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The BBC’s “due impartiality” hypocrisy

Andrew Montford

“Due impartiality” means one thing when it’s terrorists, and another when it’s critics of Net Zero.

The BBC is currently taking a lot of flak for its refusal to refer to Hamas as “terrorists”. Its editorial guidelines, say that that journalists need to mindful of the need for “due accuracy and impartiality”, but say that the t-word is “a barrier to understanding”.

This is a strange position to take. As many people have observed, Hamas is, in law, a proscribed terrorist organisation, so one would have thought that any journalist who was interested in accuracy would need to refer to them as, well, terrorists.

So the ideal of accuracy therefore appears to have been abandoned in this instance. I think the underlying reason for this is found in that awkward word “due”. It certainly appears to be doing a great deal of work in the BBC guidelines.

The doleful influence of ‘due” becomes clearer when you see how it plays out when the BBC’s gaze falls on those who are critical of mainstream climate scientists or Net Zero policies.

I believe that “due” impartiality was a phrase dreamt up by the BBC as a way to deny the oxygen of publicity to just pesky voices. The term’s introduction led initially to people like myself being introduced on air as “deniers” (and one can assume that the BBC feels that the word “denier” creates “understanding” in a way that the word “terrorist” doesn’t, not even in the context of a proscribed organisation).

Ultimately though, it led to an outright ban on appearances on air by anyone questioning climate science or climate policy. Nobody from the Global Warming Policy Foundation or Net Zero Watch has appeared on the BBC for something like six years now, despite Net Zero having been a key public issue – and increasingly so – all that time. So while “due” impartiality apparently involves making sure apologists for baby killers get their views aired, for global warming sceptics and Net Zero sceptics, it means being silenced.

You have to wonder why the corporation’s senior staff feel the wholesale slaughter of innocents deserves a public defence, but critiques of the biggest public spending programme in history do not.

“Due” impartiality then manifests itself in articles such as the recent offering in response to Rishi Sunak’s speech, which features no fewer than five talking heads, all of whom were either broadly or strongly (fervently even) against any rollback of Net Zero targets.

Indeed, senior BBC editorial staff have said that the Net Zero targets are set out in law, and suggested that, as a result, discussion should be limited to what policies should get us there. This is remarkable: such deference to existing law is not adopted by the BBC in any other area. Quite the contrary, in fact. As noted above, the corporation is quite happy to ignore the law when considering what terms should be applied to Hamas.

“Due” impartiality seems then to look very much like outright bias, a way for the BBC to enforce a hard-left agenda, promoting and defending things its staff are in favour of, and denigrating and attacking things they oppose. It’s an ugly, ugly picture, and they can’t hide it any longer.