climate change

Opinion: Grotesque editorial mistake by the BBC


Newsnight presenter Evan Davis interviewing Myron Ebell. Photo credit: BBC Newsnight.

By Anders Lorenzen

The British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC is the world’s largest and oldest broadcaster. This gives it huge influence, not only in the UK but across the world.

On the 8th of October, the day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a crucial climate report I, therefore, expected BBC’s evening news analytical show, Newsnight, to make this the number one story. On this, they did not disappoint, but when I heard they had invited Myron Ebell to discuss the report I nearly choked on my tea.

Not only is Myron Ebell a known climate denier, charged with leading the transition team of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but also a dirty energy lobbyist. I instantly thought what on earth was BBC thinking? Had they not received that memo? I’m talking about the memo circulated internally inside the news organisation which said that when reporting on climate change they did not have to invite a denier to give a balanced view. This is, of course, because over 97% of the world’s scientists have concluded that the burning of fossil fuels is making our planet warmer. And therefore, by airing the views of climate deniers you are not just offering balance to the debate but you are distorting it and thus misleading the public.

Exactly what qualifies Myron Ebell to comment on a climate science report, apart from the fact that he does not like action on climate change because it threatens his financial revenue, is a mystery to me and many others who voiced their dismay on Twitter.

One wonders what the producers of Newsnight were thinking when they decided to invite Ebell on. The BBC has been criticised time after time for their coverage of climate change because too frequently they invite the views of climate deniers without even challenging them. The regulatory watchdog Ofcom recently ruled, and BBC themselves have admitted, they got this wrong. It is utterly astonishing that BBC still believes it is valid to discuss the reality of climate change instead of talking about how it should be tackled.

Instead of having a debate about what should be done in the wake of the report we are treated to propaganda and conspiracy theory talk from Myron Ebell. This is frankly a waste of time and is misleading the public.

Following the programme, the complaints rightly rolled in. The Newsnight editor, Esme Wren, defended the decision to bring on Ebell by saying it was right to discuss what was happening in the US. To me that translates as lazy journalism, making everything related to the Trump administration. Not every single thing that happens in the world needs to involve Trump. It is about time that journalists, editors and news organisations learn that.

Yes, the US is important, but so is China, arguably more so as the current largest emitter and also the world’s largest cleantech market. When discussing climate change when was the last time the BBC had someone on from China? I myself can’t recall that has ever happened. Even if Newsnight were right to focus on the US, why bring on Ebell? Is he serving in the US government? Has he ever served in the US government? The answer to both questions is NO!

BBC knows full well that by focusing on the US it will be an anti-climate message they will be promoting. Is that really something that the world’s largest news organisation should do following the publication of probably the most important climate report to date?

What Newsnight did is not only a sign of a lack of imagination and creativity. It is at far as away from investigative and critical journalism as it gets. It was reckless, dangerous and lazy journalism pandering to a populist agenda at best. The BBC ought to be utterly ashamed. This was not journalism.


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