This is an issue that plagues every single media institution. Because the BBC is THE port of call, for me at least, for news and views, whether from their excellent website, r from their news coverage, it is infuriating, from a skeptical point of view, that equal airtime is given to dissenting views which do not hold equal proportion of adherence in the relevant fields. That a creationist might receive 1 on 1 battle time with an evolutionary biologist is misrepresenting the state of affairs, as can be seen here:
Well, finally, the BBC is doing something about it. As the Telegraph reports:
BBC staff told to stop inviting cranks onto science programmes
BBC Trust says 200 senior managers trained not to insert ‘false balance’ into stories when issues were non-contentious
BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’
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.
“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.”
The Trust said that man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics.
In April the BBC was accused of misleading viewers about climate chance and creating ‘false balance’ by allowing unqualified sceptics to have too much air-time.
In a damning parliamentary report, the corporation was criticised for distorting the debate, with Radio 4’s Today and World at One programmes coming in for particular criticism.
The BBC’s determination to give a balanced view has seen it pit scientists arguing for climate change against far less qualified opponents such as Lord Lawson who heads a campaign group lobbying against the government’s climate change policies.
Andrew Montford, who runs the Bishop Hill climate sceptic blog, former children’s television presenter Johnny Ball and Bob Carter, a retired Australian geologist, are among the other climate sceptics that have appeared on the BBC.
The report highlighted World at One edition in September of a landmark UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research project which found concluded with 95 per cent certainty that the climate is changing and that human activity is the main cause.
The programme’s producers tried more than a dozen qualified UK scientists to give an opposing view but could not find one willing to do so – so they went to Mr Carter in Australia.
Pitted against Energy Secretary Ed Davey, Mr Carter described the findings of the most authoritative report ever undertaken into the science of climate change – put together by hundreds of scientists around the world – as “hocus-pocus science”.
This is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Well done the BBC. Really, well done. Let’s hope others follow suit. [H/T Reddit Skeptic]