BBC staff instructed to stop giving time to science cranks for the sake of editorial balance

By Tom Boggioni
Friday, July 4, 2014 20:51 EDT
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Journalists at the British Broadcasting Corp. have been receiving instructions from the BBC Trust to stop inviting unqualified ‘experts’ on their shows in an effort to provide ‘editorial balance’ on contentious subjects.

According to The Telegraph, the BBC Trust released a report card on its efforts to curtail what it called giving “undue attention to marginal opinion,” on topics where the contrarian viewpoints have been widely dismissed.

“The Trust wishes to emphasize the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” the report states. “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”

In April the BBC was accused of misleading viewers about climate change and creating a ‘false balance’ by allowing unqualified skeptics to have too much air-time.

The report cited a World at One episode in September on the  landmark UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research project which concluded with 95 percent certainty that the climate is changing and that human activity is the main culprit.

Unable to secure a qualified UK scientist to dispute the findings on the program, the show’s producers turned to retired Australian geologist and climate change skeptic Bob Carter who dismissed the report –put together by hundreds of scientists around the world – as “hocus-pocus science”.

Similar criticism of U.S. media has been offered by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who told CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter that his network needed to stop giving “equal time to the flat Earthers.”

“What responsibility do you think the members of the media have to portray science correctly,” Stelter asked Tyson.

“The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson explained. “The principle was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.”

“You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” he added. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick.”

Tyson once remarked, “the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

[Mad professor on Shutterstock]

Tom Boggioni
Tom Boggioni
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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