The BBC: The Back Business Campaign | Brussels Blog

The BBC: The Back Business Campaign

posted by on 30th Oct 2014

Complaints made to the BBC

The BBC imply: Only economic growth can create jobs.

…Sunday 5th October… CAS-2951985-CXGM61 …Complaint

All major political parties and business are pushing for economic growth. This is reported widely on the BBC and in other media.

The BBC has extensive coverage of business and presents economic growth as essential for the creation of jobs. The BBC also promotes economic growth as “good thing”. Every hour of every day there is business news, climate news is much rarer and of mixed quality (I will make a separate complaint on this.) There is hardly any mention of the fact that economic growth brings more environmental hazards, such as greenhouse gas emissions, except occasionally that “green growth” is a possibility.

By leaving the underlying assumption that jobs depend only on growth, the BBC is promoting a falsehood. The green agenda is being buried by growth propaganda. “Public purposes: Sustaining citizenship and civil society” says “You can trust the BBC to provide high-quality news, current affairs and factual programming that keeps you informed and supports debate about important issues and political developments in an engaging way.”

In leaving the public ill-informed the BBC is failing its guidelines. For background see:

Job creation doesn’t need economic growth

Greenwash from Stern?

Public purposes: Sustaining citizenship and civil society

 … Monday 6th October… CAS-2954926-6XZMFL… Reply

Thanks for contacting us.

I understand you feel the BBC is reporting that all major political parties and business are pushing for economic growth but fail to mention that economic growth brings more environmental hazards such as greenhouse gas emissions. I also note your comments that by leaving the underlying assumption that jobs depend only on growth the BBC is promoting a falsehood.

The time given to each issue or report in the news is frequently a very difficult decision for our editors. Our audiences don’t look at events in the same way and there’s no one universal news agenda that applies to all. The time given has to be selective and no matter how carefully such decisions are made, news editors are always aware that some people may disagree with them.

Essentially this is a judgement call rather than an exact science but BBC News does appreciate the feedback when viewers and listeners feel we may have neglected a story or focused too much on a particular story or item.

Thank you again for contacting us, we value your feedback about BBC News. All complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and I included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.

 BBC: Lack of clarity in a complaints response

Monday 6th October… CAS-2954926-6XZMFL.. Complaint

I have received a response from BBC Complaints.

I would like to know if “Essentially this is a judgement call rather than an exact science” refers to

1. “economic growth brings more environmental hazards”

2. “leaving the underlying assumption that jobs depend only on growth the BBC is promoting a falsehood”

Why do you dispute either of these statements? At a pinch (1) could be a “judgement call” for there are cases where this might not be true but in general it is the case that economic growth brings more environmental hazards.

In the case of (2), you can only be correct by refusing to classify economics as an “exact science”. I would appreciate a resonse that indicated if you assert this. Is it possible for you to consult one of the BBC’s economics experts?

[22nd October from BBC complaints: this is to inform you that we believe it may now take longer than 20 working days before you receive our reply. ]


…Wednesday 26th November… CAS-2954926-6XZMFL… Reply

Thank you for your further contact and we’re sorry our original response didn’t address all of your concerns.

We would only mention environmental issues during a report on business/economic issues, if it was relevant to that particular report.

At this point I would like to draw your attention to our Complaints framework:

It states that we can only investigate complaints when we are given a specific example of when a said incident occurred on output produced by the BBC. If you would like to give us a specific example of a story on economic growth that we covered (transmission date, programme etc), where you feel it would have been relevant to the story to mention environmental issues, we can investigate and respond in detail.

Most news stories have links to many other/broader issues, which would only be mentioned if relevant to the central issue of the news story.

Unhappy with previous response

…Sunday 7th December… Complaint

I have received an answer (to complaints CAS-2951985-CXGM61 and CAS-2954926-6XZMFL), which says “we can only investigate complaints when we are given a specific example of when a said incident occurred on output produced by the BBC.”

There is a “Complaint category: Not enough coverage.”

My complaint is that I cannot find coverage of “the fact that economic growth brings more environmental hazards”.  How can I give a specific example of “no coverage”?

I also cannot find coverage of the fact that economic growth is not essential for  job creation, when BBC coverage constantly implies the opposite.

BBC: Bias towards business/growth

…Monday 10th November… CAS-3013771-H8DMTTc

I have complained about the BBC’s promotion of economic growth without explaining that it means more carbon pollution. In the Kaya identity predicting global CO2 emissions, the (CO2/energy) term may be reducing but this is not enough to keep below the carbon budget recently issued by the IPCC.

The concept of a carbon budget is not perfect but it is useful to policy makers and democratic knowledge. In practice, this budget is calculated by climate scientists using computer models – the CMIP5 models. A note by the Parliamentary of Science and Technology (POST note 454) have pointed that these models had missing feedbacks. This means that the models were underpowered and overestimate the allowable budget before dangerous climate change is triggered.

There are several eminent scientists that would question the size of this budget and make different estimates. Their estimates would be a useful measure of the scope of opinion about the seriousness of climate change.  This is one measure on the “warmist” to “sceptic” scale (The WS scale?) that could be used.

I have made guesses to place prominent climate experts on the WS scale and noted their mentions on the BBC website. I find that there is a huge bias to experts with the “official” view in the middle of the scale.

The BBC is not allowing a balanced debate on climate change. I believe it is promoting a business/growth agenda which is dangerous to our future.

The test I suggest will help the BBC construct an essential debate.

BBC: Mixing politics and science

…Friday 14th November… CAS-3020675-VSXSK0… Complaint

I met Nick Robinson at the Labour Party Conference and commented on the BBC’s approach to climate change. I remember him saying that Lawson was right, climate change is not science but politics.

There are significant political issues associated with climate change but many facts are within the realm of science. One highly relevant scientific fact is that the affluent cause much more carbon pollution than the poor.  This  is a scientific fact. I have never seen of heard the BBC mention this but I get a daily dose of business friendly coverage.

Another scientific fact is that some goods and services are much more polluting than others. Eating beef and lamb has been shown to have very high carbon footprints. I have not seen or heard the BBC reference this. There are many other unmentioned examples of polluting activities, such as air travel, building construction, and car driving. All these are associated with businesses with political muscle.

Newsnight editor Peter Barron said in 2007  ‘ Planet Relief was too “campaigning” in nature and would have left the Corporation open to the charge of bias.’  and ‘It is not the BBC’s job to lead opinion or proselytise on this or any other subject. ‘

My complaint is that the desire to avoid bias (and threats to the BBC’s income) has mean that the BBC is avoiding vitally important issues which are backed up by scientific fact.

The BBC is proselytising for business and downplaying scientific facts. This is bias.

BBC: Editorial guidelines are not easily accessible

…Wednesday 19th November…CAS-3028261-XLXKHK… Complaint

At approximately 2.50 this morning Radio 5 had a piece which discussed the drought in California, having referenced the polar air that has caused discomfort in the East of the US (see Arctic blast hits Canada and US,

The discussion on the Californian drought was with an expert who discussed hopes for an El Nino weather pattern that could bring rain to California – but not necessarily enough to counter the drought. He also mentioned the lack of snow in the mountains to the north of the drought zone.

Anomalous weather pattens are being experienced in the US and the UK – we have just had the driest October on record when this could be the wettest year on record. Many scientists put these down to changes in the jet stream and there is significant scientific support that global warming is the cause. It shocked me that the R5 piece avoided mentioning that a very likely cause of the changed weather patterns was global warming.

I have heard from people that know more about the internal workings of BBC than I do that there are strict editorial guidelines that govern the presentation of global warming. I have not found these guidelines published anywhere.

My complaint is that, if these guidelines exist, they are not easily accessible to the public who pay their licence fees.

…  Tuesday 2nd December …CAS-3028261-XLXKHK… Reply

Many thanks for getting in touch again about your concerns with our output on global warming.

We don’t actually have editorial guidelines on the subject but we treat it the same way we treat any controversial subject – in a fair and balanced way. We try to provide the information which will enable viewers and listeners to make up their own minds and provide a forum for debate.

However we accept that there is broad scientific agreement on the issue and reflect this accordingly. Across our programmes the number of scientists and academics who support the mainstream view far outweighs those who disagree with it. We do however on occasion, offer space to dissenting voices where appropriate as part of our overall commitment to impartiality. The BBC Trust, which oversees our work on behalf of licence fee payers, has explicitly urged programme makers not to exclude critical opinion from policy debates involving scientists.

We believe there has to be space in our coverage where scientific consensus meets reasonable argument about the policy implications of that consensus view.

We of course value your feedback and your comments have already gone to senior management and the Radio 5 Live team.

Thank you again for letting us have your concerns.

…  Sunday 7th December …CAS-3028261-XLXKHK… Reply

I received a reply to a previous complaint (CAS-3028261-XLXKHK) which included

“we accept that there is broad scientific agreement on the issue and reflect this accordingly. Across our programmes the number of scientists and academics who support the mainstream view far outweighs those who disagree with it.”

There is “broad scientific agreement on the issue” that climate change is real and and is caused by human activity. There is not broad scientific agreement on the scale of the problem.  There is a wide range of views. My complaint is that the BBC does not address the range of views within climate scientists and serious commentators.

Th BBC regularly reports scientists who express less urgent views and are more “government friendly” (e.g. Julia Slingo, Myles Allen, Brian Hoskins) but rarely those who express more urgency and express views less friendly to the government (e.g. Kevin Anderson,Robert Watson,Michael Mann).

e.g. Bill McKibben of, warns that climate change is much worse than the “official” view. He is mentioned once on the BBC website in the report “Edward Snowden wins Sweden’s ‘alternative Nobel prize'”.

Your reply: “We do however on occasion, offer space to dissenting voices where appropriate as part of our overall commitment to impartiality.” Bill McKibben is clearly a very important dissenting voice.

The BBC takes pays attention to “dissenting voices” if they down play climate change but ignores those who say it is much worse.

This is bias.


The BBC is biased on climate change

… Saturday 22nd November … Complaint. (It may have been incorrectly submitted.)

… Friday 5th December … CAS-3050620-LC6C9S … Complaint repeated

The extreme weather emergency in the US was reported on the R4 Today programme yesterday. Kevin O’Neill, a reporter and meteorologist  from Buffalo, New York, identified the “lake effect” as the cause of the heavy snow fall. He did not mention climate change. I have made similar comments on R5’s discussion of the Californian drought, which despite the events on the Eastern USA still continues (see

Using the Google search engine and looking at results for the past month, I have been unable to find any reference on the BBC’s website to “global warming” or “climate change” in conjunction with “lake effect”.  On it’s own “lake effect gives several results. e.g.

This treatment is in sharp contrast to the recent piece in the respected New Scientist, “What’s behind snowmageddon that hit the US this week?”

I think the BBC may be emphasising the “lake effect”, which is one part of the explanation, to divert attention from climate change. I am reminded of ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ from the Wizard of Oz.


Adding to previous complaint

 …Wednesday 24th December … CAS-3075036-N519QT … Complaint

The substance of my complaint is reinforced by James Hansen….

Climate change science is unsettling – and important. It is difficult to get support for climate research, perhaps due to a belief that the science is “settled”. It is settled in the sense that we know that humans are now the dominant drive for global climate change, with the potential to leave young people with a changing climate system out of their control. However, the exact nature of the threat and how we can deal with it most effectively are far from settled.

One proof: the widely accepted view that “science” established 2°C above preindustrial temperature as a safe upper limit for global warming. That is unadulterated hogwash.
The paper we published 12 months ago, Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”, with
recognized international experts in relevant fields, shows that 2°C global warming is a target for disaster”

Professor Hansen’s views should inform the public. Under-reporting views such as his is bias.

Perhaps the comments I have just found on Power Switch are too aggressively expressed but I remember being disappointed by the Today programme on Radio 4 on the 20th May 2013. Were there any complaints made to the interview of James Hansen?
“James Hansen corrects BBC over Climate Change” is at ….

P.S. I would never describe John Humphries as a plonker.

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