Understanding the BBC 2006 Seminar Issue

Those encountering the story about the infamous BBC “policy seminar” in 2006 and its subsequent revelations  for the first time (which you will not have seen on the BBC or almost any other mainstream media at this point) might not appreciate all its implications.

The story is not simple, and drags out over many years. This is an attempt to give a brief history of the issue and explain why it is important.

The BBC Charter

The BBC is a somewhat peculiar institution in that it is funded by what is essentially a tax, but not controlled by the government. It operates under a charter which makes it independent of the government, and free to operate in whatever way it sees fit, subject to some fundamental constraints. One of the most important of these is that of impartiality. The BBC is required to be impartial. This has been one of its greatest strengths  and the reason why it came to be regarded as the benchmark against which all other news organizations were judged. Since it has no shareholders, and gets its money independently of what it reports about the government, it is in a unique position in the entire world.

Adherence to the charter, in spirit as well as its letter is what made the BBC respected/great.

Impartiality is spelled out in the charter. If there are multiple sides to any story, the BBC is required to present all sides of the story.

The Charter Broken

It became apparent some years ago that the BBC was being less than impartial on the subject of Global Warming (I will stick with that name, even though it has gone through several marketing make-overs and name changes). Only one side of the story was appearing in BBC output, that of the impending end of the world if “something” was not done. Now, there are many very respectable scientists that disagree with this, and have very valid questions about the validity of the models and their results upon which these predictions are based.

As time progressed, empirical evidence, actual physical measurements, began to disagree with the model predictions, and research into into the data and methods being used started to show some unsettling discrepancies.

Rather than explore these, the BBC essentially closed ranks, ignored these and doubled down on the side of predictions of doom (if you don’t all pay up one way or another).

Questions were raised about the requirement of the charter to explore all sides of  any story. When it became obvious that these questions would not go away, the BBC Trust (those responsible for ensuring that the charter is observed) produced a report. There is one famous paragraph which is the center of today’s problems for the BBC:

The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as ‘flat-earthers’ or ‘deniers’, who ‘should not be given a platform’ by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space. ‘Bias by elimination’ is even more offensive today than it was in 1926. The BBC has many public purposes of both ambition and merit – but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them. The BBC’s best contribution is to increase public awareness of the issues and possible solutions through impartial and accurate programming. Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution. It remains important that programme-makers relish the full range of debate that such a central and absorbing subject offers, scientifically, politically and ethically, and avoid being misrepresented as standard-bearers. The wagon wheel remains a model shape. But the trundle of the bandwagon is not a model sound.

On the basis of this, the BBC gave essentially no opportunity for those with a viewpoint contrary to “the consensus” and exposure, and when they did, tended to choose the least articulate and well prepared and contrast them to very articulate and well prepared proponents of the consensus.

Before looking at the central issue here, it is interesting to observe that science does not operate by consensus. Even their own example “flat-earthers” was once the scientific consensus. Consensus has no part in real scientific debate. Science is based upon evidence. The output of models, while useful in formulating a hypothesis, is not in itself evidence.

But back to the core subject. The paragraph begins with this assertion:

The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus.

There were some that questioned what self-respecting group of scientists would agree with that statement. When pushed to be more specific about this meeting the BBC said that it was a seminar held in 2006.

Being interested in who the scientists were that would formulate such a statement, Tony Newbury asked for more information. In particular who attended this meeting. The BBC refused to divulge that information. Tony then issued a request under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) asking for the same information.

After a long series of refusals to deliver the information as the law requires, the case was taken to court. The court case was interesting. On one side, we have Tony, an old age pensioner with very limited means, and on the other, the BBC had retained no less than six barristers to represent them in court. The legal bill for these has been estimated at £40,000 per day.

After some rather strange statements by  the judge, indicating and expressing a distinct bias towards the BBC case, the final verdict was that the information need not be revealed because for these purposes the BBC (totally funded by tax) was a private organization.

The verdict is likely to be appealed simply on the basis that there is not, and should be no possibility that the BBC can be considered a private organization.

But at that point, it appeared that there was little possibility of the names of the attendees at this rather important meeting ever being revealed.

The WayBack Machine

At this point, we will take a small diversion to mention a project that few people are really aware of.  For many years a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, California has been taking snapshots of many servers on the Internet. It is essentially a history project, documenting the evolution of the web. It is possible to go back many years and request a page on a given web server as it appeared at any specific date. Not all pages and not all servers are covered, but enough to make this a very useful research tool.

Enter Maurizio Morabito

Maurizio was looking around to see what he could find on this infamous seminar and found a tantalizing reference to it, which ended up pointing nowhere. He had the idea of using the WayBack Machine to locate the document.

A version of the complete document was found there, containing the names of all the participants. It appears that these had been published on the Internet, then, when questions began to be asked, the document had been heavily edited to remove the participants names in one case, and deleted in others (for example, the broken link that Maurizio found).

The website on which this was located (International Broadcasting Trust) was interesting in itself, as were some associated documents found there.

It appears that the BBC deliberately obstructed, and spent something of the order of £100,000 of taxpayer money to suppress the release of information previously freely available on the Internet.

One has to wonder why.

It is also clear that this meeting was not organized for the purposes stated. It is much more likely that some justification was needed for the failure to observe the charter, and this meeting was selected to be that justification, even if it served some other purpose entirely.

 Why This is Important

A quick look reveals that the attendees at this seminar we not “the best scientific experts” at all, but mostly representatives from groups with a vested interest in perpetuating the global warming story.

In addition, there were high-level representatives from almost every branch of BBC  programming.

Since this was obviously not what the BBC had stated (a meeting with the best climate scientists), what was its purpose? It is also interesting to note that the attendees and purpose of the meeting were misstated, under oath, by several BBC executives. They appear to have committed deliberate  perjury. One can only wonder if there will be any repercussions from this. Ordinarily, it might have been “overlooked”, but with the current focus on the BBC for its dealing with sexual predator issues, there may be a less forgiving attitude.

So what was the meeting about? There was a clue in the climategate emails:

date: Wed Dec  8 08:25:30 2004
from: Phil Jones <p.jones@uea.xx.xx>
subject: RE: something on new online.
to: “Alex Kirby” <alex.kirby@bbc.xxx.xx>

At 17:27 07/12/2004, you wrote:

Yes, glad you stopped this — I was sent it too, and decided to
spike it without more ado as pure stream-of-consciousness rubbish. I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece. But we are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all, especially as you say with the COP in the offing, and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them
say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.
—–Original Message—–

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit

The aim is stated fairly clearly in the document that Maurizio unearthed:

The aim
The aim of the seminars is to change minds and hearts. We want to talk about the
developing world in a way that is interesting, engaging and provocative, so that the BBC
participants and independent producers come away convinced that this is an area which
their programmes should no longer ignore. We are not pitching ideas and have no
guarantees that specific programmes will be commissioned on these issues. Our goal,
therefore, is to bring to life stories and issues from the developing world. We shall not be
talking in detail about tv coverage so we do not need participants to have a detailed
knowledge of British television.

It appears the aim, which seems to have been achieved, was to insinuate the global warming meme into every thread of every class of programming produced by the BBC and ensure minimal to no airtime for anyone with a different viewpoint. Anyone listening/watching any amount of BBC programming will appreciate how ingrained references to global warming have become, it is mentioned at every appropriate opportunity (and at some totally inappropriate ones too).

This is propaganda that Goebbels would recognize and appreciate. Force ideas into everyday life, get them unconsciously assimilated. They have become the propaganda wing for (lunatic) Green fringe.

Not only is this a most egregious trashing of the BBC charter, but it has undoubtedly cost the British (and probably other) taxpayers untold millions and diverted government policy into what may well be  the biggest waste of money ever. There are also those that have suffered and died through being unable to afford heating due to the effects of this atrocity.