If We Only Had A Queen

Wow, pretty radical stuff. Imagine if American television had to meet this standard: "Audiences should be able to understand from the context and clarity of the BBC’s output what weight to give to critical voices.” Why, that's downright un-American! (Can I take this opportunity to once again plug Showtime's "The Years of Living Dangerously"? Stellar magazine-style reporting on the reality of climate change, but you have to pay to get it.)

BBC journalists are being schooled in how to cover science.

A progress report from an independent body appointed by the Queen of England, the BBC Trust, says Britain’s public broadcasting service shouldn’t be giving equal air time to climate change deniers and others on the scientific fringe.

The report found the BBC remains prone to “over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality” that resulted in the news service giving “undue attention to marginal opinion.” The author of the report, Steve Jones, emeritus professor of Genetics at University College London, cited the existence of manmade climate change as an example.

Since the review began in 2010, nearly 200 BBC senior staff were sent to workshops to learn what it means to cover science impartially. Andrew Miller, chairman of Parliament’s science and technology select committee, said in a statement: “The key point the workshops tried to impart is that impartiality in science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views, which may result in a ‘false balance.’ More crucially it depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given. In this respect, editorial decisions should be guided by where the scientific consensus might be found on any given topic, if it can in fact be determined.”

The Trust cautioned this does not mean critical opinion should be excluded: “The BBC has a duty to reflect the weight of scientific agreement but it should also reflect the existence of critical views appropriately. Audiences should be able to understand from the context and clarity of the BBC’s output what weight to give to critical voices.”


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