The BBC should give less coverage to opponents of global warming than it gives to the climate change lobby, the corporation’s governing body will rule.
In a long-awaited review of science output, published tomorrow, the BBC Trust will announce an overhaul of impartiality rules, compelling journalists and programme makers to give less attention to groups that make claims at odds with the scientific community’s majority view.
The report draws heavily on an independent review of the BBC’s coverage by Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London. Prof Jones is understood to have cleared the broadcaster of any suggestion of bias in its output. But his main recommendation is that for issues where there is scientific consensus, such as the safety of genetically modified crops and the MMR jab, the corporation should not be compelled to give airtime to critics of the majority view.
Prof Jones also recommends that the corporation should appoint a science editor to work across its coverage, and should also feature more scientists in news and current affairs programmes such as Question Time.
Senior BBC executives said climate change was seen as a special case, given the politically charged debate, but BBC coverage would indicate that the majority of the scientific community supports the notion of man-made global warming.
One BBC executive, who has read the report, said: “It is about recognising when the debate has moved on beyond whether a theory is true or not, and on to what we do about it.”
Another source at the corporation said presenters would challenge groups such as Greenpeace much more rigorously.
Opponents of green policies said they feared the BBC would use the report as a smokescreen.
Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which counts the former Conservative energy secretary Lord Lawson among its trustees, said: “They will use this as cover to promote a green agenda which does not represent the view of the majority of British people”.
The BBC refused to comment.
The Daily Telegraph, 19 July 2011