After last night, the BBC’s impartiality guidelines aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

Myron Ebell on Newsnight, 8 October 2018
Support us and go ad-free

After last night’s performance, it seems increasingly like the BBC‘s impartiality guidelines simply aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

On 8 October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that we have just “12 years to limit climate change catastrophe”. And to discuss this apocalyptic news, BBC’s Newsnight decided to invite climate-change denier and former Donald Trump adviser Myron Ebell. But according to the BBC’s own internal guidelines on reporting climate breakdown, “as climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate”.

The guidance also says that, “with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer, there may be occasions to hear from a denier”. But ‘appropriate challenge’ is definitely subject to interpretation. Moreover, it seems that no other theory with a comparable lack of scientific proof is given so much airtime. And this is especially concerning given the severe consequences of climate breakdown.

Who is Myron Ebell?

Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a right-wing thinktank based in Washington. In 2016, US president Donald Trump appointed Ebell to oversee the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and dismantle the previous administration’s climate policies.

Ebell’s thinktank is tied to massive funding from oil and gas giants including ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. And after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement in 2017, Ebell claimed victory for his organisation, saying:

I think we have, to a large extent, finally prevailed through the actions of President Trump and his administration.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But Ebell differs from at least 97% of active climate scientists. First of all, he’s not a scientist. Moreover, he claims that global warming is:

well within the range for natural variability, and whether it’s caused by human beings or not, it’s nothing to worry about.

He has even suggested that, if the world was warming, it would be a good thing.

Impartiality on Newsnight

In September 2018, an internal email revealed that the BBC was “offering all editorial staff new training for reporting on climate change”. It admitted that:

climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often.

But after Newsnight invited Ebell, these words appear empty: because the BBC is still getting it totally wrong. Not only is a climate change denier unneeded to “balance the debate”, the BBC is also obliged to tell viewers who funds its guests. This way, viewers can know if climate change deniers are funded by big oil companies, or cigarette packaging campaigners are funded by tobacco companies.

Ebell’s appearance on Newsnight was, unsurprisingly, met with anger. Journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot claimed “Nothing learnt, nothing remembered”:

Novelist Philip Pullman, meanwhile, wrote:

And senior editor at NovaraMedia Ash Sarkar reminded followers:

Some people will argue that Newsnight host Evan Davis interrogated Ebell well, but this is irrelevant. Because inviting Ebell to discuss climate breakdown is akin to inviting a flat-earther to discuss the latest space mission.

The BBC simply shouldn’t be offering a platform to, at best, conspiracy theorists and, at worst, corporate lobbyists. Licence-fee payers deserve so much better.

Get Involved!

– Let the BBC know that it needs to improve its climate change reporting.

– The Canary actively invites its readers to question everything they read. So please follow the links we reference, and always search for more information if unsure. But if you believe in the importance of independent, grassroots media in the fight against corporate propaganda, please consider supporting us.

Featured image via BBC Newsnight

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed