In a victory for sane public policy discussion, the BBC has begun training staff to leave the fringe skeptics off their panels.
The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.
The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.
Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’
“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.
This is not about free speech. If a BBC show wants to have a chat with the American rednecks who modify their
substitute penises pickup trucks to blow thick black clouds of smoke in protest of Obama and environmental laws, then those climate deniers will certainly get a chance to air their views. But when the discussion is about climate change itself, denialism does not deserve a seat on the discussion panel because it doesn’t serve the public interest to pretend such views are equally valid as science. This seemingly-simple principle, in which all views are equally free but not all views are equally valid in every context, goes against the grain of modern-day argument culture in our media.
Hopefully, American newsrooms will take note of the BBC’s new attitude and apply this principle to such topics as vaccination, contraception, evolution, and yes, climate change. Realistically, I fear our national discourse will never improve because these issues are so deeply tied to political identification.