Climate documentary 'broke rules'


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Dec 10, 2004
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mmm....padded soft...
The Great Global Warming Swindle, a controversial Channel 4 film, broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says.

In a long-awaited judgement, Ofcom says Channel 4 did not fulfil obligations to be impartial and to reflect a range of views on controversial issues.

The film also treated interviewees unfairly, but did not mislead audiences "so as to cause harm or offence".

Plaintiffs say the Ofcom judgement is "inconsistent" and "lets Channel 4 off the hook on a technicality."

Sir John Houghton said:
Hundreds of people... were misled and it seems Ofcom didn't care about that

The film's key contentions were that the increase in atmospheric temperatures observed since the 1970s was not primarily caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, and that the modern focus on climate change is based in politics rather than science.

It is seen in some "climate sceptic" circles as a counter to Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, and credited with influencing public perception of climate science. It has reportedly been sold to 21 countries and distributed on DVD.

High definition

"It's very disappointing that Ofcom hasn't come up with a stronger statement about being misled," said Sir John Houghton, a former head of the UK Met Office and chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific assessment.

"I know hundreds of people, literally hundreds, who were misled by it - they saw it, it was a well-produced programme and they imagined it had some truth behind it, so they were misled and it seems Ofcom didn't care about that," he told BBC News.
Rajendra Pachauri said:
I think this is a vindication of the credibility and standing of the IPCC

Ofcom defines a misleading programme as one by which the audience is "materially misled so as to cause harm or offence", and that Swindle does not meet this "high test".

"The programme has been let off the hook on a highly questionable technicality," said Bob Ward, former head of media at the Royal Society, who played a prominent role in co-ordinating objections to the film.

"The ruling noted that Channel 4 had admitted errors in the graphs and data used in the programme, yet decided that this did not cause harm or offence to the audience."

Plaintiffs accused the programme of containing myriad factual inaccuracies, but Ofcom says it was "impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples... set out in the complaints."

The regulator also says it is only obliged to see that news programmes meet "due accuracy".

'No balance'

The broadcaster argued that the judgement vindicated its decision to showcase the documentary.

"Ofcom's ruling explicitly recognises Channel 4's right to show the programme and the paramount importance of broadcasters being able to challenge orthodoxies and explore controversial subject matter," said Hamish Mykura, the station's head of documentaries.

"This is particularly relevant to Channel 4 with its public remit and commitment to giving airtime to alternative perspectives."

On another issue - whether contributors to the programme had been treated fairly - Ofcom mainly found against Channel 4 and the film's producer WagTV.

Former UK chief scientific adviser Sir David King had been misquoted and had not been given a chance to put his case, the regulator said.

Ofcom also found in favour of Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer interviewed for the programme, who said he had been invited to take part in a programme that would "discuss in a balanced way the complicated elements of understanding of climate change", but had turned out to be "an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance".

The film alleged that the IPCC's scientific reports were driven by politics rather than science, and Ofcom ruled the organisation had not been given adequate time to respond.

"I think this is a vindication of the credibility and standing of the IPCC and the manner in which we function, and clearly brings out the distortion in whatever Channel 4 was trying to project," said Rajendra Pachauri, the organisation's chairman.

Science 'settled'

The Broadcasting Code requires Channel 4 to show "due impartiality" on "matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".

The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not reflect a range of views, as required under the code.

But the main portion of the film, on climate science, did not breach these rules.

Ofcom's logic is that "the link between human activity and global warming... became settled before March 2007".

This being so, it says, climate science was not "controversial" at the time of broadcast, so Channel 4 did not break regulations by broadcasting something that challenged the link.

"That's a very big inconsistency," said Sir John Houghton. "They said it's completely settled, so why worry - so they can just broadcast any old rubbish."

While some of the 265 complaints received by Ofcom were short and straightforward, one group assembled a 176-page document alleging 137 breaches of the Broadcasting Code.

Channel 4 will have to broadcast a summary of the Ofcom ruling, but it brings no sanctions.

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
[email protected]

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/07/21 14:07:51 GMT


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Dec 17, 2005
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well l believe its a swindle and always will .. global taxin thats about it ..

the schools keep tell my kids that where killing the planet but they never tell them theres two sides ..

indoctrination l call it
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Jul 30, 2006
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Made in Belfast
well l believe its a swindle and always will .. global taxin thats about it ..

the schools keep tell my kids that where killing the planet but they never tell them theres two sides ..

indoctrination l call it

I'm with you smirf. I saw a documnetary on Discovery about a year ago where scientists extracted cores from the earth and they proved that global warming and cooling has happened lots of times. Some of the Greek philosophers also predicted this.

Although I believe goverments are using this to tax us, it can't be denied that it is happening and if we can help then we should but surely there is a limit to the amount of green taxes we should have to pay.


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Feb 12, 2008
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I've just seen an interview with a member of the 'Royal Society'
He complained that this program made people disagree with his views!! Arrogant twonk!!!


Inactive User
Jul 5, 2005
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I actually thought it was a well thought out and presented program - completely wrong of course but beautifully done none the less

of course green taxes are simply there to raise revinue - this is obviously the case as non punative taxes will not modify behaviour so will not have the desired effect - in order to moderate global warming, or at least slow it down so we dont hit a tipping point, immediate (ie NOW) action needs to be taken - such as stopping all non essential car journeys, flights, macdonalds, junk mail etc.

as nothing is being proposed to achieve any of this then green taxes are just an exercise to raise revinue


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Jan 27, 2006
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Another BS C4 production. A new low for them. They really need to learn a few new tricks but I guess it is too late for them now.

Ofcom behaved disgracefully and should have come down on C4 a lot harder than they did. They really are a very poor regulator if big terrestrial broadcasters can get away but showing such lies and propaganda.

Sir David King was just on Newsnight and to say that he was not a happy bunny is a huge understatement.