A recent BBC review vindicates my concerns about the organisation providing undue
balance to less scientific views such as those expressed in a Panorama programme
broadcast last year called ‘What’s up with the weather?’
A review of the BBC's science coverage has concluded that its drive for impartiality
lends too much credence to maverick views on MMR, climate change and GM
22nd July 2011
....Commissioned last year to assess impartiality and accuracy in BBC science coverage
across television, radio and the internet, the review said the network was at times
so determined to be impartial that it put fringe views on a par with well-established
fact: a strategy that made some scientific debates appear more controversial than
The criticism was particularly relevant to stories on issues such as global warming,
GM and the MMR vaccine, where minority views were sometimes given equal weighting
to broad scientific consensus, creating what the report describes as "false balance".
The review comprised an independent report by Professor Steve Jones, emeritus professor
of genetics at University College London, and an in-depth analysis by researchers
at Imperial College London of science coverage across the BBC in May, June and July
of 2009 and 2010.
In his report, Jones lamented the narrow range of sources that reporters used for
stories, poor communication between journalists in different parts of the organisation,
and a lack of knowledge of the breadth of science.
"The most important aspect is a vote of confidence in what BBC science is doing.
It is head and shoulders above other broadcasters. As always, though, there is a
but," Jones told reporters on Wednesday.
Jones likened the BBC's approach to oppositional debates to asking a mathematician
and maverick biologist what two plus two equals. When the mathematician says four
and the maverick says five, the public are left to conclude the answer is somewhere
The report will disappoint some climate change sceptics who hoped it would find the
BBC at fault for promoting a green agenda. "There is a consensus in the scientific
community that anthropogenic climate change exists," Jones said. By failing to move
the debate on, the BBC was missing other stories, he added.....