09 December, 2011

The Awarmist BBC and “Impartiality”

Christopher Booker’s comprehensive report, The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal (published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and available hence), is essential reading, but I shall quote only from the foreword, by Sir Antony Jay:
It would be astonishing if the BBC did not have its own orthodoxy.  It has been around for 85 years, recruiting bright graduates, mostly with arts degrees, and deeply involved in current affairs issues and news reporting.  And of course for all that time it has been supported by public money.  One result of this has been an implicit belief in government funding and government regulation.  Another is a remarkable lack of interest in industry and a deep hostility to business and commerce.
At this point I have to declare an interest, or at least admit to previous.  I joined BBC television, my first job after university and National Service, in 1955, six months before the start of commercial television, and stayed for nine years as trainee, producer, editor and finally head of a production department.  I absorbed and expressed all the accepted BBC attitudes: hostility to, or at least suspicion of, America, monarchy, government, capitalism, empire, banking and the defence establishment, and in favour of the Health Service, state welfare, the social sciences, the environment and state education.  But perhaps our most powerful antagonism was directed at advertising.  This is not surprising; commercial television was the biggest threat the BBC had ever had to face. The idea that television should be financed by businessmen promoting their products for profit created in us an almost spiritual revulsion. And when our colleagues, who we had thought were good BBC men, left to join commercial broadcasters, they became pariahs. We could hardly bring ourselves to speak to them again.  They had not just gone to join a rival company; they had sinned against the true faith, they were traitors, deserters, heretics.
This deep hostility to people and organisations who made and sold things was not of course exclusive to the BBC.  It permeated a lot of upper middle class English society (and has not vanished yet).  But it was wider and deeper in the BBC than anywhere else, and it is still very much a part of the BBC ethos.  Very few of the BBC producers and executives have any real experience of the business world, and as so often happens, this ignorance, far from giving rise to doubt, increases their certainty.
We were masters of the techniques of promoting our point of view under the cloak of impartiality.  The simplest was to hold a discussion between a fluent and persuasive proponent of the view you favoured, and a humourless bigot representing the other side.  With a big story, like shale gas for example, you would choose the aspect where your case was strongest: the dangers of subsidence and water pollution, say, rather than the transformation of Britain’s energy supplies and the abandonment of wind farms and nuclear power stations.  And you could have a ‘balanced’ summary with the view you favoured coming last: not “the opposition claim that this will just make the rich richer, but the government point out that it will create 10,000 new jobs” but “the government claim it will create 10,000 new jobs, but the opposition point out that it will just make the rich richer.”  It is the last thought that stays in the mind.  It is curiously satisfying to find all these techniques still being regularly used forty seven years after I left the BBC.
The issue of man-made global warming could have been designed for the BBC.  On the one side are the industrialists, the businessmen, the giant corporations and the bankers (or at least those who are not receiving generous grants, subsidies and contracts from their government for climate-related projects such as wind farms or electric cars), on the other the environmentalists, the opponents of commercial expansion and industrial growth.  Guessing which side the BBC will be on is a no-brainer, but no one has documented it in such meticulous detail as Christopher Booker.  His case is unanswerable.  The costs to Britain of trying to combat global warming are horrifying, and the BBC’s role in promoting the alarmist cause is, quite simply, shameful.  [pp. 5-6]

No comments: