First, an apology. Thanks to me, all journalists at BBC Radio’s ethics and religion division are being sent for indoctrination in climate change. Sorry.
In July I made a short Radio 4 programme with them called What’s the Point of the Met Office?, which accidentally sent orthodox warmists into a boiling tizzy. Amid jolly stuff about the history of weather predictions and the drippiness of today’s forecasters, we touched on parliamentary lobbying done by the state-funded Met Office. All hell broke out. Cataracts and hurricanoes! The Met Office itself was unfazed but the eco-lobby, stirred by BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin, went nuts. I was accused of not giving a proper airing to ‘prevailing scientific opinion’. Apostasy had occurred. I was duly flogged on the Feedback programme.
That was the last I thought of it until last week, when I was sent an enormous draft report from the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee. This said I was likely to be found guilty of a ‘serious breach’ of ‘impartiality and accuracy’. The tone was akin to something from the International Criminal Court at the Hague or the Vatican in Galileo’s day. Did my little programme err? I certainly didn’t try to give listeners a reverential précis of ‘prevailing scientific opinion’ — didn’t think that was my remit. But we did have some fun interviewing an engagingly untidy climate-change sceptic called Piers Corbyn. His brother is now leader of HM Opposition. The BBC hierarchy’s overreaction to all this has been an education, as has the activism of Harrabin. Meanwhile, my ethics and religion mates have been sentenced to hard labour on the BBC Academy’s impartiality online training module, with ‘a substantial scenario on reporting climate-change science’. At school they call this detention.
An enterprising newsdesk might enquire how much the BBC spends on politically correct courses and who runs them. As for Cardinal Harrabin — for that would have been his rank in Galileo’s day — times are good. He has landed a sideline with the Open University, doing a series of climate-change interviews. We are paying. The £1.5 million project is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a quango run by scientists and ‘parented’ by Sajid Javid’s Business Department. Sajid will be proud to see his budget being used in this important way.