce the guest as being someone who holds incorrect opinions, but that doesn't really work for personal opinion pieces like Quentin Letts' one. One option within the absurd framework they have given themselves is to preface the show with a "public health warning". But that would lead to accusations of the corporation being completely Orwellian. That leaves them the slightly silly option they have taken on this show - namely to go through the rigmarole of abasing themselves before the complainants. Far easier, I would have thought, simply to insist that sceptics' opinions are never allowed out unchaperoned.

At the time of the broadcast, Roger Harrabin opined that "sceptics had now 'had their programme'". I think I now see what he meant.

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