BBC Trust, which is the governing body of the BBC, released a report Thursday that evaluatedthe news company’s coverage of science impartiality.
“… ‘over-rigid’ (as Professor Steve Jones described it) application of the Editorial Guidelines on impartiality in relation to science coverage, which fails to take into account what he regards as the ‘non-contentious’ nature of some stories and the need to avoid giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion’. Professor Jones cites … the existence of man-made climate change as [an] example of this point,” the report stated of the conclusions made by Jones, who conducted the review.
This is not to say that critical opinions should be excluded from coverage of certain scientific topics, but the BBC Trust stated that coverage should not only “reflect the weight of scientific agreement but it should also reflect the existence of critical views appropriately.”
“Judging the weight of scientific agreement correctly will mean that the BBC avoids the ‘false balance’ between fact and opinion identified by Professor Jones,” the report stated.
At the same time of this report coming out, the U.K.’s Independent reported that a BBC radio station was criticized for not providing more context to climate skeptic Nigel Lawson’s points made in February. The complaint upheld last week was against the radio program featuring Lawson in a discussion with climate scientist Brian Hoskins.
In response to at least one complaint, the Independent reported that Fraser Steel, the BBC’s head of editorial complaints, said ”minority opinions and skeptical views should not be treated as if it were on an equal footing with the scientific consensus.”
“I do not believe it was made sufficiently clear that Lord Lawson’s views on climate change are not supported by the majority of climate scientists, and should not be regarded as carrying equal weight to those of experts such as Sir Brian Hoskins,” Steel added.
In order to improve their coverage, the Trust report noted that the BBC hosts seminars for its staff so that “impartiality in science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views, but depends on the varying degree of prominence (due weight) such views should be given.”