The BBC, it seems, is damned if it does and damned if it don’t. Having abandoned plans for a day long global warming special “which would have involved viewers in a mass ‘switch-off’ to save energy” it has taken fire from all sides (BBC News). As its own reporting notes it has been accused of “cowardice” by environmentalists. However, critics including some senior voices within the corporation had previously slammed the planned ‘Planet Relief’ programme as a violation of the commitment to impartiality enshrined in the BBC’s charter. The BBC claims the show was scrapped not due to impartiality concerns but because audiences “are most receptive to documentary or factual-style programming as a means of learning about the issues surrounding this subject”. So maybe they’ll just be showing ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on loop?
For those not based in the UK it is probably worth noting that the BBC is funded by a ‘licence fee’ levied on every television owner. It is “forbidden from expressing an opinion on current affairs or matters of public policy other than broadcasting” (BBC guidelines). The scrapping of the show follows heated debate within the BBC over its stance on climate change. One of the BBC’s own editors earlier this month said it was “not the corporation’s job to save the planet” (Daily Mail). The blogosphere has gone into pretty predictable overdrive.
Another employee, the BBC’s Head of News Peter Horrocks, wrote a blog entry on the topic in which he said “It is not the BBC’s job to lead opinion or proselytise on this or any other subject.” However Horrocks also says “there is an increasingly strong (although not overwhelming) weight of scientific opinion in favour of the proposition that climate change is happening and is being largely caused by man”. I’m not sure many climate scientists would agree that the weight of opinion was “not overwhelming”. Opposition politician Chris Huhne, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, certainly wouldn’t. “The consensus about global warming in the science community is now overwhelming,” he says (Independent), “so accusing the BBC of campaigning on such an undisputed threat is like suggesting it should be even-handed between criminals and their victims.”
— Daniel Cressey