The BBC has platformed the views of fossil fuel giant Shell’s boss in the latest shocking example of media bias on the climate crisis. In an article titled Oil giant Shell warns cutting production ‘dangerous’, the BBC interviewed Shell chief executive Wael Sawan. At the time of writing on 6 July, the public service broadcaster had the article featured on the front page of its online news site.
The BBC’s bias makes it a fossil fuel industry mouthpiece
The interview with Sawan appears to have come as a result of Shell’s recent announcement of its plans to maintain its oil and gas production levels until 2030. The BBC stated that Sawan had:
angered climate scientists who said Shell’s plan to continue current oil production until 2030 was wrong.
In response to these criticisms, the BBC article uncritically amplified Sawan’s view that:
What would be dangerous and irresponsible is cutting oil and gas production so that the cost of living, as we saw last year, starts to shoot up again.
Of course, the article failed to mention that oil and gas companies have been remorselessly profiteering during the “cost of living” crisis.
As the Canary reported, Shell raked in record profits of $42.3bn last year alone. The BBC itself broke the story in February with the headline Shell reports highest profits in 115 years.
Given this, campaigners and politicians have been highlighting the incongruity between these record corporate profits and long-marginalised communities in the UK facing starker energy poverty.
A just transition for who?
Then, without a shred of irony, the BBC amplified Sawan’s appeals for a “just transition”.
Commenting on the “international bidding war for gas” in 2022, the outlet noted how:
poorer countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh unable to afford liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments that were instead diverted to Northern Europe.
The article then quoted Sawan feigning concern for citizens in Pakistan and Bangladesh by saying:
They took away LNG from those countries and children had to work and study by candlelight,
The BBC continued to uplift Sawan’s call for a just transition without challenge, quoting his argument that:
If we’re going to have a transition it needs to be a just transition that doesn’t just work for one part of the world.
As I have previously reported, it was, in fact, the fossil fuel corporations themselves that caused these mass blackouts in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Companies such as Italian oil and gas firm Eni purposely defaulted on their energy contracts when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent energy prices soaring. Capitalising on the opportunity, fossil fuel firms broke these contracts so that they could profit from the new demand from higher-paying customers in Europe.
Fossil fuels drive climate chaos
Moreover, this isn’t even to mention fossil fuel companies’ role in driving the climate crisis which has already been causing extreme weather disasters in the Global South. Of course, the BBC allowed Sawan to invoke the blackouts in Pakistan, without even a cursory reference to the climate-exacerbated floods that have devastated those same communities.
Naturally, the BBC also facilitated Sawan’s barefaced ploy to shamelessly invoke marginalised children in these climate-vulnerable nations to bolster his own, unrelated argument for maintaining oil and gas production.
Moreover, fossil fuel companies like Shell have known about climate change for decades but have been engaged in a suite of unscrupulous tactics to delay the transition to greener technologies.
Again, another BBC article from September 2022 detailed a study which found that transitioning to renewable power could save the world $12tn in energy costs. Study author professor Doyne Farmer said that the research:
shows ambitious policies to accelerate dramatically the transition to a clean energy future as quickly as possible are, not only, urgently needed for climate reasons, but can save the world trillions in future energy costs, giving us a cleaner, cheaper and more energy secure future.
Climate bias not a thing of media past
The interview with Sawan showed that BBC bias over the climate crisis is very much alive and well. Journalist Amy Westervelt has extensively documented the corporate press’s weaponisation of ‘false equivalence’ for climate coverage.
‘False equivalence’ refers to the media practice of giving both sides of an argument equal weight. In climate terms, this has often meant platforming the views of deniers against the peer-reviewed research of climate scientists.
For example, a 2019 study in the journal Nature Communications found that American news outlets gave 49% more coverage to climate science deniers than to climate scientists.
Furthermore, back in 2014, even the parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee criticised the BBC’s blatant bias in its coverage of the climate crisis. It stated that:
BBC News teams continue to make mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight.
Nearly a decade later, little has changed. At a time when climate experts have announced the global hottest day ever recorded, and the UN human rights chief declared that the climate crisis threatens a “truly terrifying” future, of course the BBC would shill for the fossil fuel industry.
Feature image via Mike Mozart/Wikimedia, cropped and resized to 1910*1000, licensed under CC BY 2.0