Response to decision by BBC Editorial Complaints Unit about interview with Lord Lawson on climate change

Posted on 26 Jun 2014 in

Responding to the decision by the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit to uphold a complaint about an interview with Lord Lawson on climate change on the ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4 on 13 February 2014, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“I am very glad that the BBC has reversed its initial decision to defend the broadcast of the interview with Lord Lawson during which he made a number of inaccurate and misleading statements about climate change. He wrongly claimed that scientists had not made any link between the winter flooding in the UK in 2014 and climate change, that there was no evidence for an increase in any extreme weather events, and that there had been no global warming over the past 15 years. All of these statements were demonstrably false.

“I complained, as did many others, that the interviewer, Justin Webb, did not attempt to correct Lord Lawson’s erroneous statements, in violation of the BBC editorial guidelines which specify that news programmes should ensure due accuracy.

“The broadcast of inaccurate and misleading information about climate change was entirely predictable as Lord Lawson was invited onto the programme because he was likely to ‘balance’ the contribution of the other interviewee, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins.

“It is very unfortunate that the BBC sought initially to justify the interview with Lord Lawson on the grounds that he had been invited on, as chair of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a campaign group for climate change ‘sceptics’, to discuss the economics and politics of climate change. However, as in previous interviews, Lord Lawson used most of his air-time to dispute the science of climate change.

“This interview is symptomatic of the confused and flawed approach adopted by some BBC programmes towards the coverage of climate change. A review by Professor Steve Jones for the BBC Trust in 2011 recommended that programmes should be more careful about creating a false balance between scientists and climate change ‘sceptics’. The BBC has apparently rejected this on the grounds that its news programmes should be allowed to be impartial between facts and fallacies about climate change. The result is that its audiences are being misled by some of its programmes about the scientific evidence for climate change.

“I hope that this ruling by the Editorial Complaints Unit will now lead to an investigation by the BBC and the BBC Trust into why the recommendation by Professor Jones has been rejected, and how its news programmes might ensure in the future that it does not sacrifice accuracy because of a muddled notion of what impartiality means when covering the science of climate change.”

Details of the inaccurate and misleading statements by Lord Lawson can be accessed at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/bbc-impartiality-between-scientific-facts-and-sceptic-fictions/

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (https://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).